Westinghouse SURE recently recognized the Blessing Board and its companion organization, the Vintage Store, for its volunteer organization Spotlight Award. the Blessing Board is a faith-based nonprofit that provides basic furniture and household items for community members in need at no cost. SURE (an acronym for Service Uniting Retired Employees) is a nonprofit comprised of Westinghouse retirees who come together to provide services to the community by volunteering their time and talents.
The concept for the Blessing Board was started by Thomas J. Mitlo, Jr., son of the late Thomas J. Mitlo, Sr., once a projects manager at Westinghouse Nuclear and a past member of SURE. The initial idea was to post on a bulletin board a list of “Blessings Needed” and “Blessings to Be Given.” The concept quickly caught on and the Blessing Board was born in 2007. The Blessing Board became a nonprofit in 2010 with the vision of “loving our neighbors.”
Over the past eight years, the Blessing Board has grown from a garage to rented storage units to a house then small warehouses, and finally to its current location: a 46,000-square-foot warehouse and office space in Oakmont, with an additional 5,000-square-foot location in McKeesport. It averages 800 calls a month for assistance. In 2017, it helped more than 1,300 families. Its small staff could not possibly bless this many people without the service of its 1,000 dedicated volunteers.
There is a lot fun and fellowship among clients and volunteers, as most feel blessed and really enjoy the work.
Blessing Days occur three Saturday mornings a month and every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. Other Days of Blessing are also scheduled, as needed. The clients schedule the appointments ahead of time and are expected to bring a truck or U-Haul large enough for their needs. The one-hour sessions include a welcome message about the mission and ministry of the Blessing Board, and a one-on-one meeting with an assigned ambassador to determine the client’s needs.
Then the “shopping” begins! The ambassadors help the clients select furniture, bedding and household goods. The items are identified with large colored stickers and the carriers (men and women) begin carrying the items to the clients’ vehicles. There is a lot fun and fellowship among clients and volunteers, as most feel blessed and really enjoy the work.
The Blessing Board will pick up donations for a $25 charge. Call (412) 828-1023 to schedule a pickup. Drop-offs are also accepted Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the 140 Pennsylvania Avenue in Oakmont. Accepted household items include sofas, chairs, end tables, coffee tables, dining room and kitchen tables and chairs, small china cupboards, small entertainment units, small shelving units, bedroom chests, dressers, nightstands, headboard/footboards, bed frames, mattresses and most working televisions. Accepted kitchen goods include dishes, bowls, cups, glasses, flatware, pots and pans. Small working appliances (coffee makers, toasters, microwave ovens) and large working appliances (refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers) are also accepted. Kitchen linens and bed linens are needed, as well.
Items that are not accepted include clothing, books, knickknacks, cribs, car seats, toys and seasonal and holiday decorations. The Blessing Board please asks that anything donated be in good condition.
If you have items of considerable value that fall outside of the core needs of the families who look to the Blessing Board for assistance, these items can be offered for sale through the Vintage Market retail store or on Craigslist.com with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the Blessing Board to help cover operation costs.
One of the volunteers, Karen Fischetti, serves as retail coordinator for the Vintage Market. Karen uses her talents to display and stage the furniture, pictures, and collectibles. She also custom paints some of the furniture to enhance their appearance and value. The Vintage Market is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, or by appointment. Call Karen at (412) 770-4418 to arrange a time.
To learn more, visit Blessingboard.org. To volunteer, visit the website for details or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feature photo caption: [From back] Volunteers Jim Aiello, Darryl Degelman, Lucio Facchini, [front] Jan Aiello, John Fischetti, Karen Fischetti, Cindy Etling, Rick Etling and Ginny Berger at the Blessing Board’s Oakmont location.
Photos provided by Westinghouse SURE for Pittsburgh Senior News