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Volunteers keep Plum nonprofits ticking

| Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, 11:14 a.m.

Kyle Dawson is busy preparing to graduate in the spring from Plum High School.

Dawson, 17, plays baseball and is a member of the television-production crew that works to broadcast football, basketball and hockey games. He is preparing to enter Waynesburg University this fall to study communications.

Still, Dawson, a member of the National Honor Society, worked tirelessly throughout the fall semester to make the annual Make-A-Wish telethon at Plum High School a reality.

Dawson worked behind the scenes in the television-production studio to produce the telethon just before Christmas.

Plum High School raised $40,549.19 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. About 150 students work on the project.

“It's a great cause — anything we can do to help these kids and (find) a cure,” Dawson said. “I have to do it no matter how much time it takes or how much work it is.”

Dawson and others throughout Plum spend hundreds of hours volunteering their time on projects and initiatives that help ease the burdens of others.

This holiday season, Gateway Newspapers has been highlighting local nonprofit organizations to tell readers what the needs are in their communities and the challenges groups face in meeting those needs throughout the suburbs.

The staff at the borough building also works throughout the year to help others.

Manager Michael Thomas said the 15 or so employees over the past couple of years have participated in a variety of projects that help various groups.

One example is on Fridays, each staff member pays $3 to wear jeans. In the Casual Friday program, the group each quarter selects a charity to which the proceeds are donated.

Mona Costanza, assistant to the manager, said last year money was donated to help pay for a diabetic-alert dog for Laura Pearlman, a Plum youngster. Funds also were donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Cancer Society Relay For Life, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and the Carney Family Fund.

Costanza also participates in other initiatives, including helping needy families in Plum.

The Plum School District provides the names of families to the borough. Staff members raise money and buy gifts that are distributed at Christmas to the children in the families.

The staff throughout the year also collects items for the Plum Food Pantry.

“The staff here does an awful lot to give back to the community,” Thomas said. “It is amazing to me. I have worked in government for 25 years and never seen a staff so committed to giving back.”

Residents of Longwood at Oakmont retirement community also take time to help others.

A group of about a dozen women have joined thousands of knitters worldwide to fight poverty and provide sweaters to children nationally and internationally by participating in World Vision's Knit for Kids program.

The women at Longwood last year knitted and donated about 100 sweaters to the cause. They have made more than 500 sweaters over the past five years.

The ladies meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday mornings to knit and spend time together.

“Upon reading about the program in Creative Knitting magazine, my fellow residents and I felt it was important that all children have the opportunity to receive something new at least once in their lives, said resident Carol Swift.

Lynda Simboli, 81, began participating in the group before she moved to Longwood after learning about the knitting ladies at a nearby coffee shop where she worked.

“What makes it so special is we're doing something special for children all over the world,” Simboli said.

Simboli also enjoys interacting with the other women in the group.

“I enjoy the camaraderie,” Simboli said. “There are lots of nice people here.”

TV-production teacher Rick Berrott continues to be amazed by his students' dedication to the Make-A-Wish cause.

“To have the entire district come together for one cause and to continually raise money for Make-A-Wish is truly remarkable,” Berrott said. “Some students have spent a ton of hours over the last three months fundraising and preparing for the telethon in the control room. I have become very humble to watch it all come together.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or

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