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McKeesport students, Pirates volunteer at Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank

| Friday, Dec. 12, 2014, 3:36 a.m.
McKeesport Area High School students (from left) Aaron Crews, Dustin Thompson and Taz Miller package food for families in need with help from Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Sean Rodriguez.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
McKeesport Area High School students (from left) Aaron Crews, Dustin Thompson and Taz Miller package food for families in need with help from Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Sean Rodriguez.
LaRoche College Redhawks coach Chase Rowe, McKeesport Area High School student Darren Smith and Pittsburgh Pirates coach Rick Sofield weigh a 30-pound box of food.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Trib Total Media
LaRoche College Redhawks coach Chase Rowe, McKeesport Area High School student Darren Smith and Pittsburgh Pirates coach Rick Sofield weigh a 30-pound box of food.

McKeesport Area High School students who volunteer weekly at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank worked alongside Pittsburgh Pirates players, coaches and staff during a Thursday packing for Fall Food Share collections.

The food bank's annual holiday collection partnership with Giant Eagle raised more than $170,000 and an undetermined amount of food to help families across Southwestern Pennsylvania get through this financially challenging season. More than 2,000 volunteers in 63 stores encouraged participation among grocery shoppers and collected food.

Alyssa Jurewicz-Johns, the food bank's director of community engagement, introduced the day's volunteers to the food bank's headquarters in Duquesne, including the repackaging floor, where donated items are sorted and organized into variety-packed boxes for individual households.

“On a day-to-day basis, there are an array of community groups, corporations and churches here,” Jurewicz-Johns said. “It's fantastic to incorporate the Pirates Charities into the fabric of what happens here on a daily basis.”

With helping hands from the Pirates Charities, who brought a $5,000 check for the cause, donated items were sorted Thursday by students from McKeesport Area's “Access Community” course.

“We are so lucky that the food bank asked us to be a part of today's event,” teacher Sherry Roskov said. “This is super exciting for everybody. Esteem-wise, our group should be very proud that we were thought of to help show the Pittsburgh Pirates how the food bank relies on community volunteers.”

McKeesport Area junior Aaron Crews said the volunteer effort is all about teamwork.

“We like to work together to help bring food to people who can't afford it,” he said. “It's up to everybody to do the best we can to help people.”

Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton said it's tremendous to see young people committed to such a humanitarian cause.

“Volunteering at the food bank teaches a valuable lesson,” Morton said. “It's great to be part of something so helpful and to meet people in the community who are willing to help.”

Pirates coach Rick Sofield said it was a blessing to be part of Thursday's packaging session.

“If it doesn't pull at your heart to know that there are people — there are children — going to bed hungry, then something is wrong,” Sofield said.

“Everybody should be able to eat a healthy, filling meal at the end of the day. This is a wonderful opportunity to help give people these essentials in their daily lives.”

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank serves nearly 360,000 people each year, including 76,000 children and 92,000 senior citizens. Approximately 65 percent of client households have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, which is $23,850 for a family of four.

Jurewicz-Johns said the event “epitomizes what the food bank is trying to accomplish. It's everybody, in a combined effort, working to end hunger.”

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank CEO Lisa Scales said having various groups volunteering together embodies the food bank's mission.

“It reaffirms for me that together we can solve hunger,” Scales said. “It takes the whole community coming together to make that happen.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ,ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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