About a year ago, I was sitting in the chair at my dentist’s office all numbed up from having a filling replaced. My dentist asked me if I had any plans the upcoming weekend because she needed help with service work Friday night. She had asked me this many times over the years of teeth cleanings and fillings. For some reason, this day, I felt compelled to finally agree to help her with whatever it was she needed.
Two nights later, I showed up with my husband to the exact location as I was told. The corner of Stanwix Street and Boulevard of the Allies, downtown Pittsburgh, precisely at 6:45pm. I did not know what to expect since she left me hanging when I asked what I’d be doing. It was still light out, dusk beginning to set in, and it was a beautiful fall evening. I noticed a lot of what appeared to be homeless people lining up for something. In this line were men and women of all ages, some with visibly weathered skin, some with children who clearly haven’t been bathed in days, dogs here and there attached to old frayed leashes, and an abundance of old paper bags and soiled backpacks overflowing with pieces of mismatched clothing odds and ends. People in line came from all walks of life, all nationalities, sexual orientations, religions — and all had one thing in common — they were hungry.
I spotted my dentist in the crowd and she told me this is the spot she has been serving hot meals to the homeless for the past 17 years. She walked us through the crowd of about 125 people and introduced us to some of the regulars. Before we knew it, we were in the serving line, placing heaping spoonfuls of pasta salad on plates for those who patiently waited in line. As each person took a plate they smiled brightly. The low, almost whispered “thank yous”, were sometimes difficult to hear through my ears, but they were heard loud in my heart.
It didn’t take long for everyone to get their meals and to clean up. I remember driving home filled with feelings of humility, love, compassion, kindness, and gratitude. I wanted to do this again.
My husband and I called our dentist the next day and asked if we could come regularly to help. After a couple months of serving on Friday nights, we found out a local organization backed out on their nights to provide food and the opportunity was presented to us to step in on their nights. (6 nights a year, once every other month) We jumped at the chance.
It’s been a big task. Organizing volunteers and preparing meals for 40-125 people is not been an easy feat and we have not been able to do it alone.
This is where Comcast comes in. In October, we rallied my husbands’ Air Force unit for help. After we witnessed and took part in the team-building and comradery with the unit while serving that chilly night, I wanted to somehow get Comcast involved. Being the Community Service Lead for the OUT@Comcast Employee Resource Group, I pitched it to the other leads and they immediately were on board. We began planning for December 7h. We did coat drives across the Keystone region through the month of November and collected over 400 coats and other winter items to pass out on the 7th. We had employees show up from as far as Harrisburg to help serve, and work together with us that night. There’s a lot of pride in the employees at Comcast overall, but the pride I felt this night, working side by side fellow Comcasters selflessly serving the less fortunate was unmeasurable.
My husband and I are currently in the process of setting up a non-profit, called MISSION412, so we can continue this work and to expand into other services that are needed; Life Skills Coaching, Job/Interview Preparation, Faith Exploration, and Alcohol and Addiction Counseling.
I look forward to bringing more service opportunities to Comcast and will continue to weave together my passions outside the office with what I do inside here each and every day.
Nathan McDermott || Supervisor, CommOps ||Keystone Region Community Service Committee Lead, OUT@Comcast