The South Hills Village Mall parking lot pretty much had been bare for the better part of two months, but that changed abruptly on a sunny Saturday in May.
While the mall had not yet reopened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, vehicles streamed into the lot for the better part of the day as recipients arrived for a food distribution organized by South Hills Interfaith Movement and Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank.
Among the volunteers, wearing masks and maintaining safe distances from one another, were Mt. Lebanon residents Joe and Lynn Smith.
“The thing that struck me about that is there are so many people in need, and everyone was so thankful as they came through,” Lynn recalled. “The need is there, and it’s really amazing to me that SHIM was able to partner and make this happen. And it just continues.”
Joe and Lynn also volunteered at a second distribution, in June at Bethel Park High School, continuing a long tradition of service on behalf of SHIM.
In recognition of the Smiths’ dedication, the 52-year-old nonprofit human services organization, led by executive director Jim Guffey, is honoring the couple as South Hills Champions during “Celebrate the South Hills with SHIM @home.”
Scheduled in place of SHIM’s annual fundraising gala, the virtual event, which features a silent auction, will take place from 7 to 8 p.m. Sept. 9.
“What we’ve been so impressed with this year, because of our heightened involvement, is just how responsive SHIM is to the community’s needs,” Joe Smith said. “With the COVID situation, Jim and his team have just pulled out all the stops, whether it’s with the food bank, whether it is trying to provide financial aid to those who are unemployed or going through a very difficult time.”
As senior vice president of marketing for Dollar Bank, Joe has had the opportunity to serve on boards for a variety of organizations, including Outreach Teen and Family Services in Mt. Lebanon as one of the first.
“You come to realize how deep the need is in the community for help, and sometimes it’s just straight humanitarian reaching out to people. But other times it’s trying to find an organization that really, truly does a great job,” he said. “I don’t think anybody does as strong a job as SHIM.”
The Smiths started learning a lot about SHIM when their younger daughter – she now is Elizabeth Davis of Alexandria, Va. – volunteered for the organization while attending Mt. Lebanon High School.
She and sister Carrie Libman, who lives in Mt. Lebanon, learned a lot from their parents.
“The kids grew up with this: You have, but you need to give back, as well,” Lynn Smith said. “It was also encouraged in Mt. Lebanon, in the school system. You’re a privileged lot here, but you need to give back.”
And she wants to keep spreading that type of message.
“I think it’s for us to make everyone aware that even though we live in these privileged communities, there are a lot of people around here who do need our help in the South Hills,” she said. “A lot of people are not aware of that.”
To register for the free Celebrate the South Hills with SHIM @home, visit shimcares.org/celebrate.