Weddings That Give Back: 4 Pittsburgh Nonprofits You Can Help with Your Big Day

Weddings that give back will always be cool.  Whether it's partnering with a sustainable caterer, hosting your celebration at a venue with green practices, sourcing everything locally, or even asking that guests not wrap their gifts, there are lots of ways your wedding can help to change the world for the better.  But because I love Pittsburgh so much, my favorite is when couples find ways to give back to their own community.  There are countless locally based non-profit organizations who would absolutely love to partner with you  Here are four of my favorites!

412 Food Rescue

According to 412 Food Rescue's website, forty percent of the food produced globally goes to waste.  This sickening statistic doesn't have to include your wedding menu though.  With 1 in 7 people going hungry, 412 Food Rescue aims to end food waste while simultaneously ending hunger.  Among other programs, the group works with local restaurants, groceries, and other retailers to collect surplus food and deliver it to nonprofits who serve those who are food insecure.  Rather than ending up in the landfill, this perfectly good food can go to people who need it instead.  After appetizers has been passed, dinner has been served, and the cookie table has been raided, the leftover food from your wedding can help to fill up some bellies, while your generosity can help to fill up some hearts.

Brides/grooms can decide to donate their extra food, providing it has been prepared in a commercial kitchen.  It is best for couples to contact us as early as possible so we can connect with caterers to maximize the amount of leftovers that is appropriate for a donation.  We will provide signage for wedding festivities so guests know that the couple is promoting sustainability and the end of hunger as part of their celebration.  Additionally, rather than using completely floral centerpieces or decorations, some couples opt for edible, seasonable decorations that include fruit, gourds, nuts, or herbs.  Guests can be encouraged to bring a healthy nonperishable pantry item like rice, broth, beans, flour, or spices (which are very difficult to obtain for many food insecure families).  Lastly, monetary donations directly support our operational and programmatic efforts to #endhunger and #endfoodwaste in Pittsburgh.

If brides and grooms believe that all people deserve direct access to fresh and healthy food, then they should partner with 412 Food Rescue.  As new couples begin their journey together, we encourage them to start giving back to their communities and support neighbors in need, who may be families that struggle with food insecurity.  Furthermore, many of our Food Rescue Heroes are young families who seek to instill these community-centered values within their children and themselves.

– Becca Sufrin, 412 Food Rescue

Weddings That Give Back: 4 Pittsburgh Nonprofits You Can Help with Your Big Day

Mercedes, one of the 412 Food Rescue Heroes, and her daughter

Centerpieces 4 Seniors

Ever wonder what happens to the flowers and centerpieces after a wedding?  Sadly, they usually end up in the trash.  Upon realizing this, Kelli Burns and Rose Davidson started Centerpieces 4 Seniors in 2015.  Their pair collects leftover floral arrangements, repurposes them, and then delivers the blooms to local nursing homes and senior care facilities.  The impact is two fold: the flowers get a second life and the lives of seniors are brightened by this simple act of kindness.  Burns and Davidson work out of Davidson's Mt. Lebanon garage, rearranging centerpieces and getting them ready for a new home the day after the wedding.  With the help of many volunteers, as many as 125 new arrangements are created in any given weekend.  That's 125 smiles on faces.  And if that doesn't put one on yours, I don't know what will.

We are now in our third year of making a difference in seniors' lives.  The repurposed centerpieces are delivered to local nursing homes to bring happiness and cheer to the residents and caregivers.  We share small details of the fun event and residents begin to connect with pleasurable memories from their past.  Seeing seniors smile as they talk about the centerpieces and enjoy their dining tables keeps the party going!

Let us know if you have an event and are willing to join us in brightening the lives of seniors.  Donated centerpieces will be picked up from your event and delivered by friends of Centerpieces 4 Seniors!

– Kelli Burns, Centerpieces 4 Seniors

Weddings That Give Back: 4 Pittsburgh Nonprofits You Can Help with Your Big Day

Kelli Burns (left) is also a local wedding DJ (and a great one at that)!

Beverly's Birthdays

Weddings are a celebration, and each anniversary can be thought of as a “birthday” of the big day!  Sadly, not everyone gets to experience the child-like joy of celebrating a birthday though.  Beverly's Birthdays was started when a young girl shared with the organization's founder the fact that she had never had her own birthday party or had a piece of her own birthday cake.  Over six years later, the nonprofit has created over 25,000 birthday celebrations for children experiencing homelessness and families in need.  No child should ever feel forgotten on their birthday, and this group works to ensure that through gifts, parties, and even their Classroom Cheer Program, which supports teachers working with at-risk youth populations.  While your wedding might be your own special day, you can use it to spread some birthday cheer and guarantee local kids have their own special day too.

Living with the chronic stress that comes from a housing crisis can be crippling, but your gift will be a break from that stress to just smile, laugh, and create family memories that will last a lifetime.  People can get involved by visiting our website and signing up to volunteer.  Another idea that a few brides and grooms have done is to make a donation to Beverly's Birthdays in lieu of wedding favors.  Additionally, couples could collect birthday presents, which would then be gifted to the children we work with.  The couples that get into it have done amazing jobs!

– Josh Whiteside, Beverly's Birthdays

Weddings That Give Back: 4 Pittsburgh Nonprofits You Can Help with Your Big Day

Some of the smiles created thanks to the celebrations hosted by Beverly's Birthdays

Gentle Ben's Giant Breed Rescue

As the dog mom to a 150 lb Cane Corso mastiff, this organization is near and dear to my very own heart.  Gentle Ben's is dedicated to rescuing, fostering, and placing large breed dogs, such as Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, and Mastiffs.  As the NPO's name would suggest, these pups are giant – but gentle.  However, given their sheer size and the responsibility that comes along with it, they likely wouldn't be adopted if they were in a typical shelter.  Noreen Kohl and her late husband made it their mission to ensure these dogs are not forgotten; that they get the socialization, training, and medical treatment they need; and ultimately that they find their forever home.  If you love dogs (especially big ones) as much as I do, you'll feel so good about helping them out.

Brides/grooms can work with us in many ways!  They can ask their guests to bring an item which can be donated to Gentle Ben's.  We can always use leashes, collars, toys, beds, etc.  Monetary donations go towards vetting, food, and especially the very expensive surgeries some of the dogs require.  One of our current rescues – Harley, a fourth month old mastiff – was very sick when he came to us and spent several days in the hospital.  He will also require a life-saving surgery in a few months, which will be thousands of dollars.  We have helped so many families who need to find a new home for their dog for one reason or another, many times at no fault of their own.  When we take in their dog, they become part of our family.  I will keep their original family updated with photos and emails.  This gives them peace of mind so that they can focus on getting their lives back in order.

– Noreen Kohl, Gentle Ben's Giant Breed Rescue

Weddings That Give Back: 4 Pittsburgh Nonprofits You Can Help with Your Big Day

Some of the many dogs at the Kohl's Zelienople home, which doubles as Gentle Ben's Giant Breed Rescue

Do you have a local NPO that is special to you?  Are you giving back to them through your wedding festivities?  Comment below and tell me about the organization and how you're helping!

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