Computer Specialist and Food Bank Volunteer
On the south bank of the Monongahela, at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in Duquesne, Pa., people chatter amicably while waiting in line with shopping carts. Behind shining tables heaped with bags of fresh produce, volunteers from Pitt inspect, bag, and distribute a colorful bounty: potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes, apples, oranges, bananas, and other seasonal items. Before the day is out, around 400 families will receive plenty of fresh produce to last at least a month.
One of the volunteers packaging and distributing the food is a familiar face. Even without his name tag, people know Pitt's Senthil Natarajan. For the past eight years, he has been volunteering every second Thursday of the month with Produce to People (P2P) – a direct distribution program of the food bank that ensures healthy, fresh produce goes to households in need.
Natarajan is one of the program’s longest-serving and most loyal volunteers. “A lot of people think I work there,” he notes. He is also a perfect example of the thousands of Pitt staff members, faculty, and students who devote a lot of their personal time to help neighbors in need. Last year, Pitt people gave more than 467,000 hours of volunteer service within the city and surrounding communities.
Last year, Pitt people gave more than 467,000 hours of volunteer service within the city and surrounding communities.
A Pitt staff specialist in Computing Services and Systems Development, Natarajan is a believer in the intangible connections that exist between people. With family ties in southern India, Natarajan comes from a background that encourages respect and care for those around you. Ever since arriving in the United States, he has been drawn to community service while living in or near big cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. But, after joining the University of Pittsburgh in 2005, his volunteer service accelerated.
“Actually, Pitt afforded me the opportunity," says Natarajan. Through Pitt’s Office of Community and Governmental Relations, he signed up for a volunteering newsletter and received periodic e-mail blasts about each month's service opportunities. He continues to regularly register for events online, volunteering his time far beyond his food bank commitment.
“I’m not giving millions of dollars,” he says, about his volunteer service. But he is giving something incredibly precious to the community—lots of his time, spirit, and good will.