Loose change starts off youth’s collection for United Way
COVID-19The helpers

Loose change starts off youth’s collection for United Way

Brett Baron donates over $2,000 to Emergency Basic Needs Fund

Brett Baron. Photo provided by United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Brett Baron. Photo provided by United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

A Pittsburgh-area boy is showing a little effort can make a big difference — one handful of change at a time.

Brett Baron, 9, of Edgewood, has been — all things considered — fairly comfortable during the COVID-19 pandemic, sheltering in place with his sister Tatum, 6, and virtually attending his Community Day School third-grade classes via Zoom.

But his mind wandered frequently to those who weren’t as comfortable.

“Especially at this time,” Brett said, “people who are less fortunate are even more less fortunate. We kinda said, ‘What can we do?’”

Brett and Tatum rummaged through their Edgewood home and even decided to cash in their tzedakah boxes, which they had been filling, coins at a time, for a good cause. All told, it amounted to $37.

That wasn’t enough.

So Brett wrote a letter enlisting family and friends to help him grow his $37 in change to a $2,000 donation.

“If you can contribute that means you are doing a good deed for others who need it more than you,” Brett wrote. “Especially if you are feeling down just give all you want and relax. Imagine how much better the world could be if we just give some cash to those less fortunate.”

Within 24 hours, Brett’s fundraiser broke the $1,000 mark. Shortly thereafter, he had racked up $2,232 from 41 donors.

“When we started, we had $37 — but now we have more than $2,000,” Brett told the Chronicle last week. “It makes a difference.”

Brett knew exactly where he wanted the money to go. A few years ago, he realized his parents were in the business of helping people in need. So, he wanted it to go to the organization where his father made a difference every day, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

The money went to a campaign called the Emergency Basic Needs Fund, which helps families throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania with everything from groceries to utility bills.

The organization, to say the least, was overwhelmed by the gesture.

“Brett’s fundraiser is the perfect example of how one person — no matter who they are — can have an impact on the lives of people in need,” said Linda Jones, senior vice president of community philanthropy at United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “Brett has a very big heart and we know he will continue to be an inspiration to others, setting a wonderful example of compassion, caring and generosity.”

This wasn’t the first time Brett and his family have given back to the community. Around the time Brett was 8, they started packing bagged lunches and giving them to people in need downtown and throughout the East End, including at panhandler hot spots like the corner of Penn and Fifth avenues.

“It certainly brings us great pride that our two kids see the work we do and want to make a difference,” said Brett’s father, Adam. “Our family has always been together trying to be the helpers in the community.” PJC

Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.

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