Giving hope during a tough time

Last year the Steelers introduced Huddle for the Holidays at Heinz Field, a unique one-of-a-kind outreach in conjunction with Convoy of Hope that provided necessities and the simple pleasures in life for 500 individuals, from kids to senior citizens. Heinz Field was transformed from a football mecca into an oasis of love and caring, with every corner a place for individuals to benefit from the art of giving back.

While life is a lot different this year, and the COVID-19 pandemic prohibited the team from hosting an event at Heinz Field like they did last year, that didn't stop them from giving back.

The Steelers still hosted Huddle for the Holidays, but this year it had a different look.

The recipients, which include 1,000 area families, were still treated to many of the necessities for the holidays, including kits that were packed by Steelers staff and volunteers filled with groceries, as well as other items like books, socks, masks, Chick-fil-A gift cards and even teddy bears thanks to donations and the support from partners like United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Embrace Pittsburgh, Pepsi, and Giant Eagle.

"We are thankful for our continued partnership with Convoy of Hope. In a season marked by the spirit of giving, we are honored to assist families in our community with food and supplies, and we are grateful for our local partners who are helping us reach those in need," said Blayre Holmes Davis, Director of Community Relations for the Steelers.

Instead of coming to Heinz Field, representatives from agencies in four counties in the Western Pennsylvania region, including Allegheny, Butler, Fayette and Westmoreland Counties, picked up items for those they serve and will distribute them. Around 19 agencies, including Boys & Girls Clubs, Veteran's Leadership Program, Jeremiah's Place, Action Housing, Macedonia Family & Community Enrichment Center, Schenley Heights YDC, and the YMCAs of Greater Pittsburgh, Butler and Valley Points, were all recipients of the items, things that will help those they serve during a stressful time.

"Last year we were able to participate in Huddle for the Holiday in person, had families who were able to be exposed to Heinz Field who never were," said Tinisha Hunt, Chief Program Officer for Macedonia Family & Community Enrichment Center. "It was a winter wonderland and a place and time for people to put their cares aside. It was amazing to witness. That was pre-pandemic. We know the disparities that exist, especially in our African American communities where there are so many financial gaps for working families to provide for their loved ones. During this pandemic we know that is exacerbated, a lot of those people in service industries where they aren't receiving the hours they did before or lost their jobs when they were barely making ends meet. I think it's critical and it's very uplifting that these give backs are still taking place with the Steelers.

(Pictured above: Donations received through the Pittsburgh Steelers "Huddle for the Holidays")

"I am so inspired by how much giving is happening in the community and coming together around food insecurity. Inspiring is what the season is about. We have to take care of the least of these. I am really excited this still happened."

In a year when the need has increased to numbers never seen before, getting the help is more valuable than ever.

"The Steelers have always been supportive," said Lisa Reihl, community outreach coordinator for the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh. "They have done different things where we have partnered with them. It means so much when organizations such as the Steelers, people that others look up to, support the community. That shows the human side of it. It's very important and very much appreciated.

"There is a lot more need for help now, but also such a fear for people to go out for things. I would say there is at least 100% increase, if not more for the need. We have an angel tree that we had to cap this year. It's a tremendous increase because so many people are not working, have cut hours. And we a