Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to a bill that would allow the mayor’s office to accept $10,000 in Home Depot gift cards. The $500 cards would be handed out to twenty neighborhood groups under the “Love your Block” initiative. The initiative is part of the larger “Serve Pittsburgh” program launched by the mayor’s office last month.
The Serve Pittsburgh program’s goal is to make Pittsburgh a better place to live through programs such as student mentoring and neighborhood quality of life projects. Pittsburgh Neighborhood initiatives director Kim Graziani says the $500 dollar cards will be given to nonprofit groups that can muster up at least 20 volunteers and can couple their projects with other city-supported efforts. “There’s really great things that happen from a block-by-block level,” says Graziani. “It could be anything from celebrating the block, the community, it could be an actual cleanup project, it could be a public safety event.”
City Councilman Doug Shields voiced some concern when he learned that the applications would be judged by the mayor’s office. He asked for the names of those in the office who would be doing the judging and suggested it would add more “legitimacy” if they brought in an advisory panel. Shields also asked that the city do a follow up audit to make sure the funds were spent properly. “ Unfortunately sometimes these gift cards go down the road and then something gets bought and all of a sudden nobody knows where it went,” says Shields.
Graziani says a follow up will be made. The money must be spent on supplies for the granted effort. The funds come from the Home Depot Foundation.