Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we are often reminded that it's important to give back. And while it’s easy to focus on material gifts, there are many other ways to celebrate the spirit of giving. At Everett and Hurite, for example, many of us are highly committed to giving the most valuable thing of all: time. Specifically, volunteer time.

77.4 million Americans volunteered 6.9 billion hours in 2017 (the most recent figures available at this time). On average, that breaks down to about 52 hours per person annually. And all of that time is worth an estimated value of nearly $167 billion to nonprofits and communities. 

Everett and Hurite’s team contributes to these hours in many ways, according to Charles J. Kent, MD. Not only do people volunteer in their free time; but the practice as a whole is known to work together to support important causes. Some people even travel abroad to support a mission they feel strongly about.

With so many stories of giving inside a single practice, we wanted to highlight just a few of the wonderful ways our team is working to make a difference. From local volunteer opportunities to projects abroad, these are some of the ways we give back each year:

Local Volunteering with Dawn V Herzig, DO.child with green backpack walking home

Dr. Dawn Herzig of Everett and Hurite has many areas of interest both in and out of the office. At work, she specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of both pediatric eye diseases and eye muscle imbalances in adults. She also enjoys teaching medical students and residents about ophthalmology. Then, when she's not 'in the field', she’s giving back to the North Hills in a big - but quiet - way.

“My volunteer activities are usually ‘undercover’,” Dr. Herzig says about her efforts. “I feel like it’s something I do that I don’t usually like to ‘brag’ about.”

What she does is help coordinate a backpack initiative that supplies easy-to-prepare food for elementary school kids. The initiative aims to help those struggling with food insecurity. For these young individuals, school is often the only place they’re guaranteed a meal. Without help, that makes weekends a long, hungry prospect.

“I gather food and then enlist other volunteers from my church and community to pack the food that eventually ends up being delivered and placed in the backpacks of the kids each Friday,” according to Dr. Herzig. “Our packing events happen every other week during the school year.”

For Dr. Herzig, the reason to give her time and energy is simple: she loves children. And she strives to make a difference in their lives.

Volunteering Abroad with Charles J. Kent, MD.feet of a young baby wrapped in a blanket

While some people spend time in their local communities, others find themselves drawn to other areas that are in need. For Dr. Kent, that means traveling to Asia.

“I have been going to Thailand for the past 20 years with an organization called Thai Physicians of America,” explains Dr. Kent. “They are a group of health care providers who take roughly 200 volunteers and go to a region of Thailand to provide all kinds of services.”

Thai Physicians Association of America (TPAA) is dedicated to carrying out various activities aimed at increasing the sustenance and advancement of health care delivery and education in Thailand and the United States. Currently, TPAA is preparing for a medical mission in 2020, where attendees will teach a class how to stabilize sick newborn children in a neonatal intensive care nursery. The group is also raising funds to purchase and donate important medical supplies for the nursery. 

For Dr. Kent, it’s not only important work - it carries a personal connection as well.

“I went in the beginning because that is where my father is from,” Dr. Kent says about his work with TPAA. “I was interested in having an opportunity to see the country, help the people, and learn from local doctors.”

Building A Nonprofit with Jenny Yu, MD, FACSE&H Project Image

For Dr. Jenny Yu, MD., the call of volunteering took a different direction than her colleagues. Dr. Yu started a 501c3 organization with former fellow and colleague Katie Duncan. The organization is called Project Theia

“It is an organization focused on providing surgical mission, education, and innovations to global communities in need,” explains Dr. Yu. “We specifically focus on facial reconstructive surgeries to particularly vulnerable populations like the children and women that are otherwise cast from society due to their deformities.”

Dr. Yu and her colleague may now travel two to three times a year to various locations. To date, trips have included Ghana, Kenya, and India. And these missions have also received important support from other charitable groups.

“We partner with various other nonprofit organizations, such as Brother’s Brother Foundation in Pittsburgh, to modernize surgical suites and provide resources to the local healthcare workers so that we are part of a sustainable solution,” according to Dr. Yu.

“Our motivation is to provide the education and resources to local physicians so that they can have a bigger impact over time with solutions for access to subspecialists.”

Currently, Dr. Yu is preparing to travel to Roatan, Honduras at the end of January 2020. 

Ongoing Work As A Group

Clearly, many staff members have found wonderful places to volunteer that match with their personal interests. In addition to giving time on an individual basis, however, many Everett and Hurite staff members proudly give time as a group.

Our practice is a leading supporter of the annual Pittsburgh Visionwalk, which is organized through the local Foundation Fighting Blindness chapter. The Foundation Fighting Blindness is currently the world’s leading private funder of retinal disease research.

Founded in 1971, the foundation aims to support and drive research into the prevention, treatment, and restoration of vision loss due to degenerative retinal diseases. These types of eye issues - which include age related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, Usher syndrome, Stargardt disease and Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) - affect more than 10 million Americans, plus millions more throughout the world. 

Our practice as a whole feels very strongly about supporting this type of research, and not just providing medical care to those affected by eye diseases. That’s why we sponsor and participate in the Pittsburgh Visionwalk annually. And this past year alone, 81 people registered to walk with the Everett & Hurite Ophthalmic Association in the walk!

Everett and Hurite is proud of the work our staff does every day, both in and out of the office. From the next annual Pittsburgh Visionwalk to our work overseas, we’re excited to see what 2020 has in store for us, and to continue to give back to communities and causes alike.

Image 1 and 2 Courtesy of Unsplash.com. Image 3 Courtesy Of Project Theia.