On Wednesday at a brunch at the National Aviary on the North Side, the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership (GPNP) a project of The Forbes Funds, honored leaders in nonprofit work across the city. Ten leaders and organizations were recognized for their exemplary work during the pandemic, and two were honored with lifetime achievement awards. 

The past 18 months have been brutal for everyone, but perhaps no sector has felt the weight of Covid’s impact more than nonprofit organizations. The folks working on the front lines of serving others had to quickly pivot their methods and operations when the pandemic hit so that the recipients of their services continued to receive quality support.

GPNP Director Colleen Young says that while the event honors the winners, the project is about so much more than that. “We’re really just trying to highlight the stories as a way of honoring and celebrating and recognizing all of the amazing work that has been going on in the nonprofit sector.”

A coalition of more than 500 nonprofits across the 10-county region, the GPNP has spent the last year focusing on rest and healing for nonprofit workers. From yoga and ballet classes to sunrise kayaking, the organization has assumed the role of caring for the caregivers so that they can continue to do good work. In October, a virtual summit that was attended by more than 700 individuals. Those who did not attend can still register to access the summit’s content here.

“People are over, overwhelmed, burnt out, exhausted. We need to pause, we need to focus inward a little bit and say, ‘OK, what do we need to be well, for our staff to be well, for organizations to be well, so that we can continue to give to the communities that we support?’” says Young. 

The two lifetime achievement awards were presented to Esther Bush, who retired in August after 27 years as president and chief executive of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and Peggy Morrison Outon, who has served as executive director of the Bayer Center for Nonprofit Management for the past 23 years. 

Outon is credited for her important work in narrowing the wage gap for women in the nonprofit sector. When she began doing research on this topic, women made up 74 percent of the nonprofit workforce, but earned only 74 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts made. Through Outon’s work and advocacy, that gap is now only eight cents for every dollar. 

Bush’s work in Pittsburgh fighting for economic and social justice through her role at the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh has been nationally recognized, including being honored at the White House as part of the Champions of Change for Educational Excellence for African Americans initiative. She has advocated for educational and social equity for the Black community for her entire career, with a lasting legacy of success in this city.

The Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership honored leaders for exemplary work in helping the region. Photo by Emmai Alaquiva Ya Momz House, courtesy of the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership.

Overall, 29 individuals and 34 groups were nominated for GPNP awards. The winners were chosen by a committee of staff from The Forbes Funds and an advisory team from the GPNP.

The additional winners announced today were:

  • Global Links for Excellence in Collective Impact
  • Community Kitchen Pittsburgh for Excellence in Strategy Adjustment
  • UrbanKind Institute for Excellence in Innovation

Emerging Leader Awards:

  • Jason Kunzman, Chief Program Officer at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh 
  • Ray Nell Jones, founder and CEO of the Allignment Chapter Corporation
  • Verónica Lozada, Deputy Director of Programs and Community Engagement at Casa San José.

Cross-Sector Champion Awards:

  • Lou Camerlengo, President, CEO and co-founder of fivestar*
  • Liv Bennett, District 13 Representative on Allegheny County Council
  • Karris M. Jackson, Chief Operating Officer of POISE Foundation
  • Sam Reiman, Director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation

“This is a time to pause and reflect and take a collective deep breath and say, wow, there’s been a lot going on,” Young says. “And no one anticipated at the beginning that this would endure so long. And so, we want to give people that moment to pause, reflect and rest. But we also want them to feel celebrated and thanked and recognized for all of the amazing work that’s been going on.”