The Kovacic Family. Photo courtesy of Traci Kovacic.

When her husband died suddenly on October 25, 2015, Traci Kovacic’s world stopped turning.

Michael Kovacic, a 32-year-old father, had just completed the EQT Pittsburgh 10 Miler race through Downtown when he collapsed.

The following months were a blur, but Kovacic and her 5-month-old son Calvin and 3-year-old daughter Josie had a network of loved ones to keep life in focus.

“That first Christmas, my friends came over and put up all of my decorations,” she says. “That was something I wouldn’t have done for myself. It made a huge difference.”

Together with a small army of volunteers, including the family of Joseph Guzzetti, a lifelong friend who also died young, Kovacic is channeling her grief into Angels by Your Side, a nonprofit organization that helps people who have experienced loss.

The Wexford-based charity, which formed in 2019 and obtained its 501(c)(3) status in November, performs a wide variety of tasks ranging from grocery shopping, meal prep and household chores to bigger projects such as yard work and relocation assistance.

Photo courtesy of Angels by Your Side.

Grieving families (or friends of those in need) can fill out an online form. Kovacic tries to personally respond to each request within 48 hours. The nonprofit’s website also provides links to additional resources, such as the Highmark Caring Place and Camp Erin Pittsburgh, a retreat for bereaved children and teens.

Want to pitch in? Kovacic welcomes any kind of help from volunteers. Email her here to get involved.

Angels by Your Side recently helped a young widow put a fresh coat of paint on her walls, decorate for the holidays and pack up the lights after New Year’s Day. They also assisted a widower and his daughter with repairs to their old house.

The organization is looking to expand its services by working with more licensed plumbers, electricians, landscapers and general contractors who would be willing to perform their services at a discount or pro bono. Matt Mertz Plumbing and Kollinger Painting have already lent their expertise to make people’s lives a little easier.

Angels by Your Side is also seeking monetary donations. When Covid restrictions ease, the organization plans to hold in-person fundraisers.

Human connection is important, Kovacic says, especially when going through a tragedy.

“People don’t like asking for help, because they don’t want to be a burden,” she says. “When people reach out, I let them know that I’ve been through it, too. Every person who is a volunteer here loved Mike very much. When we go to someone’s house to help them, we know how they feel.”

Kristy Locklin

Kristy Locklin is a North Hills-based writer. When she's not busy reporting, she enjoys watching horror movies and exploring Pittsburgh's craft beer scene.