Photo by Kristy Locklin.

Use your next retail therapy session to give local businesses and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank an extra boost during the pandemic.

The Oakland Business Improvement District (OBID) launched the Shop2Help Oakland Gift Card Program on Oct. 1. There are currently 19 restaurants and retailers participating, with more joining each week.

Customers who buy a $25 gift card will receive $10 in bonus funds paid for through a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Businesses receive $28.75 from each sale and $6.25 goes to the food bank. Processing and administrative costs are covered by OBID.

Patrons can purchase up to 10 gift cards per business, per order, for a maximum of $350. Gift cards, gift certificates or digital codes are issued in $35 increments and are mailed to shoppers at the address provided at checkout within seven to 14 days of the purchase date. Payments are processed immediately and orders are fulfilled weekly.

With University of Pittsburgh students — the lifeblood of Oakland’s central business district — slated to leave campus before Thanksgiving and staying remote through January, shops and restaurants need help right now.

The Shop2Help Oakland Gift Card Program received $40,000 as part of a $75,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to support this effort along with the Oakland Safety Compliance Program, an initiative that helps businesses understand and execute Covid guidelines instituted by the state, Allegheny County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The $40,000 is being chipped away at $10 at a time, meaning that 4,000 gift cards could potentially be sold. At a $35 value, that’s a ceiling of potentially $140,000 in revenue coming into the community; $115,000 will go directly to Oakland’s small businesses. The food bank will take in $25,000, which is the equivalent of 4,000 meals.

The length of the program is determined by how long it takes to exhaust the grant funding.

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.