Jayson Samuels

As manager of major gifts for Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS)—founded 60 years ago by medical pioneers Larry Mellon and his wife, Gwen—Jayson Samuels helps raise funds to provide preventative and life-saving care to the only 24/7 hospital located in Haiti’s “rice belt,” which serves a 610-square-mile population. Follow Jayson all week long, as he works on critical Zika prevention projects, shares his favorite spots in the city for biking and lunch, and cooks up creative activities for his children.

Monday, July 25

With four kids ages 5 to 11 and my wife, Katy, who is active in volunteering and a teacher at Westinghouse High School, I’m in charge of “morning duty.” I’ll start my day with hot tea (I make my own blend with tea leaves from Teavana), and take my daughter to her early morning gymnastics class at Jewart’s Gym.

Jayson at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti.
Jayson at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti.

I ride my bike into our Strip District offices during the summer. Living in Observatory Hill (one of the city’s little known gems), I can ride through Riverview Park and eventually to the Penn Avenue bike lane. My commute is a lot safer these days, thanks to the bike lanes. I’m in the office by 8:30 a.m.

I believe it’s important to express gratitude every morning and in my job there’s a professional reason, too. I’ll start the day with thank-you notes you to donors. People believe that our hospital is well-funded, but it isn’t. In order to keep our doors open and serve a population without access to basic healthcare, we rely on the generosity of donors.

After this, I have a conference call with our board chair, John Walton. Because we’re an international organization based in Pittsburgh, we coordinate our communications constantly. One of the first items on our agenda is updating fundraising proposals and submissions. In particular, the detrimental birth defects caused by the Zika virus are expected to impact Haiti. We’ve been providing preventative Zika education since March and have reached nearly 8,000 Haitians directly. Still, to be more impactful, we need more resources and have an aggressive three-year Zika prevention plan for which we are seeking aid.

For lunch, I’ll eat at one of my favorite Pittsburgh restaurants, Kaya, with Megan Marucco, our new annual fund manager. She’ll probably walk her rescue dog, Ollie, on the way down—he’s become the adopted office dog.

I’ll ride my bike back home, this time uphill, and do what we do on every nice summer day: swim at Riverview Pool. It’s a great public pool that we can walk to (and it’s not super crowded).

Tuesday, July 26

Late morning I have an international development conference call with the team in Haiti. We’ll be talking about upcoming donor visits to the hospital, making sure we coordinate itineraries to align with the hospital’s greatest needs. HAS is over capacity every day and visits to our community health centers in remote mountainous areas require significant coordination. Because HAS is a private hospital with ever-increasing healthcare demands, especially post-earthquake, showing donors the hard work we do is critical to our fundraising. Our founders built well-maintained housing for staff and visitors, including a pool and tennis courts. Visitors are well accommodated.

I have lunch with a potential donor at The Duquesne Club. Early in the afternoon I’ll be meeting with John Mahood, the CEO of ImageBox. John’s team built our website and designs many of our marketing materials. We’ll meet with him to ensure that our content is up-to-date and engaging.

For dinner it’s Taco Tuesday! The whole family will go to my mother-in-law’s house for dinner.

Jayson with his wife, Katy, at Disneyland this summer.
Jayson with his wife, Katy, at Disneyland this summer.

Wednesday, July 27

A “catch up” morning at the office. I’ll work on reviewing proposals for three family foundations. One of the proposals focuses on child malnutrition; in Haiti, 1 in 5 children are malnourished or will become malnourished.

Wednesday evening we’ll go to the Pirates’ game because it’s Star Wars Night at PNC Park. The whole family loves Star Wars and we’re close to the stadium. There’s a playground inside the stadium that my kids love—we’ll stop there before.

Thursday, July 28

I’ll have lunch with a donor as well—if I get to pick this lunch, it will be a little traditional: Wholey’s. I love their fish sandwich.

Thursday evenings the family cooks out with the all-American basics: hamburgers, hot dogs, corn, watermelon—complete with a lot of Heinz bread-and-butter pickles (and of course, ketchup).

After, one of my greatest friends and mentors, Pittsburgh Promise Foundation Director Saleem Ghubril, will walk to my house for an evening on the porch. We like to catch up often and both are leaders in ministry. Since my kids attend Linden Elementary (where they are in the Chinese magnet program—yes, your kids can learn Chinese at the Pittsburgh Public Schools), I’m particularly interesting in his own fundraising efforts.

Friday, July 29

Friday is an early morning for me. At 6 a.m. I meet with other Christian men for a two-hour bible study called Christian Leadership Concepts. It is designed to help encourage strong leadership at home and at work. I’ll meet with the Pittsburgh team on our plan to increase donor engagement locally. Most of our dollars come from outside the region, despite our founder being from Pittsburgh. Part of this effort will include my taking youth groups and more Pittsburghers down to Haiti to see the work and how the need remains greater than ever.

Friday evening my son Gavyn plays hockey at Robert Morris University.

Jayson on his way to the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer community health center in remote Haiti.
Jayson on his way to the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer community health center in remote Haiti.

Saturday, July 30

I’ll wake up early to celebrate my friend Bill Shimko’s 40th birthday. We’re atypical. We’ll be doing a 40-mile bike ride. It’ll take us about three hours and it’s all mapped out. We love riding in the city.

In the evening, my brother is coming into town with his family. My wife and I will have a much-needed “adult night” with them, which will include dinner at Butcher and the Rye. We love the food and ambience there.

Sunday, July 31

I wake up early to go on a “city” bike ride with my friend, Chris. One of our favorite parts is stopping by The Point to look at the fountain. I’ll go to church with my family at NorthBridge, the nondenominational church I co-founded in 2007. My wife and I still volunteer there. After church we go out to brunch with our friends—we’re going to try Istanbul Sofra.

Sunday night we eat dinner together as a family and watch America’s Funniest Home Videos, or as my youngest daughter calls it, “The Funny Show,” and prepare for the next week.

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade. Musically, she is in a band called The Garment District and is a founding member of Brooklyn's The Ladybug Transistor.