Since 1968, when Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood made its national public television debut, Fred Rogers began each episode with his simple signature question in song: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
For the past two years, the nation joined together to answer that question with a resounding “Yes!” as news anchors, librarians, students and CEO’s alike donned their favorite sweaters on March 20, in honor of Fred Rogers’ birthday. Once again we’re asking people to wear a sweater to celebrate the day.
“It started simply enough,“ explains Margy Whitmer of Family Communications, Inc. (FCI is the nonprofit company founded in 1971 by Fred Rogers.) “We wanted to recognize Fred in a way that would reflect his deep appreciation of what it means to be a caring neighbor.”
As in previous years, a number of organizations, particularly cultural institutions and local libraries in Pittsburgh and Southwestern PA, will be participating by hosting activities to celebrate what it means to be a neighbor.
This year we’re happy to announce a new partnership with United Way of Allegheny County. We’ll be expanding our focus to make it an annual event to promote volunteerism - a natural extension of Fred Rogers’ legacy of neighborliness. Through this partnership, people will be encouraged to make a commitment to volunteer on a regular basis, not just for this one-day event.
The United Way will match corporate volunteers with agencies so that on Friday, March 19 volunteers will report to their selected agencies and learn more about their options, do some hands-on work, and hopefully make a commitment to help on an on-going basis. This is also a day for agencies to honor their dedicated volunteers.
Agencies looking for volunteers can take advantage of United Way seminars focusing on ways to make volunteering a welcoming experience and to encourage an on-going commitment. Dates and times will be announced in February.
We’re also working with local cultural institutions and libraries to once again create family-friendly events. In past years the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh, the Allegheny County libraries and those in surrounding areas offered special events and collected food, sweaters or diapers for their communities. Free or reduced admissions have been offered by local cultural institutions like the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, the National Aviary, the Mattress Factory, the Westmoreland County Museum of American Art, the Carnegie Museums, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, the Heinz History Center, and the Frick Museum of Art. Events will be posted on the VisitPittsburgh website (www.visitpittsburgh.com) late-February or early March.
“What’s been so encouraging,” Whitmer says, “is the continued enthusiastic response from people all over the country. We're hoping that people will connect with their neighbors in caring ways and that it will become an annual national day of commitment to community service.”
For more information about “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Day, visit www.fredrogers.org/neighbor.