Volunteers Making a Difference at The Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh


The Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh (Emmaus), a South Side based non-profit that provides permanent homes and other non-residential supports for individuals with intellectual disabilities, has special group of students volunteers from the North Hills area called “The Friends of Emmaus”.  The group consists of students from Vincentian Academy and North Allegheny Schools.  “The Friends of Emmaus” was found by Thomas Kim of Vincentian Academy and Suhye Park of North Allegheny High School.

Thomas says, “During the visit, we simply stood in the presence of the residents and listened to their stories. I was shocked to discover the how happy they were by our presence. Thus I learned that to pursue happiness means to find a true friend.”  Emmaus is built upon a vision of people with and without disabilities sharing their lives.  Thomas instantly grasped the meaning of Community on the first trip to Emmaus and wanted to serve the residents.  Since then, he recruited and organized a group of students from different schools in the North Hills.

Suhye Park says, “As I continued volunteering at Emmaus, I realized that volunteering was not about simply helping the residents – it was about sincerely connecting with them and embracing them like our own family members. My previous sense of social responsibility turned into a sense of heartfelt love and desire to help, and my sympathy soon turned into empathy.”

At Emmaus, the Friends of Emmaus have done a multitude of activities that truly connect with the residents intimately. They helped paint the residents’ house in the North Side so the three residents can enjoy their new home.  They made blankets for the residents so they would be warm in the cold winter.  They played music with one of our non-residential program participant’s (Uncle Carl) musical performance so he can play his keyboard with confidence.  Non-Residential Services provide an opportunity for individuals with intellectual disabilities to experience greater independence, build new skills, foster new relationships, and participate in community activities of their choosing. They cooked delicious Korean meals and shared them with the residents. When one of the residents, Joan, passed away recently, Thomas volunteered to play cello at her funeral mass.

Desire to help others is opening a door to a whole new world for Emmaus residents!  These students, from 3rd grade student from Hosack Elementary School to high school students, they go to different communities- preschool, places of worship, nursing homes, and the Community gatherings to promote public awareness of persons with intellectual disabilities.

As Suhye said, “our volunteer activity became even more meaningful when we started accompanying the keyboard performance of Uncle Carl, I was amazed at his ability to play the keyboard, which was the precious product of his endless endeavors. Now Suhye is trying to develop a computer program that can create special scores for individuals with intellectual disabilities and make music according to their abilities.

After hearing Carl and the Friends of Emmaus play together, other residents began to let their own new dreams of playing music kindle in their hearts. What a great gift these youths share with the residents!

If anyone wants to volunteer at the Emmaus Community of Pittsburgh, please contact MiRan at 412-381-0277, ext. 201 or email msurh@emmauspgh.org.