Greensburg Central Catholic’s Sasha Hoffman organizes 5K to benefit homeless

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Monday, May 6, 2024 | 12:31 PM


In her last two years at Greensburg Central Catholic, junior Sasha Hoffman has been successful both in and out of the classroom.

Her weighted GPA sits at 4.3, which is tops in her class. She is taking two AP classes and three CHS Pitt classes.

She excels both on the tennis court and on the track and field team.

As a tennis player, she was the section singles champion the past two seasons. She placed third in WPIAL doubles and fourth in the PIAA doubles tournament in the fall.

In track and field, she finished third in the 100-meter hurdles and sixth in the 300 hurdles at last year’s WPIAL championships and was 10th and ninth, respectively, at states.

But all those sports accomplishments pale in comparison to the amount of charitable work Hoffman has done.

It started by donating time to small church events and working at the Westmoreland Food Bank. Two years ago, she organized a clothing drive for the Westmoreland Women’s Shelter.

Her main focus since 2023 has been her work with the Light of Life Rescue Mission, which has been located at Pittsburgh’s North Shore since 1952.

“We offer food and emergency shelter for those living on the street, but Light of Life does a lot more,” said Annie Cairns, marketing manager for Light of Life. “We have services and programs that help combat the flow into homelessness, and we try and help those who have a desire to transform their lives.”

Light of Life also has programs that assist those with mental health issues, which is an overlooked cause for homelessness. They also provide programs for women who are suffering from domestic abuse and addiction as well as for the children who are affected by such situations.

“We help anybody who walks through our doors,” Cairns said. “We get people coming from other programs who are looking for another way to help them, and we understand that everybody has unique needs based on their unique situations.”

Since July, Hoffman has been orchestrating clothing and shoe drives and putting together care packages through money donated to a GoFundMe page.

She also has taken on the task of helping Light of Life by organizing a 5K run/walk to be held at Twin Lakes Park in Greensburg on May 12.

“We ran out of all the donation money for Light of Life I raise through my clothing and shoe drives,” she said. “I wanted something more engaging, so I brought it up with the leader of Light of Life, and she thought a 5K was a great idea.”

“Sasha is passionate about helping others and bold in asking others to join in as well,” said Coleen McKerley, who is a member of the Light of Life fundraising team. “She rallies her family, friends and community to help those in need.”

Hoffman started her work on the 5K by creating flyers and handing them out to local businesses and houses in her nearby communities looking for donations.

“Light of Life created the website to take donations,” Hoffman said. “I’ve kind of done everything else on my own. It’s a great learning experience for me. I didn’t know what a W-9 form was or how to fill it out, and I just learned how.”

Said Cairns: “It’s not typically a priority for the younger generation to step up and volunteer or fundraise for missions, so when somebody like Sasha steps up, we’re very appreciative.”

Local businesses and restaurants like Jioio’s, Gianelli’s, El Diablo, Mr. Tire, Green Berry and Wild Hair Salon and others have made cash donations or donated gift cards.

Hoffman plans to raffle them off at the 5K with proceeds benefitting Light of Life.

Eat‘n Park will donate cookies for the walk, and Ready Nutrition has donated drinks and protein bars for participants.

Hoffman set a $2,000 goal for donations and within a month the goal was surpassed. She decided to raise it to $4,000.

By April 28, the second goal had been surpassed.

“I’ve had an awesome turnout from the businesses I’ve talked to, and I’m blown away with the amount of money I’ve raised,” Hoffman said.

The donation website will remain up until the day of the 5K run/walk for those who wish to make a donation.

Hoffman’s inspiration for her service work came from her late grandmother, Betty Piersol-Hoffman, who was charitable and gave of herself.

“She set up many mission churches in Africa,” Hoffman said. “She also donated all her medical supplies at the end of her career to the Republic of Congo.”

Hoffman wrote about her grandmother in her application essay for the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences, which asked applicants who the most influential person was in their lives.

“When I was writing the essay, it brought up so many memories of all the service work she used to do and that inspired me to follow in her footsteps,” Hoffman said. “I just hope to have the sliver of impact that she had on the world.”

Hoffman’s work continues as she’s the treasurer and director of finance for a school club that is part of the Hunger Free Heart Project, where her and her classmates give back to the community, providing food for the food bank.

Although the 5K is scheduled for Mother’s Day, Hoffman is hoping for a strong turnout.

“The turnout’s been pretty good so far,” she said. “When I got in contact with Twin Lakes, that was the only date they had open for the entire year. I know a good bit of people will attend without registering, but it helps to have a count.”

The 5K run/walk will run from 9 a.m.-noon. There is a $25 registration fee, and the first 50 people who register will receive a free T-shirt. There also will be games and a raffle.

To register and donate, visit https://secure.qgiv.com/event/5ktohelpthehomeless/.

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