The Steelers have a strong bond with the Pittsburgh community, and that bond continues to grow through one of the organization's most recent initiatives, the Steelers Social Justice Grant program.
The program, which is led by the players themselves, is an effort to engage with various factions, including law enforcement, charitable organizations, military and more to strengthen the community at large.
Steelers' players are doing their part to make a difference, aiding organizations financially and by giving their time to local organizations.
The most recent donation the team announced this year was made to the Light of Life Rescue Mission, with Vance McDonald making a donation and the team also contributing, for a total donation of $10,000.
McDonald's involvement with the Light of Life Rescue Mission was born out of meting him though the team's chaplain, Kent Chevalier, and both parties wanting to help others and do so in a faith-based manner as a ministry.
"A lot of times I have heard this thrown around in missionary is the giving is transactional. It's hi, I see your need, I meet your need, and I hope I made your day better," said McDonald. "With Light of Life they are consistent and persistent with finding people who need help and sticking with them no matter what. They're trying to make a lasting impact. They're trying to pull people out of poor circumstances and see them living in a better place, receiving more, getting what they need in a long-term basis. That is the kind of giving that is dynamic."
The mission of Light of Life is to provide a safe haven for the homeless and food for the hungry, while trying to bring those who are in despair closer to God. Their work couldn't be done without the generosity of others and they value the relationship with McDonald.
"It's huge. We couldn't do what we do without donors, and obviously the Steelers in general have been phenomenal partnering with us and we're very grateful for that," said Doug Smith, Director of Development for Light of Life. "To shine a light on what we do to serve the homeless men, women and children of Pittsburgh, for an athlete to do that is amazing. Every dollar that is donated will go to help the most vulnerable in our city. We are very, very grateful."
With the weather changing, and cold, freezing nights approaching, the work the mission does becomes even more important.
"It's all year round, but around here now, it's literally life and death the support we are able to provide," said Smith. "Whether it's a meal, or shelter, there are people who will die every year because they are out in the cold. The fact that we can be a safe haven for the most vulnerable men, women and children, and they have a place they can come and eat, get long-term recovery, and long-term they can get an education, employment and housing through us it's huge. It's a life or death matter for those coming to us."
McDonald is the latest Steelers player to come to the aid of Light of Life. Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley have partnered with the mission for 30 years and have continually brought younger players into the fold.
"For the next generation of players being willing to use their platform and resources to benefit Light of Life and charities they support it is humbling and we are so grateful," said Smith. "It means so much."