The aviation industry is in T.J. Parrish’s blood. His father worked for Piedmont Airlines for 40 years, and T.J. retired with 37 years of service between Piedmont, US Airways, and American Airlines. So can you guess where he spends early Friday mornings now that he’s retired?
That’s right: Pittsburgh International Airport.
Parrish is one of 96 Volunteer Ambassadors who give their time to help others at the airport. National Volunteer Week is April 8-12, and the Allegheny County Airport Authority will recognize ambassadors, who are on duty every day at the airport, for their efforts at its annual luncheon on Tuesday, April 16.
With so many ambassadors comes a multitude of reasons for volunteering at the airport. Current ambassadors include former flight attendants, schoolteachers, business executives and a dentist.
What’s one personality trait they all share? They like to meet new people. But for Parrish, the appeal also includes seeing old friends.
“I just like to get out and meet people,” said Parrish, who opens the volunteer-operated Military Lounge each Friday. “I get to see airplanes again, come to the airport and see people I used to work with. I wasn’t in the military, but I had a lot of friends and relatives who were, so I thought it would be ideal to do this.”
Volunteer Ambassadors put in more than 13,500 hours at the airport in 2018. They help passengers in many different ways: serving in the Military Lounge, staffing the Ambassador Help Desk in baggage claim, greeting passengers of arriving international flights, escorting passengers to wherever they need to go and, this year, donating 228 hours as part of PIT PAWS (Pups Alleviating Worries and Stress), the airport’s dog therapy program.
“I don’t know where we would be without the ambassadors,” said Elise Farris, manager of customer relations, who manages the PIT PAWS program and works closely with the ambassador program. “They care so much about helping the customers. Their selflessness in helping others is really what Pittsburgh is all about.”