Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) hosts virtual National Donor Sabbath

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October 31 2021 11:59 pm

PITTSBURGH (WTRF) — The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) hosted a virtual National Donor Sabbath recently, bringing together local faith leaders, donor families and transplant recipients together for the national observance.

As Minister Vicky Keene of Restoration Praise Temple in Dunbar, WV, said of her own lung donor during the event, “My life was saved because a young man lost his life. He saved so many lives in death.” She added, “God’s got a lot in store for me.”  

The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) event brought together local faith leaders, donor families, transplant recipients, and donation and transplantation professionals to share their stories in conjunction with the national observance.

The interactive, online event offered an opportunity to come together as a community, to heal one another, during a challenging and tumultuous time. Themed “Be a Symbol of Hope for Those Who Are Waiting,” the event honored donors and their families while fostering understanding of donation and transplantation within the context of religious beliefs. Participants helped address misperceptions and explained how most religions support organ donation and view it as the final act of love and generosity toward others.

To view the virtual event, watch here.

“Faith-based communities provide vital support to our donor registration initiative, with the majority of faith groups viewing organ, tissue and cornea donation as a charitable act,” said Susan Stuart, president and CEO of CORE. “One person can save the lives of eight by donating organs and heal the lives of 75 through tissue donation. National Donor Sabbath is an opportunity to dispel myths and encourage individuals to make the spiritual decision to help save lives.”

CORE’s National Donor Sabbath event speakers included:

  • Rabbi Seth Adelson, senior rabbi, Beth Shalom Congregation;
  • Allison Anderson, M.Div, BCC, director of spiritual care and education at JW Ruby Memorial Hospital, WVU Medicine;
  • Reverend Richard Freeman, manager of pastoral care at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh;
  • Rabbi Larry Heimer, D. Min, manager and chaplain, Office of Spiritual Care at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital;
  • Dr. Herman Jones, associate professor at Slippery Rock University (retired), who is currently awaiting a kidney transplant;
  • Minister Vicky Keene of Restoration Praise Temple in Dunbar, WV, who received a double lung transplant in July 2020; and
  • Deacon Donald Pepe of St. Gregory, St. Ferdinand & St. Redeemer Catholic Churches, borough manager at Borough of Zelienople and liver recipient.

Every 10 minutes, someone new is added to the national transplant waiting list. Nearly 8,500 people are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant in Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone. Yet, only half of Pennsylvanians and a third of West Virginians are registered as organ donors. During National Donor Sabbath, CORE urges community members to talk to their respective religious leaders and consider making the decision to become an organ, tissue and cornea donor. Individuals can register as an organ donor today at

National Donor Sabbath is observed annually, two weekends before Thanksgiving, from Friday through Sunday. The three-day observance this year occurs Nov. 13-15 and seeks to include the days of worship for major religions practiced in the U.S., calling on places of worship to help spread the message of hope and share in celebration of giving men, women and children a second chance at life through the gift of organ donation. It is a special time for congregations to learn about the critical shortage of organs, tissues and corneas, and celebrate the greatest blessing of all — life.

Interviews with a faith focus are available with those touched by donation in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, including event speakers Minister Vicky Keene and Deacon Donald Pepe. Houses of worship interested in participating in National Donor Sabbath weekend are invited to download CORE’s National Donor Sabbath Tool Kit and share the resources with their local communities and congregations. Those interested in further information on organ, tissue and cornea donation for their congregation can call 800-DONORS-7 (800-366-6777).

About CORE:

The Center for Organ Recovery & Education (CORE) is one of 58 federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organizations (OPOs) in the United States, serving more than five million people in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Chemung County, New York. CORE coordinates the recovery and matching of organs, tissues and corneas for transplant within our service region and works tirelessly to create a culture of donation within the hospitals and communities we serve. CORE’s mission is to Save and Heal lives through donation, ultimately ending the deaths of those on the transplant waiting list, while maintaining integrity for the donation process, dignity for the donors, and compassion for their families. CORE is a winner of the 2019 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a presidential-level award that recognizes non-profits for their innovation and excellence. For more information, visit or call 1-800-DONORS-7. 

For more information on organ donation and faith, read the group’s details below:

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