West Mifflin teachers, administrators lend helping hands on day of service

| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Bertha “Boya” Kecman took her dance partner for an impromptu spin around the floor.

“I've been dancing for a long time, (but she's) teaching me something here,” said Kecman's partner, Dan Castagna, 36.

Kecman, 88, danced on Tuesday with Castagna, superintendent of the West Mifflin Area School District, at Locust Grove Senior Living, a personal care facility where Kecman lives.

Schools were closed on Election Day, so about 250 employees volunteered for the district's Community Service Day.

Employees completed 20 projects, including reading to children at Barnes & Noble at the Waterfront; collecting food donations for the needy from customers at grocery stores; delivering soup to the elderly; and picking up trash from roadsides.

The volunteers wore gray shirts that read, “Team Titan WM Community Spirit,” which they bought for $10 each. The proceeds will benefit families in need, Castagna said.

West Mifflin's first Community Service Day took place on Election Day last year. This year's event included more volunteers and more sites, Castagna said.

Castagna and nine other staff members played bingo with Kecman and 14 others at Locust Grove, and awarded a prize or gift to every resident.

“It's really nice of these people to come,” said Dolly Tice, 77.

Locust Grove encourages visits to promote social interaction among its 61 residents, some of whom have outlived their family members, said Debbie Stetzer, assistant administrator.

At West Mifflin Area Middle School, eight high school teachers sat at sewing machines to make decorative cloth bags for the local Satchels of Caring Foundation, which will fill the bags with donated toiletries and other items for chemotherapy patients.

Satchels of Caring provided sewing materials for 20 bags. Ten were completed Tuesday, and teachers will finish the rest this month, said Kristen Bonacci, 30, family consumer sciences teacher and coordinator of the Satchels project.

Bonacci's mother, Jann Yosi, died of breast cancer at age 45. That is why volunteering “sets deep with me,” she said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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