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Volunteers sought to help North Hills seniors

| Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017, 1:15 p.m.

The time commitment is not great, but the impact on the lives of senior citizens could be invaluable.

Volunteers are needed for all of the North Hills Community Outreach's senior programs that help people throughout northern Allegheny County. Help is needed not only with seasonal work like snow shoveling, but in transportation and caregiving, said NHCO senior programs manager Nancy Jones.

“Seniors are very, very grateful for the services we provide,” Jones said.

Through the winter, volunteers are needed to shovel snow from walks, steps and driveways for seniors to safely navigate outside and to ensure safe passage for Meals on Wheels or home health aides who may be visiting, said Jennifer Kissel, North Hills Community Outreach director of communications.

Jones said right now they have some seniors who have requested help, but they don't have volunteers to match up with them. The number of requests only increases as the snow falls more heavily and more often throughout the winter, she said.

“This is a great volunteer opportunity for teens,” Kissel said. “Families like to do this. It's not a heavy time commitment, basically whenever it snows.”

Kissel said they try to match volunteers with seniors in their neighborhood, but will match them with seniors nearby if they are willing to travel. Shovelers are needed in all neighborhoods in the North Hills.

In addition to winter weather help, volunteers are needed for the caregiving program In Service of Seniors, which helps seniors 60 and older remain safe and independent in their homes. Volunteers provide non-medical assistance, like helping with driving, grocery shopping, seasonal yard work or just providing friendly conversations.

The primary need is transportation to and from medical appointments and running errands, Jones said. These volunteer positions are the hardest to fill as the need is greatest through the week during working hours, but Jones said it can be great for stay-at-home moms or recent retirees.

“Transportation is such a huge need for seniors who often don't have family or friends in the area, and all the time need to get to much needed doctors' appointments” she said. “It does make a huge difference to them.”

Volunteer interested in shoveling snow or joining In Service of Seniors should contact Cathy Pschirer at 412-307-0069, ext. 3313 or clpschirer@nhco.org. A volunteer criminal clearance report is needed for the caregiving volunteers, but Pschirer can walk volunteers through the process, Kissel said.

For those interested, an In Service of Seniors volunteer orientation session is planned for 9 a.m. Jan. 12 in the NHCO Allison Park office at 1975 Ferguson Road.

The outreach also needs drivers for its Free Rides for Seniors shuttles that run along Freeport Road and the Route 28 corridor. The shuttle, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, picks up seniors after they call in and tell the dispatcher where they need to go.

Drivers do not need a commercial driver's license to drive the shuttle. All they need is to be between 25 and 70, to have a valid driver's license and to be able to pass a criminal clearance check, Kissel said. All training is provided.

Shifts are three to four hours and volunteers can pick up as many or as few shifts a week as they want.

“The volunteers love it,” Kissel said. “It's kind of like a family. They all have a really good time actually.”

Interested volunteers should contact Kerry Keegan Mulhern about the shuttle at 412-449-0151 or kkmulhern@nhco.org.

Rachel Farkas is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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