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Dedicated Greensburg volunteer encourages others to join her

Brian Bowling
| Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, 11:40 p.m.
Maxine Pellis, a volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul, local food banks and pet therapy programs, talks about her experience while holding her dog, Enzo, at her home in Greensburg on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Maxine Pellis, a volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul, local food banks and pet therapy programs, talks about her experience while holding her dog, Enzo, at her home in Greensburg on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.
Maxine Pellis, a volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul, local food banks and pet therapy programs, works on Thanksgiving-themed greeting cards at her home in Greensburg on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Maxine Pellis, a volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul, local food banks and pet therapy programs, works on Thanksgiving-themed greeting cards at her home in Greensburg on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.

Volunteers work as a team, so Maxine Pellis finds it a little irritating to be singled out.

“None of this is me alone,” she said.

Pellis, 65, of Greensburg volunteers with the Westmoreland County Obedience Training Club Thera-Paws, the Westmoreland County Food Bank and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. She hopes that talking about her volunteering will encourage others.

She does some of the work at home, such as making greeting cards and party favors for food bank events and other events.

“If you've got an hour, there's something you can do,” she said. “There's always someone who needs help.”

Persuading others to volunteer is one of Pellis' many strong points, said Louise Wilhelm, director of volunteers and food drives at the food bank.

“She cares about the people. She cares about the volunteers,” Wilhelm said. “She's very good at coordinating the volunteers and getting the job done.”

When Wilhelm needed to take leave during the October Hunger Action Month food drive, she sent out an email asking for someone to temporarily take over.

In what Pellis characterized as a “weak moment,” which made Wilhelm chuckle when she heard about it, Pellis stepped up and spent three weekends in September overseeing hundreds of volunteers collecting tons of donated food from shoppers at area Wal-Marts.

Wilhelm said she immediately accepted Pellis' offer because she knew she could trust her with the job.

“She's one of most valued volunteers at our food bank and she's also an advocate for the people we serve,” she said.

With a bachelor's degree in medical records administration, Pellis had worked for three local hospitals and the predecessor of PricewaterhouseCoopers before starting her own medical records consulting business.

Visiting her parents in a nursing home, she learned about people who bring their dogs into the facility to cheer up residents and started rearranging her life to become a pet therapy volunteer.

“I saw the difference it was making with the residents,” she said.

That led to her other volunteer work.

“It's amazing,” she said. “You think you're going to help somebody but it really helps you in the return, too.”

For the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, she volunteers at the Our Lady of Grace Church food pantry and does home visits to see what the society can do for people who ask for help.

The food bank holds Operation Fresh Express each week to distribute fresh food to families registered with area food pantries. Different groups sponsor the event each week.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is sponsoring six of the events this year and eight next year, Pellis said.

She coordinates the event with the society, the food bank and the Church of Jesus Christ, which offers its parking lot for the food distribution. She also brings in 30 to 60 volunteers from around the area.

“I love bringing the community together, that's one of the things I love the most,” she said.

Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1218, bbowling@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribBrian.

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