Meals on Wheels program serving Carnegie, Bridgeville, Scott seeking volunteers of all ages

| Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, 9:31 p.m.

Daytime TV wasn't cutting it for Mari Murphy.

Owner of a risk-management business, a flexible schedule and a self-described poor “self-starter,” the East Carnegie resident was getting antsy in the mornings.

“I found myself watching 44 episodes of Golden Girls,” Murphy cracked in the basement of Carnegie's St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, about 20 minutes after helping cook more than 150 Meals on Wheels entrées.

“I decided to get up and get out. That's what got me to volunteer.”

That was close to six years ago. Since then, she has found fulfillment — as well as a creative outlet for an avid cooking habit — in preparing meals for area seniors. Now, the Lutheran Service Society, which organizes 38 Meals on Wheels kitchens in the region, is seeking more willing volunteers like Murphy.

Be it kitchen help, drivers or hoppers — those are the people making deliveries — volunteers for all positions are being sought for the site that serves Carnegie, Scott and Bridgeville.

“Wednesday is our worst day,” said site manager Bob Colabianchi, adding the kitchen also needs to add at least 10 volunteers.

“We're low on kitchen staff and drivers, so if I can't call somebody in or they can't take up an extra day, then I have to cover.”

Of course, volunteers are welcome any day of the week and seldom are turned away, as long as they pass a background check.

The need is even greater in the approaching winter, when fewer senior citizens are willing to venture into poor weather.

“The numbers jump up,” said Candy Mageras, Meals on Wheels' program manager. “The highest I've seen this site serve in the winter is 63 seniors just in Carnegie.”

There is more to the job than the rinse-and-repeat process of dropping off the prepared lunch and a frozen meal for later. Hoppers are encouraged to form connections with the clients during their brief stops, to offer a friendly face, as well as a checkup on those who may be living alone.

“Most of these seniors,” Mageras said, “we are the only face they see every day.”

Most volunteers sacrifice modest amounts of time. Kitchen workers come in for roughly two hours each morning, while the drivers and hoppers are needed from around 10 a.m. to noon.

“We're hoping to attract other volunteers, like young people who have flexible schedules,” said Laura Burns, director of Lutheran Service Society's volunteer service.

“Stay-at-home moms, we'd like to target them. They can bring their children, and it's not a big time commitment. If you're volunteering one day a week for two hours, that's about as good as it gets.”

And the benefits go to more than the seniors receiving Murphy's meals.

“One meal changes two lives,” Burns said. “The great thing about this volunteering program is it's very community-based, so you're helping people where you live. It gives you a sense of pride.”

Dan Stefano is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 412-388-5816.

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