Local seniors in running to receive national award for volunteering

| Saturday, April 13, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

Volunteers at four local nonprofit organizations are among 68 from across the state to be nominated for a national award.

The Salute to Senior Service program honors the contributions of adults 65 and older who give at least 15 hours a month of volunteer service to their favorite causes.

The four local nominees are: Dorothy “Dottie” White of Springdale, who volunteers at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital, Harmar; Bob McCandless of Oakmont, a volunteer at Riverview Community Action Center in Oakmont; Jeff Pope of Plum, who donates his time to the Plum Senior Community Center; and Sandy Ritchey of Etna, who volunteers at UPMC St. Margaret near Aspinwall.

The national award is sponsored by Home Instead, which provides in-home care services for seniors. It will be given to one of 50 finalists, the winner from each state.

The public can vote for their favorite Pennsylvania nominee online at SalutetoSeniorService.com.

Voting to select state winners begins on Monday and will continue until April 30.

A panel of senior-care experts will pick the national Salute to Senior Service honoree from the 50 finalists.

Home Instead, Inc. will donate $500 to each of the state winners' favorite nonprofit organizations. Their stories will be posted on the Salute to Senior Service Wall of Fame on the company's website.

In addition, $5,000 will be donated to the national winner's nonprofit charity of choice.

“The goal is to really say ‘thank you' to these seniors who are giving their time and not getting paid in return,” said Nick Paradise, community service representative for the Home Instead office in Oakmont. “Most of these folks have retired and they have earned that. But they choose to keep giving.”

When they talk about their outstanding volunteers, officials at local nonprofit agencies tend to use the same word: indispensable.

“He really is indispensable,” Elaine Pruitt, community outreach coordinator for Riverview Community Action Center, said of McCandless.

“He does so much around our center,” she said. “He does everything. He helps me in the food bank; he delivers Meals on Wheels every day; he sets up for bingos and cleans out the coffee pot. We've been saying we don't know what we would do without our Bob.

“He loves our center and we love having him there,” Pruitt said. “He is an absolute joy.”

Pope received similar praise from Nina Segelson, executive director of the Plum Senior Community Center.

Pope, a stroke survivor, leads a stroke support group, the Stroke Survivor Connection, which meets each week in the center. He is involved with American Legion Post 980 and the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh.

“He is very important to these people who have been struggling or are struggling with the after-effects of stroke,” Segelson said.

White has not let being born with cerebral palsy keep her from helping others.

In 1994, she began volunteering in HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Harmar. She has spent every Friday volunteering in the hospital since then.

“Dottie is a smiling, energetic, darling person — truly an angel on wheels — who loves everyone, and tells them so,” said HealthSouth's volunteer coordinator Nancy Fazio.

A retired nurse, Ritchey and her registered therapy dogs brighten patients' days when they visit UPMC St. Margaret.

“The volunteer time with these dogs is special because the dogs bring such joy to people,” said Iris Douglas, UPMC St. Margaret volunteer coordinator.

Ritchey also volunteers with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Gwen's Girls and the Lighthouse Food Bank in Butler.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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