Carnegie center helps senior citizens throughout the year
Ann Hustava sees plenty of senior citizens every day while working at the Chartiers Senior Resource Center of LifeSpan.
But nothing brings them out quite like farmers market voucher day in the summer.
“That's like the biggest day of the year,” Hustava said. “We probably get 700 or 800 seniors, if you could believe it, (who) come through here on that day.”
Hustava is the assistant site coordinator for the center in Carnegie.
This holiday season, TribLive.com will highlight local nonprofit organizations to tell readers what the needs are in communities and the challenges groups face in meeting those needs throughout the suburbs.
In Bridgeville, Carnegie, Collier, Crafton, Green Tree, Heidelberg, Scott Township, South Fayette and Rosslyn Farms, one of the greatest needs comes with the high percentage of senior citizens. The percentage of men and women 65 and older exceeded statewide levels in seven of those nine communities, according to the 2010 census. Seniors represent more than 20 percent of the total population in Bridgeville, Collier, Green Tree and Scott.
Add it all up and it becomes clear why many local organizations try to help senior citizens every day — not just around the holidays.
“This is our community, and it's a great honor to get to take care of your community and kind of fulfill God's mission of taking care of each other,” said Candy Mageras, program manager of Meals on Wheels in the South Hills and West Virginia.
Meals on Wheels delivers meals to the homes of people who may not be able to purchase or prepare their own. It is one of the more well-known nonprofits catering primarily to seniors.
Meals on Wheels' volunteers also check on the consumers' well-being. Mageras said volunteers are often the only people homebound seniors see all day. The nonprofit's volunteers, many of whom are 65 and older themselves, provide a familiar face to seniors.
“You get to know these people,” she said. “You talk with them on the phone, they ask how your kids are, they ask how your family is, you ask how their kids are (and) you talk about the day. Even though you may get to spend only a few minutes — because there are a lot of people you have to feed in that day — it's a nice feeling for not only the volunteer but for the consumer.”
Other local food providers in the area for the needy include churches such as Crafton United Presbyterian, and the Community Outreach Center in Bridgeville, supported by the Bridgeville Ministerial Association.
LifeSpan, which operates 15 regional centers in Western Pennsylvania, provides home-delivered meals at some locations and county-provided meals Monday-Friday at others. But the organization does more than that.
Hustava said many of the seniors at the Carnegie location like gambling, so the center organizes trips to the Meadows and Rivers casinos and has plenty of card games. The center also has a workout room for seniors with a doctor's clearance, plus services such as tax help and health sessions on topics like diabetes.
“Every day is different,” Hustava said. “It's someplace we want people to feel like maybe they just want to come in and have coffee in the morning and read the paper.”
Politicians in the area also provide assistance. At state Rep. Dan Deasy's and newly elected state Sen. Matt Smith's district offices, seniors can get help with taxes and utility bills, find information on state programs and talk to workers about problems they face.
For the past six years, Smith has organized a senior fair at the Galleria of Mt. Lebanon — a day in October when seniors can get free flu shots and find information on any number of state programs relating to them. More than 1,000 senior citizens attend each year.
“We're frequently the first line of communication for senior constituents,” Smith said, “and I've always viewed it as a tremendous priority of the office that whenever an issue comes in, whenever a senior has a question or concern or an issue they'd like to address, that we take it as one of our own.”
Other nonprofits that provide services for seniors include libraries like the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall and the Scott Township Public Library. The Carnegie Free Library offers the PALS book club for seniors, as well as computer classes and material delivery for homebound residents. The Scott Township Public Library, similarly, has computer classes and “conversation salons” in which patrons — normally older — talk about the issues of the day.
“I always have waiting lists for the computer classes, and there's always good attendance at the conversation salons,” Scott Township librarian Diane Klinefelter said. “They have lively conversations.”
While many of the free or low-cost services offered by these organizations are available all year, the holiday season brings an extra focus on community needs. Mageras said the holidays bring the biggest number of consumers and the biggest need for volunteers.
“To give back to your community and help others — if you have that one day in the month and it's just an hour — what a difference you make in somebody's life because of that,” Mageras said.
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.