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Jeannette Meals on Wheels needs city volunteers

| Wednesday, July 31, 2013, 9:06 p.m.
John Howard | The Jeannette Spirit
Denise Casino, Jill D'Amico, Rosemary Lewis, Betty Kraus, Bill Kraus and Jeannette Meals on Wheels local coordinator Loretta Scalzitti each volunteer their time to ensure seniors in need receive fresh meals delivered to them each weekday.

The Meals on Wheels Association of America is the oldest and longest-running national organization providing meals to senior citizens who have limited mobility and need fresh meals every day.

It exists in all 50 states and all state and local chapters are members. The Jeannette Chapter is part of the larger Tri-City Meals on Wheels Program, serving Jeannette, Greensburg and Harrison City.

The Jeannette group in particular has been running low on volunteers and is in need of these people who are most important to the program's success. With 40 meals to deliver each day in the Jeannette area, getting these much-needed meals to senior citizens can be a challenge.

Loretta Scalzitti, coordinator of the Jeannette group, said that while there are some Jeannette residents helping out, scheduling can sometimes be difficult.

With some of the volunteers employed at day jobs and others only available certain days of the week due to personal commitments, cancellations and rescheduling can be hard.

The time commitment is relatively small. Volunteers are asked to assist from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and are often done by 12:30 p.m.

The program runs Mondays through Fridays and volunteers meet at the First Baptist Church at 11 a.m. on Second Street in Jeannette. The meals are prepared ahead of time in Greensburg and are delivered to the church ready for distribution.

There is a need for both drivers and “runners,” those who assist the driver by actually delivering meals to the clients so the driver can remain seated.

Scalzitti would be thankful for both. The Rev. Charles Bowser of the First Baptist Church, in coordination with Jim Shupe, are big supporters of the group and help Scalzitti with whatever they can.

Though the time commitment is small, the volunteers are happy to just deliver the meal. One man, in particular, Frank Scurci, has been delivering meals to the elderly for 29 years. He has received recognition for his work by Scalzitti, who presented Scurci with a meritorious award for his efforts at the most recent Holy Name Society breakfast, for his longtime dedication to the program.

Along with Scurci, others have willingly chipped in.

Drena Rega, another volunteer who has been dedicated to delivering to the elderly for five years, said the recipients of the meals are frequently extremely thankful and gracious.

Many recipients “don't have anyone else,” and even if they do, “there is another person checking in on them,” who the family can depend on.

Denise Casino, a volunteer of three years, said the elderly are “so happy to see you,” when a meal is delivered and everyone involved in the organization are “all so nice, that you want to be there. It's not a chore.”

Casino said it's rewarding and it doesn't require a huge commitment, because scheduling is as often or little one prefers. She said the enthusiasm for the project, once experienced, is contagious.

There are other ways to become involved. Anyone interested in assisting with meal preparation and packaging can call the Tri-City Meals on Wheels Program on 716 Foster St, in Greensburg, at 724-837-6117.

With one in seven seniors at risk of going hungry, according to the Meals on Wheels official website at mowaa.org, getting this one meal a day can make a difference. The personal interaction, even for a few minutes a day, could brighten an aged person's lunchtime significantly.

Scalzitti can be contacted at 724-523-2104 for additional information, or to sign up to volunteer.

Jeannette volunteers include the Rev. Charles Bowser, the Rev. Jim Shupe, Lois and Norman Anderson, Eleanor Bellone, Rose Bigi, Denise Casino, Richard and Betty Conrad, Jill Damico, Jean DeAugustine, Vince and Virginia DeBridge, Gwen Diddle, Clelian Heights students, Jayne DiGangi, Jim Elias, William Errett, Jim Frank, Chris Grieco, John Gondish, Richard and Marge Harrold, Mary Ketter, William and Betty Krause, Thomas Lee, Rosemary Lewis, Henry and Rosemarie Little, Vic and Linda McCagnun, Carolyn Miller, Karen Peltier, Dino Petrillo, Drs. Eloisa and Erson Religioso, Drena Rega, Regina Rosky, Angela Rudick, Loretta Scalzitti, Frank Scurci, Dick Sunder, John Terzolino, Lucille Varsafsky, Dianne Walker, Sue Williams, Mary Weiss and Hazel Wigfield.

Maria Tyger is a contributing writer.

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