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Deliveries with heart fund Ligonier program

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 1:03 p.m.
Rebecca Ridinger | for the Ligonier Echo
Meals on Wheels volunteers Margie Bungard, (from left) Judy Shaffer and Stephen Cieslo prepare meals for delivery as local Fox’s Pizza owner, Tom Wynkoop, looks on. Wynkoop presented the Meals on Wheels volunteers with a check for $2,000, which the organization will use for supplies and food costs.

Tom Wynkoop may be the owner of Fox's Pizza, but he certainly delivers a lot more than a hot pie.

Wynkoop recently made national and international headlines when he posted a personal message, along with his mobile phone number, to customers and local residents on Facebook announcing that he would deliver medical supplies to the ill and elderly so that they wouldn't have to battle the bitter cold, with no food ordering required.

His offer caught attention from all over the world — letters, phone calls and donations began rolling in praising the gesture. One man called from Nebraska, saying he wanted to buy a local stranger dinner. A minister from New Mexico sent a letter saying he used the story to begin his sermon. A thumbs-up came from Denmark. Checks and credit card contributions arrived, as well.

Wynkoop thought about positive avenues in which to distribute the money, and came up with Ligonier Meals on Wheels. He matched the donation amount, with a final presentation check for $2,000.

“I didn't want to keep the money,” Wynkoop explained. “The volunteers at Meals on Wheels put in their time, expenses and gas to provide people with a hot meal.”

Wynkoop reached out to Judy Shaffer, who acts as executive kitchen coordinator.

“I read about what Tom was doing on the Internet,” Shaffer said. “And then he came in.”

The local Meals on Wheels, based out of the basement of Heritage Methodist Church, services more than 30 people in the borough and township. The program extends beyond catering only to the elderly — anyone who is injured or unable to provide for themselves, whether it be for a short- or long-term period, is welcome to sign up.

“We provide for anyone that needs help, of any age,” said Meals on Wheels board member Frankie Graham. “If someone breaks an arm, and can't get out — maybe they need us for only three weeks. It's for everyone.”

Although some patrons do pay a nominal amount, there is no charge for the meals — rather, donations from businesses, churches and individuals help keep the charitable entity running, along with the dedicated staff who buy, prepare, deliver and clean up after the meals. Volunteers also take the time to send thank you notes to those that contribute.

“We certainly appreciate it. It's going to reach a lot of people,” said Margie Bungard, who has worked with the program for nearly a decade. “There are lots of outs and ins, like supplies and containers — it's not just the food, but also the everyday things you need in order to cook for people. It's so cool Tom is matching everything — he's such a good guy.”

Wynkoop is also planning to set up three $500 scholarships at the Ligonier Valley High School —one in honor of the original owner of Fox's Pizza, Dick Monticue, another in the name of his wife's late husband, John Matyi, and the third for special needs. In addition, he recently delivered a check for $1,500 to the police department so that K-9 Officer Blek can be well protected.

Wynkoop, who is a nurse, a former paramedic and fire- fighter, plans to continue his medicinal delivery campaign, hoping that he can reach even more people in need. He commends his staff and the community for the part that they take.

“Why do we do things like this? Because we have to,” Wynkoop said. “This community is a special place and I'm blessed to be a part of it. I want to take care of it. This is my home.”

Rebecca Ridinger is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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