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McKeesport Meals on Wheels volunteers honored at luncheon

| Friday, May 16, 2014, 3:41 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
McKeesport Area Meals on Wheels board of directors member Marilyn Baldwin, right, presented gifts to key members of the organzation at a luncheon for volunteers on Thursday. Seen here with her are Rev. Bruce Mounts, Helen Stratigos and Rose Marshall.

They rise and shine early and venture forth into the day, regardless of the season, to help feed their fellow man.

It is usually the role of Meals on Wheels volunteers to prepare, pack and deliver meals to folks who can't cook for themselves.

One day a year, the McKeesport Area Meals on Wheels program recognizes its own small army of volunteers who serve up hot and brown bag lunches to some 95 households a day.

Thursday was that day.

“I like getting out in the morning with all the volunteers and just helping the elderly who can't cook for themselves,” said Irene Scott, who is head cook for the McKeesport program, which is based at First United Methodist Church in McKeesport.

Scott, who was one of several key members of the program to receive special recognition during the annual luncheon at Faith Lutheran Church in White Oak on Thursday, said she got involved with the meal program about 13 years ago.

“I saw an ad in the paper and thought that would be something I'd like to do,” Scott said.

Volunteers George and Shirley Nelson, who were at the luncheon, too, have a much shorter history with the local program.

The husband and wife started delivering meals together in their Toyota RAV4 just last fall after a recruiter for the program asked them if they'd like to get involved.

George Nelson said they derive much satisfaction from their run, which includes parts of White Oak and Coulter.

“You spend a lot of time talking to them and trying to make them smile,” Nelson said of the patrons he and his wife serve. The couple said they plan to stay active with the meal program for the indefinite future.

The Rev. Bruce Mounts, president of the board of directors for the Meals on Wheels chapter, told volunteers, “To see you all here is very encouraging.”

“You make it possible and you continue to make it possible,” said Mounts, who noted the local program was still “fitting the pieces in place” after declaring itself independent from Lutheran Services Society about a year ago.

McKeesport and a number of local programs had been overseen by the Lutheran Services Society for years but recent changes to the way the society administers the program resulted in some Meals on Wheels' kitchens being consolidated or closed and others declaring themselves as independent kitchens.

Michele Taylor of Lutheran Services Society attended the McKeesport program's luncheon.

Taylor said she's assisted a number of kitchens that have transitioned into independent programs. She said the McKeesport program represents the successful model the Meals on Wheels program was founded on, that is, one which is operated by volunteers and has neighbors serving neighbors.

“This is what it should be,” said Taylor, who added it is up to local programs and their volunteers to determine the right course for their respective programs, whether that is under the administrative direction of Lutheran Services Society or as independent kitchens.

The event included the reading of a proclamation from McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko declaring Thursday as Meals on Wheels Day. Rose Marshall, site coordinator for the McKeesport program, read the document aloud to volunteers.

For information about McKeesport Area Meals on Wheels, call 412-672-1998.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or