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Plum resident chosen as Pennsylvania's 'Senior Hero'

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Darnell Pope, 73, of Plum was named Pennsylvania’s outstanding senior volunteer as part of the Salute to Senior Service program. Pope, a stroke survivor, is being honored for his work at Plum Senior Community Center on Wednesday, June 12, 2013.

When Darnell “Jeff” Pope of Plum came home after suffering a stroke, he was beaten.

“I thought everyone was staring at me. People don't know how long I sat in my wheelchair, staring out the window,” he said.

Pope, 73, was persuaded one day to stop by the Plum Senior Community Center and found himself essentially drafted into the center's stroke support group by leader Terry Kuhn.

“He'd call me on the phone, he came and picked me up … he always kept me upbeat,” Pope said. “I decided I was going to do what I could to make sure other stroke survivors got a lot of what I got.”

Kuhn was killed in a 2006 accident, and Pope volunteered to take over the group after it lost funding in 2010, in addition to his work with American Legion Post No. 980 where he is a former commander, his service on the senior center's advisory board and his work with Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood.

The years of volunteerism Pope put in were recognized last week, when he was named Home Instead's Pennsylvania “Senior Hero,” part of the organization's annual “Salute to Senior Service.”

“Many seniors aren't just kicking back and relaxing. They're delivering meals, they're serving as crossing guards,” said Home Instead community service representative Nick Paradise. “Jeff does all those things and more.”

Pope was presented with proclamations from the offices of U.S. Sen. Patrick Toomey, Congressman Keith Rothfus (R-12), Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, state Sen. Jim Brewster (D-45) and state representatives Joe Markosek (D-25) and Anthony DeLuca (D-32).

As part of the award, Home Instead made a $500 donation to Pope's charity of choice, the Plum Community Senior Center. It also made an additional $100 donation to the Brain Recovery Crew, a nonprofit with which Pope also is working.

Pope said he felt as though he was called to work with fellow stroke victims.

“They don't tell you what to do after a stroke when you leave the hospital. They just send you home,” he said.

“I know what it's like to have a stroke. I know what it does to you and what you need to come back from it. And I saw that as my job.”

Pope said the stroke support group “gives me a reason to get up in the morning — it's my calling.”

Pope's name now will be entered into the running for Home Instead's national “Senior Hero,” which will be chosen from the state winners by a panel of senior-care specialists and announced at the end of June.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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