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Bandalo remains devoted to Mon Valley Youth and Teen

| Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Chris Buckley
Mary Ann Bandalo, executive director of the Mon Valley Youth and Teen, interacts with Bela Taylor, 6, at day camp in June, 2013.
Chris Buckley
Mary Ann Bandalo, executive director of the Mon Valley Youth and Teen, interacts with Bela Taylor, 6, at Day camp for the organization.

Mary Anne Bandalo first started volunteering in 1974 to support two important girls in her life.

“My children were involved in Camp Fire Girls and they needed a leader,” Bandalo said. “I had one daughter in first grade and I had a high school group. I had two groups at one time.”

When they reincorporated as a local organization, Mon Valley Youth and Teen in 1994, she was still a volunteer. A year later, Bandalo became a staff member and has served the organization ever since.

“I've done everything in this organization,” Bandalo said. “I even cook at camp.”

Bandalo will continue to serve as a volunteer “as long as my health and husband allow me to,” she said with a laugh.

A 1964 graduate of Mon Valley Catholic, she still lives in the same house she grew up in on Sixth Street in Donora.

“It was a great time to live in Donora,” Bandalo said. “You walked everywhere and fortunately my children felt the same way. My daughter lives in Murrysville and feels her children get cheated.”

Bandalo and her husband of 47 years, Bill, have two daughters. Pam Toto lives in Murrysville with her husband, Jim. She is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Eight interns from the university spend a week working at the Mon Valley Youth and Teen Camp.

Her daughter Courtney Bandalo resides in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Dr. David Hooper, and works as a speech pathologist for his firm, Minimus.

Mary Anne Bandalo also has three grandchildren, two of whom attend camp.

Bandalo has seen the generations come and go, not just in her own family. A lot of her volunteers today started out attending as children.

Bandalo said the Mon Valley Youth and Teen took over the former Red Cross food bank in its building when the national organization left. Today, 135 families a month are served by the organization. The Greater Washington County Food Bank provides supplies along with some area churches, companies and benefactors.

“It's a difficult job, but we have a lot of good volunteers,” Bandalo said.

The organization also operates day and resident camps during the summer, and plans trips to games for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Wild Things.

About 140 staff and children attend the camp, which will be held July 5-11 this year. Scholarships are offered for some financially disadvantaged children to attend camp.

“Over the years, the children are no different,” Bandalo said. “I always found that the kids can be taught something positive.

Bandalo has no plans to retire anytime soon.

“Diane Sawyer is older than me,” Bandalo says with a laugh. “When she retires, I'll think about retiring.

“I feel keeping active keeps you young.”

What keeps her motivated is her love of children.

“Most executive directors wouldn't do this,” Bandalo said. “They would delegate. I have to be very hands on.”

Bandalo is proud to still call Donora home.

“I like the small town atmosphere,” Bandalo said.

“I go to Austin, Texas, often to visit my daughter and I'm glad when I come back.”

She also loves the work she does.

“It's all a matter of how people measure success,” Bandalo said. “I never (measure success) with money. It's how many lives you touch.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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