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Meals on Wheels in need of volunteers to serve clients in Penn, Jeannette, other areas

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For The Penn Trafford Star
Volunteer Lucille Varsafsky of Jeannette delivers daily meals to area residents. The Jannette Meals on Wheels, which operates out of the First Baptist Church in Jeannette, is seeking volunteers.

The Meals on Wheels program in Jeannette is crucial to many communities, and during the summer months and holidays, many of the regular volunteers aren't able to help out.

Given that the volunteers are crucial to the organization's success, local organizers are looking for people to not only help deliver hot meals but to also help these elderly individuals maintain their independence.

Volunteers are needed to serve as drivers and the “runners” who ride along on deliveries. Those who can pitch in at least once or twice a month are needed.

“I'll accept as many people who are willing to volunteer,” said Loretta Scalzitti, the Jeannette Meals on Wheels coordinator. “There have been dwindling volunteers because of people moving, time restraints, new jobs, attrition and personal reasons.”

Scalzitti supervises two routes; one serves the Penn Borough and Jeannette areas, and the other covers Arlington and Morningside.

“There are 42 clients, 21 on each route. An hour and a half to two hours are needed to deliver for a route,” Scalzitti said.

Each route has a driver and a person who delivers the meals to the clients. Individuals and pairs are welcome to volunteer.

“I have two mother-daughter teams, and other teams who are friends who used to work together,” she said.

Some volunteers are young people, Scalzitti said, but most are retired adults who take their time to volunteer and give back to the community.

“I've volunteered as a fill-in for the last four to five years,” said Lucille Varsafsky, 74, of Jeannette and a retiree of 11 years. “When one of my friends is away, I fill in for them. Now, I want to do it on a more regular basis.”

The Meals on Wheels volunteers don't just deliver hot meals, they also look out for the welfare of their clients.

“We have to have emergency contacts for all of the clients, and we always look out for them and go to extremes to help them,” Scalzitti said. “We check the safety of the house, and in the winter, clean off the snow (from sidewalks).”

Leonard Heasley of Jeannette, a retired local truck driver, receives Meals on Wheels and is very pleased with the volunteer service.

“I don't know what I'd do without them,” said Heasley, 84. “I really appreciate everything they do for me. It's keeping me going.”

Client Marie Williams, 91, said “They are always reliable and on time, and the volunteers are great.”

“Volunteering for Meals on Wheels just gives me a good feeling when talking to the clients, getting to know them, and making sure they're OK,” Varsafsky said.

“A lot of these people don't have much family, and when you deliver the meals they are so glad to have someone to talk to for just a few minutes. They enjoy the company and it makes their day.”

Jacqueline Dell is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-871-2311 or jdell@tribweb.com.

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