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Pittsburgh region's nominees for top senior volunteer change public's views on aging

| Sunday, April 14, 2013, 12:07 a.m.
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Bob McCandless, one of four area seniors in the running for outstanding senior volunteer.
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Jeff Pope, one of four area senior volunteers nominated for outstanding senior volunteer.
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Sandy Ritchey, one of four area seniors nominated for outstanding senior volunteer.
Dottie White, left, is one of four Allegheny County nominees in the Salute to Senior Service Contest, recognizing an outstanding senior citizen volunteer. She died Friday after entering hospice care April 2.

They may not work for pay anymore, but four senior citizens from Pittsburgh's northeast suburbs still put in plenty of hours.

Bob McCandless, 75, volunteered more than 5,700 hours during the past 12 years; Darnell (Jeff) Pope, 72, accumulated more than 3,000 during the past decade; Sandy Ritchey, 73, volunteered more than 9,000 hours during the past 25 years; and Dottie White, 70, volunteered almost 8,000 during the past 19.

“Their contributions often make a difference not only to the organizations they serve, but in changing how the public views growing older,” said Kathi Lenart, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Oakmont, which provides seniors with non-medical care at home.

Ritchey, White, McCandless and Pope are among 68 people nominated for the state's top senior volunteer in the Salute to Senior Service program, sponsored by Home Instead.

“(Ritchey) was so well-rounded in her volunteer work. ... She's very enthusiastic,” said Patty Katz, who nominated Ritchey and is administrative assistant in the volunteer services department at UPMC St. Margaret near Aspinwall, where Ritchey works with therapy dogs.

White, 70, of Springdale Borough volunteered at HealthSouth Harmarville Rehabilitation Hospital.

“Dottie is a smiling, energetic, darling person — truly an angel on wheels — who loves everyone and tells them so,” said Nancy Fazio, the hospital's volunteer coordinator, who nominated White and considers her one of her closest friends. White entered hospice care April 2.

McCandless, of Oakmont, volunteers at the Riverview Community Action Center in Oakmont.

“He is a gentle soul with a huge heart,” said Elaine Pruitt, activities director, who nominated him. “As old as he is, he still helps us unload trucks for the food bank.”

Pope, of Plum, stepped up to lead a stroke support group at the Plum Senior Community Center several years ago.

“Jeff has put in countless hours by this point in time, which I am sure is a challenge (due) to his difficulties from his own stroke,” said Nina Segelson, executive director of the Plum Senior Center Director, who nominated him.

Online voting for winners in each state will begin Monday at SalutetoSeniorService.com and continue until April 30. After the state winners are chosen, a panel of senior care experts will pick the national winner, who will be announced by June 30.

Home Instead Inc. will donate $500 to each of the state winners' favorite nonprofit organization. It will give an additional $5,000 to the national winner's charity of choice.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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