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Volunteer awards honor Bill Dunlap and Perry Himler

| Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Tribune-Review
(right) Bill Dunlap and his team member, Perry Himler, won awards for volunteering to serve up lunch at the Sally’s Kitchen at the Salvation Army in Greensburg.  Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review

Physical limitations are no excuse to avoid helping others, according to Greensburg residents Bill Dunlap and Perry Himler.

Dunlap, 70, as a child had polio that affected his arm and leg.

Himler, 67, has had seizures since he was 15 years old. In September 2011, he underwent a triple bypass heart operation.

“Physical limitations don't mean anything,” Dunlap said. “It doesn't matter what your disability is, there's always someone who needs your help — even if it's going to visit someone who's lonely and taking a few minutes to talk to them.”

Dunlap and his longtime helper, Himler, have been living by this philosophy for decades of volunteer work that has involved putting together mailers twice a year for Adelphoi Village, devoting thousands of hours at area hospitals and preparing meals for those in need at various locations.

Both men were recognized as volunteers of the year by the Westmoreland Association of Volunteer Administrators for their work since October, preparing and serving meals three days a week at the Greensburg Salvation Army.

“We were surprised,” said Dunlap about the title for 2012 and the wall plaques they were awarded at the WAVA banquet last month at Ferrante's Lakeview in Hempfield. “We've never been honored like this before in our lives.

“The recognition was nice. It lets us know we are appreciated,” he said.

Volunteering is a way of life for the friends. They timed moving into new apartments at Pershing Square in Greensburg during the holidays, when the Salvation Army distributes bag lunches.

Now they're back to serving up the hot lunches from 11:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. every Monday, Thursday and Friday at Sally's Kitchen on East Otterman Street.

Dunlap and Himler met as hospital volunteers in the 1980s. So far, Himler has racked up 29,500 hours at Excela Westmoreland in Greensburg. Dunlap has about 5,500 volunteer hours at Excela Latrobe and close to 26,000 at the Greensburg hospital.

They devote about 15 hours a week to the Salvation Army.

“We're at the point now where we don't know how we managed before without them,” Captain Pam Rhoades said.

Dunlap and Himler team up with about 15 other volunteers to serve an average of 50 meals each time. Sally's Kitchen served Thanksgiving dinner for 200 families.

“Bill comes in and is the head cook. He comes up with the menu, gets the ingredients and directs other volunteers,” Rhoades said. “Their (Bill and Perry's) creativity has really improved the tastiness of the meals.”

Amy Halula, volunteer coordinator of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program, nominated the two awardees.

“I did work with them a bit. They are both just a real treat,” said Halula.

She met them at a health fair held last fall by state Senator Kim Ward, R-Hempfield.

“Bill was looking for a volunteer opportunity and said he likes to cook,” Halula said.

Louise Wilhelm, president of the Westmoreland Association of Volunteer Administrators and manager of about 6,000 volunteers a year at the Westmoreland County Food Bank, said nomination sheets for the awards went out to member agencies.

“In this case, there was a big need in the community and (Bill and Perry's) skill sets matched the need,” Wilhelm said. “They have food safety certifications, which are needed to run the Salvation Army kitchen.”

Volunteering three days a week is a lot, she added.

“As long as my and Perry's health holds up, we plan on being there for quite a while,” said Dunlap, who has one family member, a brother, who is in a nursing home. “My buddy Perry is one heck of a helper. He has a routine and makes sure the coffee is ready and does whatever needs done.”

“I'm feeling good,” said Himler, whose has a sister and a brother. “As long as I keep taking my medicine, I have nothing to worry about.

“Bill drives. I don't. When I needed help, people helped me,” Himler said. “Now it's my turn to help others. It sure is better than sitting in my room.”

This team said they enjoy being part of the Salvation Army family.

“We have a lot of gratification at the Salvation Army,” Dunlap said. “We do have a lot of volunteers helping us. We can't take all the credit. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be able to do this three days a week.”

Rose Domenick is a freelance writer.

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