Longtime volunteer Stiltenpole energizes Excela Frick Hospital

Mary Lou Stiltenpole has logged more than 8,000 hours volunteering for Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant.
Mary Lou Stiltenpole has logged more than 8,000 hours volunteering for Excela Frick Hospital in Mt. Pleasant.
Photo by Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Mary Pickels
| Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013, 9:46 p.m.

The small gold pin on her blue smock reads 8,000 volunteer hours, a number Mary Lou Stiltenpole has since exceeded at Excela Frick Hospital's hospitality shop.

During a break from taking orders, pouring coffee and busing tables, Stiltenpole, 89, said she began volunteering at Frick in 1977.

“We closed the store in May 1977, and I came here in September 1977,” she recalled.

Nevin's Market, which she and her late husband, Nevin, opened in Scottdale in 1955, was referred to by many as “Mary Lou's,” she said.

Students ending their day at the former Southmoreland Junior High School or heading to nearby Loucks Park regularly dropped by to purchase snacks or use the phone, Stiltenpole said.

“They would call their mothers and say, ‘I'm ready to come home. Come get me.' I knew every kid in Scottdale,” she said.

A lifelong Scottdale resident, she followed several friends' leads in volunteering at Frick.

“For many years, I took a shopping cart around,” she said.

She wheeled her mobile shop full of treats, magazines and baby clothes around to patients' rooms on several floors.

“We had a maternity ward at that time. I could do $100 in sales in five hours,” she said.

Stiltenpole volunteers at the hospital one day a week.

Former store customers, now adults, often recognize her.

“I meet a lot of nice people,” she said.

And she flirts with a few of them.

Nodding at two men seated nearby, Stiltenpole smiled.

“I get to talk to the good-looking guys,” she said, earning a couple of blushing smiles in return.

Gary Moidel, Frick food and nutrition services manager, said Stiltenpole organizes supplies, stocks shelves and answers the phone.

“We love having her energy and efforts in the shop,” he said.

Her supervisor, Debby Keslar, moved from Texas to Scottdale with her husband, Jerry, in 1974.

Keslar said Stiltenpole, a friend of her husband's family, was the first person she met after moving to Scottdale.

A Navy veteran, Jerry Keslar served in the Vietnam War. He often thought of Stiltenpole while overseas, she said.

“In bad situations, you think of happy times. For him, it was Mary Lou and her store,” Keslar said.

“I'm in charge of all of the buying here. But Mary Lou knows so much about candy and dealing with sales reps. ... She keeps them on their toes. She will tell me, ‘That won't sell, Debby. Don't even bother.' And I trust her,” Keslar said.

An active member of Mount Pleasant's Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Stiltenpole enjoys gardening, reading, playing bridge and baking.

“When you get to be my age, you don't have a lot of friends that are healthy. So I take a couple of muffins here and a couple of muffins there,” she said.

Stiltenpole has no plans to retire from her volunteer position.

“When I can't drive, that's when I won't be here,” she said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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