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Alle-Kiski Faith In Action expands to reach more seniors

| Friday, April 2, 2010

Senior residents in Arnold and New Kensington soon will be able to experience the same benefits as Josephine Noca of Lower Burrell.

Noca, 95, lives alone in her home of 55 years. She doesn't walk well, and many of her family members live in California.

But thanks to Rosemarie Bielata of Lower Burrell and the Alle-Kiski Faith in Action program, Noca can remain independent.

"When you're old, you need help," said Noca. "They're so nice. They help you when you need a ride."

Bielata is one of about 40 volunteers with Alle-Kiski Faith in Action, a Lower Burrell-based nonprofit founded in 2007 through the United Way of Westmoreland County.

"Our mission is to assist seniors in the community in maintaining their quality of life and remaining in their homes as long as they can," said program director Joanne Retter.

Volunteers drive seniors to doctor offices and other appointments, help with shopping, perform household tasks — or just stop by for a visit.

"It's really a wonderful program," Retter said. "It assists seniors at a time of their lives when many of their family members may be working or not live in the area."

Alle-Kiski Faith in Action serves about 175 people older than 60 in Lower Burrell and Upper Burrell.

The program is beginning to expand into neighboring Arnold and New Kensington, Retter said.

"The plan always was, if we could, we wanted to cover as much as possible," she said.

Retter said the services they can offer to seniors in the two cities will grow along with the number of volunteers available. Volunteers -- many of whom are retirees themselves -- always are welcome, Retter said.

Several training sessions for volunteers are scheduled this month, but Retter said she will work to accommodate new volunteers any time.

When Bielata heard about the program through her church, she signed up to help. Rather than a chore, Bielata said she enjoys helping Noca and others.

"You become friends," Bielata said as she joked with Noca about her baking habits. "She's like a grandmother to me.

"I want to treat people the way I want people to treat my mother or my grandmother."

The Alle-Kiski chapter is one of five throughout the county and the first started by the United Way, according to Bobbi Watt Geer, the chief operating officer for the county's United Way.

In addition to a Latrobe chapter that existed prior to the United Way's involvement, Faith in Action branches have opened in Murrysville, Mt. Pleasant and Irwin, Geer said.

As the program grows in popularity, Geer said the existing chapters likely will expand to address increasing needs.

Since the United Way's county offices provide much of the business support, the branches operate on a bare-bones budget of donations and United Way funding.

Geer said Alle-Kiski Faith in Action runs on about $46,000 per year. Retter said donations and support from local churches always are appreciated.

"We're just very pleased to be able to offer this service for the older adults in our communities," Geer said. "It seems like basic service, but it makes an incredible difference."

Additional Information:

Alle-Kiski Faith in Action

For information on volunteering or to apply for services, contact Joanne Retter at 724-224-3199. Also, more information is available online.

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