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Aspinwall Meals on Wheels reaching out for new customers

| Tuesday, July 28, 2015, 5:47 p.m.
Edie Solomon (front), 87, of Hampton, bags meals with Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (right) of O'Hara Township, and Sophie Myers (left) of Sharpsburg, as they volunteer to organize deliveries for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers have seen a drop in customers but will continue providing the service.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Edie Solomon (front), 87, of Hampton, bags meals with Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (right) of O'Hara Township, and Sophie Myers (left) of Sharpsburg, as they volunteer to organize deliveries for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers have seen a drop in customers but will continue providing the service.
Volunteers Edie Solomon (front), 87, of Hampton, and Sophie Myers of Sharpsburg, laugh as they take a break from organizing deliveries for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers have seen a drop in customers but will continue providing the service.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Volunteers Edie Solomon (front), 87, of Hampton, and Sophie Myers of Sharpsburg, laugh as they take a break from organizing deliveries for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers have seen a drop in customers but will continue providing the service.
Mary Wagner (left), 72, of Shaler, looks at the volunteer schedule for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels with chef Susan Glendenning of O'Hara at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. 'You don't need to meet an income limit,' says Wagner of the clients of Meals on Wheels. 'If you need, we're here, or if you want.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Mary Wagner (left), 72, of Shaler, looks at the volunteer schedule for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels with chef Susan Glendenning of O'Hara at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. 'You don't need to meet an income limit,' says Wagner of the clients of Meals on Wheels. 'If you need, we're here, or if you want.'
Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (left) of O'Hara Township, Edie Solomon, 87, of Hampton, and Sophie Myers of Sharpsburg (right) volunteer to organize deliveries and load up meals for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers have seen a drop in customers but will continue providing the service.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (left) of O'Hara Township, Edie Solomon, 87, of Hampton, and Sophie Myers of Sharpsburg (right) volunteer to organize deliveries and load up meals for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers have seen a drop in customers but will continue providing the service.
Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (left) of O'Hara Township and Sophie Myers (right) of Sharpsburg load up bags of food for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers are seeking more customers to add to the 30-40 that they serve in the surrounding five communities.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (left) of O'Hara Township and Sophie Myers (right) of Sharpsburg load up bags of food for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers are seeking more customers to add to the 30-40 that they serve in the surrounding five communities.
Volunteer Marilyn Ruszkiewicz of O'Hara Township works to load up bags of food for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Volunteer John Wood (in back wearing green), 70, of McCandless, waits to make the deliveries to clients in Sharpsburg. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers are seeking more customers to add to the 30-40 that they serve in the surrounding five communities.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Volunteer Marilyn Ruszkiewicz of O'Hara Township works to load up bags of food for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. Volunteer John Wood (in back wearing green), 70, of McCandless, waits to make the deliveries to clients in Sharpsburg. The Aspinwall Meals on Wheels volunteers are seeking more customers to add to the 30-40 that they serve in the surrounding five communities.
Volunteer Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (center) of O'Hara Township passes cups of soup out to Mary Wagner (right), 72, of Shaler, as Sophie Myers of Sharpsburg (left) works in the kitchen for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. 'You don't need to meet an income limit,' says Wagner of the clients of Meals on Wheels. 'If you need, we're here, or if you want.'
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Volunteer Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (center) of O'Hara Township passes cups of soup out to Mary Wagner (right), 72, of Shaler, as Sophie Myers of Sharpsburg (left) works in the kitchen for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. 'You don't need to meet an income limit,' says Wagner of the clients of Meals on Wheels. 'If you need, we're here, or if you want.'
Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (left) of O'Hara Township, Sophie Myers (center) of Sharpsburg and Mimi Hoffman of O'Hara Township organize bags of food for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. 'It's the only reason why this works-- because of the volunteers,' said Jim Eberhart, 72, of Blawnox.
Stephanie Strasburg | Trib Total Media
Marilyn Ruszkiewicz (left) of O'Hara Township, Sophie Myers (center) of Sharpsburg and Mimi Hoffman of O'Hara Township organize bags of food for Aspinwall Meals on Wheels clients at St. Edward Church in Blawnox on Thursday, July 23, 2015. 'It's the only reason why this works-- because of the volunteers,' said Jim Eberhart, 72, of Blawnox.

For 40 years, volunteers have prepared, bagged and delivered some 400,000 meals to homebound residents within the Lower Allegheny Valley.

But the nonprofit Aspinwall Meals on Wheels group, which is based in Blawnox, has seen numbers of residents served decline.

On at least one day this month, volunteers made just 29 deliveries — the lowest number of deliveries in the group's history, some volunteers believe.

The group typically delivers to 30 to 40 people daily and has delivered to as many as 60 customers at times.

The drop in numbers worries volunteer Lois Folino, who said she believes there are many residents within the area who could be served by the group — not only for the delivery of food but also to be checked in on.

“We're more than meals. We keep an eye out on these folks,” said Folino of Fox Chapel, who said delivery drivers in some cases are the only people some of the Meals on Wheels customers see all week.

While the organization is known for serving a mostly elderly population, volunteers said the program is designed for people of all ages and income levels who are homebound and cannot cook or shop for food on a temporary or permanent basis.

“We've already had young people who have had surgery and no one to take care of them, call and be added for six weeks,” volunteer Wanda Eibel, 80, of O'Hara said. “People who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s and working and they had surgery ­— we'll gladly take them on.”

Volunteers said they want to see more younger people using the program.

“You might have three cars in the garage, but if you can't go out that door and you're not allowed to do anything, call Meals on Wheels,” said volunteer Jean Pascarella, who helps every other Wednesday with the group.

Pascarella was a Meals on Wheels recipient for a time many years ago. The O'Hara resident, 82, said she began volunteering for the group after she no longer needed to receive meals.

For $6.50 for each day meals are requested, customers receive two meals. On one particular day in July, Susan Glendenning prepared chicken Romano and a beef vegetable soup. The O'Hara resident creates the menus for main courses and is the lead cook for the group.

Many meals can be customized to a customer's nutritional needs and can include bread, salad, soup, fruit, milk, juice and dessert.

In addition, school groups, garden clubs and other organizations often provide extras such as flowers for spring and cards on holidays.

Glendenning, along with volunteer Jim Eberhart, of Blawnox, work daily preparing the kitchen before volunteers arrive.

While volunteers — of which there are about 75 positions with many volunteers serving in a once-a-week rotation — continue preparing, packing and delivering meals, they said outreach and awareness are key to increasing the number of meals served.

“It's a great organization, but our count is getting low,” Eibel said. “We just want to reach out to tell people we're available. If you can't get out, you call us.”

Bobby Cherry is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-782-2121 or rcherry@tribweb.com.

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