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Volunteers mark 35 years of serving Meals-on-Wheels

| Sunday, Nov. 5, 2006

A fleeting moment of charity or a high school requirement might spur an initial involvement in a volunteer organization. But some people choose to continue volunteering in hopes of making a positive impact in people's lives.

Meals-on-Wheels is one local organization that has utilized church organizations and community members to gather, prepare and distribute food items to more than 120 clients since it was organized in 1971 in the the Harrison area.

Highland's Area Meals-on-Wheels has 10 routes to serve senior citizens and disabled people. Each client receives a hot meal and a packed lunch, which includes juice, milk, a sandwich, cookies, a treat, bread and a salad.

The criteria for receiving the meals are that a person can't cook or shop and has no one else to ensure they receive proper nutrition.

The program also can be used for senior citizens or those who are temporarily disabled, due to surgery or injuries.

Beverly Carnahan, 74, of Brackenridge, began her service with Meals on Wheels about 20 years ago at Faith Lutheran Church in Natrona Heights, Harrison Township. She volunteers on Fridays as the "book lady."

Carnahan schedules and coordinates the 20 drivers with the 10 routes and clients and ensures the drivers leave with enough meals for each client. Carnahan also is in charge of creating a produce list once per month.

Carnahan says her decades-long tenure can be attributed to the kind people who volunteer and the needy people who use their services.

"We say this is a good time well spent," Carnahan says. "You know you're helping people and that makes you feel good. Plus, you never know when you're going to need it yourself."

Carnahan began as a Meals delivery driver. "I'll tell you, you see some sad sights," she says. Carnahan also has dipped into many other positions during her time with the Friday group. Since she is not fond of cooking, she rarely assists in that area, but instead she helps assemble the lunches and works on the Board of Directors.

"I never was much of a cook, but I help where I can," Carnahan says. "Each volunteer finds what they can do and offers the amount of time they can."

Meals originally were cooked at Faith Lutheran Church with contributions from members of the former Methodist church in Brackenridge and the Trinity United Methodist Church in Tarentum.

About 200 volunteers make up the Valley's Meals on Wheels corps, according to Carnahan. While some may be able to donate a few hours of their time per week, others can dedicate an afternoon or time from home to the organization.

Helen Snebold, 90, a member of Trinity United Methodist Church, coordinates the drivers and bakes cookies for the Wednesday group "Others Days" Ladies at the church. A group of about 12 ladies dedicate Tuesday to helping others and choose to bake cookies and assist in other ways for Meals on Wheels. On Wednesdays, they deliver the cookies.

They also bake special cookies for those with diabetes.

Snebold, who has volunteered for Meals on Wheels since it began in the area, is one of the longest-tenured "angels."

"Helen is a wonderful person and does a lot of things for the church," Helen Coward, another member of the Others' Day Ladies group, says. Coward has volunteered for almost six years.

"She tries to do so much," Coward says. "She wants to be involved because she helped to start it."

The Meals on Wheels clients are charged a nominal fee of $2, that is, if they can afford it. If not, a state agency picks up their tab. The fee, which includes the hot meal and bag lunch, has stayed at the same rate since 1979.

A new facility was built onto Citizens Volunteer Hose Co. fire hall about three years ago to ease the process and the physical labor required from the volunteers.

This facility, paid for by donations from individuals and businesses, along with money from grants, eliminates the steps at the former site, allows more storage space and a large parking lot for easier cooking, loading and delivering.

The organization mostly relies on donations, thrifty shopping, choice selections from food banks and volunteers to continue its goal of feeding those in need.

The group always welcomes newcomers to its volunteer force.

"This is a very needed program," Carnahan says. "Everyone is congenial and easy to get along with. We have enough (volunteers) per say, but we always need more help."

To donate time as a cook, delivery driver or meal packer, call 724-224-3196.

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