McMURRAY – Tom Storey hasn’t yet called for an ambulance while delivering meals to some of his 100-year-old clients.
But, that possibility is part of why Storey and his wife, Pat, continued volunteering the past seven years to deliver fresh meals to elderly residents every other Monday.
“You get connected to the people. They become part of you. So when something happens to them, you feel horrible,” Tom Storey said.
As the Meals on Wheels branch in Peters Township celebrates 40 years, the nonprofit organization continues to hunt for volunteers like the Storeys – retirees looking to give back.
“We’ve had 20 students this summer,” director Susan Hanawalt said. “That’s the most youth volunteers we’ve had. They are so dedicated.”
For the delivery routes on July 28, more than a dozen volunteers cooked and delivered 193 meals.
Each meal costs $3.60, according to Hanawalt, and there subsidized discount options available for those in particular need.
“It’s easy to get volunteers in the dog days of summer, but we’d like to think we help beat the winter blues, too,” Hanawalt said.
Yet with winter comes logistical challenges for volunteers, like icy sidewalks and snow-covered steps. Some of the volunteers rise to the challenge.
“We automatically grab a newspaper if we see it on the sidewalk, but if the resident asks us to take care of garbage, or help with some basic lawn work, we do it,” Pam Storey said.
“For some of these people, it’s the only person they’ll see all day. So if nothing else, it’s a chance for them to see another human being,” Tom Storey said.
Some volunteers know both sides. Tom Jeffers, 91, has been volunteering for five years after his wife, who also used the service as he currently does, passed away.
“It keeps me active. It’s meeting people,” Jeffers said.
Jeffers, at the end of the eight-person assembly line, continued to pack the hot meal selection of beef-stuffed peppers, mashed potatoes, wedding soup, carrots and snap peas into thermos bags.
One of the cooks, Kathleen Belack, said she’s never found more rewarding work.
“Even though you wake up at 4 a.m., you’re coming to a place where people love to come to work and help people. I am so blessed just to be here and serve our seniors. The attitudes and service here – it’s a lesson for corporate America,” Belack said.
As for Tom Storey potentially calling 911, it’s almost a weekly reminder. Storey stopped to deliver a meal to 89-year-old Josephine Liveratore and her husband, but it was only Josephine greeting him at the door.
“I had to call an ambulance about two hours ago. My husband was in so much pain,” Liveratore said. “He couldn’t move and was just screaming about his (back) pain.”
The small, cheery woman assured Storey he would be alright, but the news still left an impression.
“A lot of these homes, if someone doesn’t answer the door we just set it inside,” Storey said. “The thing that worries me the most is these homes are open, and me, or anybody else, can just go inside. The residents, even if you’re there, often don’t realize it. But maybe it’s good they leave their doors open. We may be walking in to call 911 next week or the week after that.”