FOOD BANK COMMEMORATES VOLUNTEER APPRECIATION MONTH
Volunteers Recognized for their Dedication to Ending Hunger Here at Home
Each year, the Westmoreland County Food Bank recognizes its core of nearly 7,000 volunteers for all of the work that they accomplish in assisting the Food Bank during a luncheon which is held in the Westmoreland County Food Bank Warehouse. In 2015, volunteers donated 98,658 hours to the Westmoreland County Food Bank (WCFB). “That is the equivalent of 46 additional staff,” said Kris Douglas, WCFB Chief Executive Officer. “That is just amazing to me and I am in awe of their generosity, which is a true example of selfless giving.”
Director of Volunteers & Food Drives, Louise Wilhelm affirmed, “whereas, all of our volunteers are priceless, we take the time to recognize a stand out individual and group that have shown exemplary service to our neighbors in need.” This year’s honorees include Joseph A. Canada of Irwin as Volunteer of the Year and the Latrobe St. Vincent DePaul as Volunteer Group of the Year.
Every once in a while, volunteers come along that just give it their all, whenever there is a need they come forward and offer their help. In 2009, Joe Canada did just this. He approached his cousin Jennifer Miller, who is the Director of Development at the Food Bank at their annual family reunion about donating his father’s conversion van to the Food Bank. The elder Joe Canada at that time had recently passed away and Joe wanted to do something good with the van. There was a caveat with his question, he wanted to be able to physically help in some way with the van, “I think he said something to the effect, ‘I don’t want to just donate the van, I want to help by using the van as well’,” said his cousin Jennifer. She knew that would be a perfect fit and it went from there. Each week, Joe drives that van (which is a 32 year-old van and still in working order) to the Belle Vernon area to retailers who donated product and transports it back to their Delmont facility. There are times when other pick-ups or drop offs are asked of him and he never seems to mind doing it. “He’s not only part of my immediate family, but he’s also become a part of my Food Bank family,” Miller said.
His impact on the Food Bank and those who benefit from their services doesn’t stop there. He currently serves as the volunteer coordinator for the Annual Empty Bowl Event that is held to benefit the Food Bank. Joe has done this since its inception eight years ago. His work with Empty Bowl has helped to raise over $120,000 to date.
“I know that his dad is very proud of the work that Joe is doing to help others in the community. I bet he is just as happy to see that the old van is still running and helping to make people smile the same way it did since the first day he got it,” lamented Miller.
Mr. Canada was nominated by Louise Wilhelm and all of the staff of the Food Bank whole-heartedly agreed that he is the perfect choice for Volunteer of the Year.
For nine years, St. Vincent DePaul in Latrobe has provided use of their truck and volunteers to pick up and deliver food boxes to the three senior high-rise buildings in Latrobe. These volunteers have never told the Greater Latrobe Ministerial Association that they are unable to help throughout the years. Nominated by the Greater Latrobe Ministerial Association Pantry Coordinator, Lisa Troupe, the Latrobe St. Vincent DePaul is the Food Bank’s Volunteer Group of the Year.
In addition to the use of their truck, they have financially assisted both the Food Bank and the Ministerial Association. “Their impact on the community is substantial and without them and their assistance we would not be able to deliver that food to the seniors that need it,” said Troupe.
This year’s keynote speaker was Katherine Johnson of the Westmoreland County Area Agency on Aging. Ms. Johnson has been employed for 35 years by the Area Agency on Aging. She currently serves as the Administrative Officer/Deputy Director. Previously, she worked as a social service coordinator in a long-term care facility, Child Protective Services casework for the County Children’s Bureau and as an Emergency Youth Shelter Counselor. Ms. Johnson is a Licensed Social Worker holding a Master’s in Social Work form the University of Pittsburgh. She previously taught as an Adjunct Professor in Gerontology at California University of Pennsylvania and as a trainer with the Pennsylvania Association of Senior Centers, where she chaired the Nominating Committee. She has served on the board of Tri City Meals on Wheels and is currently an officer and member of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Board at the Westmoreland County Community College.
About Westmoreland County Food Bank
The Westmoreland County Food Bank serves nearly 45,000 area residents each year including 13,500 children and 4,950 seniors. WCFB currently has 62 member agencies in their network of emergency feeding sites. Of those, 45 are food pantries in which low income consumers are able to access emergency food assistance throughout the month. Last year (2015), the Food Bank distributed over 7.5 million pounds of food. 50% of WCFB’s food comes from the federal and state governments and the remaining 50% from local donations, food drives, and Feeding America. Administrative and fundraising costs account for 4% of the Food Bank’s operating budget.