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 2017, volunteers donated nearly 100,000 hours to the Westmoreland County Food Bank (WCFB). “That is the equivalent of 49 additional staff,” said Kris Douglas, Chief Executive Officer with the Westmoreland County Food Bank. “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 Paul Mueller of Murrysville as Volunteer of the Year and Greensburg Salem High School’s Life Skills Class as Volunteer Group of the Year .
Twelve years ago, a retired Superintendent of Elizabeth Forward School District took on a volunteer position with Mother of Sorrows Food Pantry located in Murrysville. After a while, he realized the cumbersome task of signing in clients and developing reports for the pantry every month. Utilizing his computer skills, he decided there had to be a better way to expedite the process. Utilizing File Maker Pro software, he developed a database, but realized they lacked hardware to implement the project. His connection with Medic One in the community, helped him to obtain the donation of threee iPads for this purpose. Soon after, Mother of Sorrows purchased a laptop to use. He continued to tweak the program, support and train the registrar volunteers and produced required monthly reports for the food bank.
Eventually, he shared his expertise with two other pantries, Cornerstone Ministries in Export and St. Agnes/St. Vincent DePaul in Irwin. “Paul is a true blessing” said Brenda Wilker, St. Agnes Pantry Coordinator, who nominated him for this year’s Volunteer of the Year Award. She felt his actions have made a significant impact at their pantry and others. He is dedicated to his newfound volunteer position and has even offered to help the Westmoreland County Food Bank with a new project to help with our Operation Fresh Express intake process.
“After listening to him being interviewed by Hank Baughman on the radio on Tuesday of this week, it is obvious he is a compassionate and caring individual, as well,” stated Gina Colosimo, Program Coordinator with the Westmoreland County Food Bank. “He realizes that there are those in the community who really depend on the food we provide each month. He wants the clients to feel welcome and have a good experience, while receiving food.”
He is active in other community serving organizations, including Vice President of Medic One and an active member of the local Murrysville Lions. He is married to his wife, Leslie and they have 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren.
Greensburg Salem High School’s Life Skills Class has been going to the food bank for more than 10 years, almost weekly. Sherilyn Dallas-Stern, the Special Education Teacher schedules the class to help with sorting and repacking of food, as well as, making boxes with tape guns. Ms. Dallas-Stern said, “The students feel honored to come to the food bank, while school is in session. The food bank has given them the ability to work on a variety of employment skills in preparation for future employment opportunities.” These skills include: safety practices, quality of work, communication, cooperation, time management, following directions, organization, work ethic, attitude, problem solving, conflict resolution, self-confidence and more. Not only do they hone their skills, but they also contribute to the community by helping those in need. One of the benefits the students learn from volunteering is the impact on the community. They realize they are doing good for others and that gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment in their work. They realize their work helps many that are in need. “Making that connection is what really strives the students to work hard. Giving back to the community while learning new skills provides positive benefits for everyone. It is a win-win situation,” continued Dallas-Stern.
“I have witnessed the teamwork among the students week after week at the food bank. They enjoy coming here, knowing they are making a difference. They are willing to do whatever is asked of them. Their amazing staff takes the time to adapt to their student’s skills and makes sure the job is done right,” said Louise Wilhelm.
This year’s key note speaker is Darla Bryant, Supervisor of Special Education with Hempfield Area School District. Mrs. Bryant has been the Supervisor of Special Education at the Hempfield Area School District for two years. Prior to working at Hempfield, she worked in the Franklin Regional School District for over 13 years as a special education teacher and transition coordinator. In addition, Darla worked as a special education teacher for Robert Ketterer Charter School in Latrobe through Adelphoi Village for 4 years. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary and Special Education from Clarion University, a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Gannon University, a second Master’s Degree from Duquesne University in School Administration, and a Special Education Supervisory Certification. Darla lives in Greensburg with her husband, Chris, and 9 year old son, Andrew.
For more information about the Westmoreland County Food Bank and how you can help volunteer to help feed the food insecure of our community, please call Louise Wilhelm at 724-468-8660 extension 13 or email her at email@example.com. You may also visit their website at www.westmorelandfoodbank.org.
About Westmoreland County Food Bank
The Westmoreland County Food Bank serves over 31,000 area residents each year including 9,300 children and 3,410 seniors. WCFB currently has 60 member agencies in their network of emergency feeding sites. Of those, 43 are food pantries in which low income consumers are able to access emergency food assistance throughout the month. Last year (2017), the Food Bank distributed over 9 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 5% of the Food Bank’s operating budget.