Goodwill of Southwestern Pa. to expand volunteer program |

Goodwill of Southwestern Pa. to expand volunteer program

Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Denise Tedesco, a volunteer for Asbury Heights retirement community in Mt. Lebanon, leads a tour of the new mall inside the facility on Nov. 13, 2014. Goodwill of Southwestern PA provides its Community NOW! program, which matches volunteers, mostly people with physical or mental disabilities, with work at different venues in the region. To the left is another volunteer David Noel.

Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania is looking to expand a volunteer program for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, noting that paid work is not the only way people can find satisfaction.

“There are many paths toward career fulfillment, and volunteering is one of them,” said Ella Holsinger, Goodwill’s vice president of human services. Volunteers may be people who are retired, working part-time or learning skills to transition to paid work.

Since July, Goodwill’s “Community NOW” program has placed volunteers with disabilities with three facilities: helping with Meals on Wheels distribution at the Hill House; participating in Meals on Wheels or administrative work at St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brookline; and assisting residents and working the mail room at the Asbury Heights retirement community in Mt. Lebanon.

The program is seeking volunteers and work sites such as retirement communities, churches, community centers and food banks. Ideally, Goodwill could find partners across Pittsburgh so there would be opportunities close to where potential volunteers live, program specialist Katie Gerstnecker said.

At Asbury Heights on Thursday, volunteer David Noel, 66, of Mt. Lebanon pointed out the workings of the facility’s mail room for residents and staff. Noel and three other volunteers help with resident activities, including painting and balloon volleyball. They escort residents between their rooms and the dining areas, beauty parlor, shop and chapel.

“It’s the best thing I ever did,” said Noel, whose mother lives in Asbury. “I get to meet other people, get to hear what their background is, what they’re like and where they’re from.”

“We’ll help with any activities (the residents) are capable of,” said volunteer Louise Kuechenmeister, 23, of Moon.

Goodwill program specialists oversee as many as six volunteers a day, offering them support, helping them to hone socialization skills and teaching vocational skills such as operating a cash register. The Carnegie Library in Brookline provides space for the lessons.

“Some need more or less help than others, so you can just fade back and give them more independence,” Gerstnecker said.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or [email protected].

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