Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek packs meals with other helpers at St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Carnegie last week. It is part of an awareness program to demonstrate the importance of Meals on Wheels in the community.
By Carole Gilbert Brown
Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek has been singing the praises of Meals on Wheels ever since he served as a delivery man for the program during a "Mayors On Wheels" day last year.
But after he took part in Mayors On Wheels again this year, he is really carrying a tune.
It turns out that one of the Meals on Wheels recipients -- an 88-year-old woman -- had just received a birthday cake from the organization, but she didn't have anyone to sing "Happy Birthday" to her.
Mr. Kobistek and his driver, Ray "Flap" Klimas, stepped up to the task.
To Mr. Kobistek, the March 23 incident demonstrates that Meals on Wheels nourishes both bodies and souls.
"The only birthday celebration this woman had was by Meals on Wheels," he said. "Some of these [recipients] have no point of contact without Meals on Wheels."
The nationwide Meals on Wheels Association of America is a 50-plus year-old organization that focuses on elderly people, some of whom may have money to buy food but not the ability to shop for it or prepare it.
The organization has pledged to end senior hunger by 2020.
The Carnegie program, which serves all of those who live within the 15106 ZIP code, has operated out of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church on Washington Avenue for more than 30 years.
Hot and nutritious meals are cooked and delivered fresh each weekday. Sack lunches are included, too, and frozen meals are provided for the weekends.
Recipients also receive a box containing nonperishable items such as peanut butter, crackers and bottled water for weather emergencies.
Candy Mageras of Scott said that in the six months she has been manager at the Carnegie Meals on Wheels preparation site, the facility has closed just once because of weather.
The delivery people are volunteers who use their own cars and gasoline. Many have volunteered for decades, and they come from near and far. One travels from Washington, Pa.
If enough delivery people aren't available, Ms. Mageras fills in, sometimes enlisting the aid of her husband.
In addition to commending the volunteers, Ms. Mageras was quick to praise those who donate food for the program, including individuals and growers such as Trax Farms in Finleyville. The menus are compiled by the Allegheny County Department of Aging.
"It costs a lot to feed 50 people seven days a week," she said. In the Carnegie ZIP code, which includes Carnegie, Heidelberg and parts of Scott and Collier, 46 people are signed up for meals, she said.
Mr. Kobistek believes Meals on Wheels provides an opportunity for socialization. One homebound man in his 80s and one delivery man are fluent in Polish, so they enjoy talking to each other.
Mr. Kobistek said Mayors on Wheels day gives him a chance to talk with people he wouldn't ordinarily see. Some just chat, while others bring up issues. He also appreciates the chance "to work with some awesome volunteers."
This year, more than 1,500 mayors across the nation participated in Mayors On Wheels day. Mr. Kobistek said he hoped to make more visits on his own in the future.