Women’s Leadership Council celebrates outreach efforts in Westmoreland, Fayette counties

October 4, 2018
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Linda Moss was amazed at the at the response when she pitched in to help with some yard work at the home of a local senior citizen last month during the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s annual Day of Caring.

Moss, the president of Pennsylvania Operations for First Energy, knew Westmoreland County -- where the median age is 47.2 -- had one of the highest concentrations of older Americans in the nation. And as a member of the Westmoreland-Fayette Women’s Leadership Council, which helps sponsor the United Way’s program that links volunteers to older residents who need a hand, Moss knew the program helped fill a void in the community.

What the Greensburg resident didn’t realize until that day was just how many people were eager to tap the program.

“We went out to a recipient’s home that day to do some yard work and before the day was over several neighbors came over to ask how they could sign up,” Moss said.

Her story was among those many volunteers shared Wednesday at the 13th Annual Women of Influence Breakfast. More than 175 women representing leaders in business, government and academia in Westmoreland and Fayette counties gathered for the annual event in the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College, near Latrobe.

The Women’s Leadership Council has seen the event that helps underwrite the Open Your Heart to a Senior volunteer program grow dramatically in recent years.

Formerly known as Faith in Action, the program pairs seniors who need a little support with volunteers who offer to do everything from home visits to grocery shopping and minor home repairs and yard work.

The Women’s Leadership Council formed in 2006 with 11 members. It now counts more than 100 members who each pledge $1,000 a year. Last year, the group helped underwrite the volunteer program to the tune of more than $160,000.

“Our region has one of the largest populations of seniors in the country, and the role of caregiver often is given to women. So, this was a natural fit for us,” said breakfast co-chair Jackie Fajt.

The program provided 7,000 hours of volunteer service to 800 seniors in Westmoreland County last year.

“Many seniors go from living in isolation and even fear to enjoying life and making new friends,” Jacobs Creek Area site coordinator Melaney Hegyes said.

North Huntingdon native Stacy Hurt, 48, an upbeat mother of two, bounced back from stage four colon cancer four years ago to become a national spokeswoman for colorectal cancer. She commended the women volunteers in her keynote speech, recounting her own battle against cancer.

“Don’t lead, do,” Hurt said. “You lead by how you live. Live positively and courageously and fully every day and you will be leading.”

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