Each and every day, volunteers step up to make the lives of Northside senior citizens more pleasant and easier to manage.

Three of the major senior services that can be found in the Northside are the Meals on Wheels program offered by Lutheran Service society, the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, and the Northside Citiparks Senior Community Centers.

Lutheran Service Society

Some of those volunteers who improv seniors’ lives work for the Lutheran Service Society, a nonprofit, faith-based human services provider. Leslie Montgomery, the director of volunteer services for the society, helps run the Meals on Wheels program that delivers pre-cooked meals to seniors in the area.

“Almost all of our programs are driven by volunteers,” Montgomery said. “The Meals on Wheels program has volunteers that come in five days a week to help prepare meals, and then deliver them to people who are home bound.”

To qualify for the program, seniors must be unable to plan, shop or prepare meals for themselves, or have a temporary or permanent disability. The services offered are primarily for senior residents above the age of 60, but Montgomery said that they serve some younger residents as well.

According to Montgomery, the program’s meals offer nearly two thirds the daily recommended nutritional value for seniors. But the meal isn’t the only priority.

“We always say the visit is just as important as the meal being delivered,” Montgomery said.

“Volunteers are trained to observe the situation in the home they are delivering to and to make sure the person is alright. Usually they are the only person to see the client each day so they can be their only connection to the outside world.”

The program doesn’t want to make seniors completely reliant on them, but instead make an effort to keep the seniors living as individuals.

Even with their success, the Lutheran Service Society always needs volunteers, especially on the Northside.For information, call 412-366-9490.

Montgomery and the Lutheran Service Society volunteers aren’t the only people in Allegheny County who are reaching out to help seniors in the Northside.

Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging

Sara Ward, the family care-giver support program coordinator for Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, is involved in reaching out to those people who tend to the needs of seniors.

Similar to the Lutheran Service Society, the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging is trying to keep people out of the nursing homes and in the comfort of their own homes.

“We have many individuals who could qualify for a nursing home,” Ward said. “But they’re able to reside safely at home because they have so much love and support from their caregivers and programs like mine really support that caregiver by reimbursing them.”

The program is geared towards people who are giving care for their loved ones and the services they offer support the caregivers both financially and mentally, depending on what is necessary.

“It could be a friend, a relative or a neighbor,” Ward said. “The goal is to help premature institutionalization into a nursing facility.”

Funded by the Older Americans Act, along with various federal and state funding programs, the program has managed to stay steady despite recent economic trouble in the country and state-wide. Ward says that it have been fortunate enough not to make any serious budget cuts of any kind.

However, Ward also sees an increase in need for the program as a high probability.

Because Allegheny County has such a large senior population, the need for these services is tremendous, Ward said. “I think in time, as our population continues to age, we will have an explosion of care-givers and care receivers who need our support.”

For more information call 412-350-5460.

Northside Citipark Senior Community Center

Along with both of these, one other major provider for seniors in the Northside is the Citiparks Senior Community Center. There are two centers, one in Allegheny Square and one in Brighton Heights.

The Allegheny Square center, whose director is Melinda McCormick, offers various opportunities for seniors in the area to get involved in activities they otherwise may never find out about.

Through funding from the Department of Aging, the center offers everything from property tax help and tai chi classes to line dancing and healthcare talks. All you need to qualify is to be 60 years of age or older and live in Allegheny county.

“We use the [Older Person’s Transportation], who sometimes requires a proof of age,” McCormick said. “They pick up seniors to go to doctors appointments, senior centers and so forth.

“If there is something we can’t help a senior with, we refer them to Department of Aging and different agencies,” McCormick said. “For instance, we do the property tax and rent rebates but we don’t do the income tax, so we would refer to the volunteer services that do the income tax.”

In another parallel between the programs, McCormick wants people to know that the center can always use more help.

“We are always looking for volunteers,” McCormick said.

For information call 412-323-7239.