During National Volunteer Month, we salute local seniors who generously give their time to serving others

Joan Badger seals trays in preparation of meal delivery.

Our community has many unsung heroes, those who give selflessly of their time and talents in order to serve others. Since it is National Volunteer Month, we’d like to salute all seniors in our community who get up and go out on a weekly or regular basis to help others.

In our county, many volunteers contribute their time and energy to various Meals on Wheels programs. In this article, you will see the smiling faces of some of those volunteers in action. As we spoke to those who help out at the McKnight Meals on Wheels kitchen at Berkeley Hills Lutheran Church, located along Sangree Road in Ross Township, they asked us to spotlight one volunteer, in particular, who has worked two to three days every week for the past 30 years.

That volunteer is Viola Colaizzi Santella, 93, of Ross Township.

Long-time volunteer Viola Colaizzi Santella.

“Viola is a remarkable person,” comments Pat Makris, 80, once manager of the McKnight Meals on Wheels (she still handles scheduling for the kitchen). “Meals on Wheels has been her life for a long time, and she’s an exceptional volunteer. If I could put her on a duplicating machine and make more just like her, I’d be so grateful!”

In recent months, Viola has taken ill with inoperable stomach cancer. Until then, she would make the short walk from her home in Ross Township to Berkeley Hills church to pack lunches, makes sandwiches and serve in the food line. (The church prepares more than 100 meals each day, five days a week, and serves food seven days a week.)

When Viola could no longer make the walk, the cook at the church would pick her up and drive her. Since taking ill, Viola has been confined to her home.

In her younger years, Viola used to bowl regularly with her church group at St. Sebastian Roman Catholic Church on Siebert Road in Ross Township.

In the 1980s, she gained quite a reputation as an amazing baker. “Another member of the church and I began a catering business back then,” Pat explains, “and Viola baked the most fantastic cookies you have ever tasted in your life. Her lady locks and other cookies were bakery quality. One of her specialties was a cookie that looked like a little peach with a stem. We used to have people at our events take pictures just of our cookies. They were that fantastic to look at, as well as to eat.”

Viola’s husband, Herman passed in 2011. Their children are Stephen Santella, Robin (Kromka) and the late Mark Anthony Santella.

Thank you, Viola, for all of your years of faithful service to the Ross Township community, and special thanks to all the volunteers out there.

By Gina Mazza
For Pittsburgh Senior News

Virginia Ortman and Cora Koller pack up cold lunches.
Barb Lanke and Chef Bob Montgomery take inventory in the pantry.
Pat Makris works at the computer in the office.
Barb Lanke, Joan Badger, Cora Koller and Virginia Ortman prepare hot meals.
Virginia Ortman adds a main course to the meals.
Cora Koller packs up meals to go.