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Dynamic Duo

Friends Demonstrate Their Love Of Neighbors

From left, Deanna Bliss holds bread and pie while her friend Ann Walsh holds corn meal. The two Mayville residents have been volunteering at St. Paul's food pantry in Mayville for over a decade. P-J photo by William Mohan

MAYVILLE — For more than 10 years, two Mayville residents have been a staple at the their church, nursing homes and other functions in their community through a senior volunteer organization.

Both Deanna Bliss and Ann Walsh have opened their hearts to demonstrate their love of neighbors and can often be found doing just that at the Mayville Food Pantry in the Outreach Center of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

The food pantry is a ministry of St. Paul’s serving the village of Mayville by providing food to those less fortunate. Through donations of money and time from local businesses and volunteers, the pantry is able to maintain its daily operations. The pantry utilizes a walkthrough process by which clients can choose what they need to feed themselves or a household.

Previously, Bliss worked as a teacher in the Chautauqua Lake School District while Walsh worked for the law department of Chautauqua County. The two have been friends for more than 30 years.

Bliss and Walsh have been volunteering at the pantry for more than a decade through the Chautauqua County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. RSVP is one of the largest programs for volunteers in the United States for people age 55 and older. Through the program, local volunteers participate in community activities. The result is a program strengthening communities and encouraging civic volunteerism as well as providing a sense of accomplishment to participants. The program is designed for American seniors to maintain active volunteerism have greater longevity and improved health by being active socially and physically.

Locally, RSVP supports many organizations that help support the community. Among the organizations that they work with are the Salvation Army Food Pantry, St. Susan Center, the Chautauqua County Humane Society, the Audubon Community Nature Center and Chautauqua Striders.

“The majority of our volunteers are RSVP,” said Deborah Marsala, pantry coordinator. “A lot of them sign up through RSVP.”

Normally, volunteers at the pantry will register for two hours per shift. These shifts take place during the pantry’s regular operating hours of Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“We have a calendar we put out and the volunteers sign up,” Marsala said.

Marsala explained that two volunteers are needed to maintain the center fluidly.

“One needs to stay in the registration area and the other has to walk through (with clients),” she said.

Walsh is a regular volunteer at the center so much so that Marsala can predict her sign up time. Walsh is also a regular at the Outreach Center through another St. Paul ministry.

“Ann usually signs up once a month,” Marsala said. “She also works at the thrift shop on Saturdays with RSVP.”

Bliss has worked with the pantry for more than a decade, Marsala said

“It’s not always once a month but she’s been over ten years now,” she said. “For both (it’s been) 11 years now.”

Marsala also described the routine Bliss and Walsh use to determine their volunteer schedule.

“They sign up and then they come and look at the calendar ahead of time,” Marsala said. “I have to get it and put it down for them.” It is not uncommon to see Bliss and Walsh volunteer for the first Saturday of the month according to Marsala.

“Ann alone probably works most of the Saturdays when we have good weather. That’s four Saturdays once a month so that’s about 10 hours or more,” Marsala said. “Between the both of them (they easily work 10 hours a month).”

When they were asked how long they had volunteered at the pantry, Bliss and Walsh could not even remember directly.

“I have no idea,” Bliss said. “We don’t keep track.”

“Off and on for a long time,” Walsh said.

In addition to the pantry, Bliss and Walsh are active at their church, Absolut Care of Westfield and elsewhere in the community.

When asked, what motivates them to volunteer in their retirement, they said it is an important part of their daily routines.

“You need things to give you time so volunteering is a big thing,” Walsh said. “It’s giving back to the community.”

“It’s using your retirement time to help the community,” Bliss said. “You always feel so good about helping others and get a better understanding of our community.”

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