Miss Bertie, Miss Mary and Miss Dee, Volunteering No Matter What

Story and photo by Debbi Casini Klein | Audio edited by Louis D’Aria

They may all be 80-something, but Miss Bertie, Miss Mary and Miss Dee certainly are not resting on their laurels.

That’s because every Tuesday morning for the past decade, rain or shine, sleet or snow, you’ll see Miss Bertie, Miss Mary and Miss Dee volunteering at the North Side Ministry Food Pantry, sometimes even a few times a week.

Miss Bertie, Miss Mary and Miss Dee

These steadfast volunteers have rarely missed a day in 10 years, even during this brutal Pittsburgh winter.

“I just get a good feeling when I come here to help people, it just makes me feel good,” said Miss Dee.

She lives in the neighborhood and feels the need to give back. At one time Miss Mary came to get help herself, and now wants to help her neighbors.

“Everybody needs help. I like to help everybody,” said Miss Mary. “You never know when you’re going to need help yourself. “

And Miss Bertie said it’s great for her too.

“It helps a lot — I was lonely when I started, but not anymore,” she said. “I feel it is important to give back and I like it here too.”

Every month, more than 1000 people come to the North Side Common Ministry food pantry to get anything from canned good, fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses and breads. It is the largest food pantry in the city, and it relies on their volunteers like this terrific trio.

They begin their day bagging the vegetables, sorting the cans and organizing and stocking the shelves with food donations, a majority that are donated by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Jay Polziani is the director of the program and appreciates the ladies’ dedication.

“We all know what this winter was like,” Polziani said. “It was probably one of the worst that most of us remember in decades. There were so many days when all of us wanted to curl up and not go to work, but Miss Dee, Mary and Bertie managed on the bus, or on foot or through a ride to get here. They were that dedicated to their work, their work ethic. It’s that sincere, their concern that the food gets to the people. It’s that sincere.”