Most people will never hold office, and for some, voting is as political as it gets. But more than a quarter of Pennsylvanians are working on their own versions of civic duty, through volunteering.
Theresa Cygrymus looked around the hall at Prince of Peace Parish, a Catholic Church on Pittsburgh’s South Side, and shook her head.
“It’s already nine o’clock, usually we have stuff cooking already.”
Cygrymus knows the drill. At 78, she’s been volunteering for the church all her life. On a Saturday in late October, Cygrymus and a church group called The Christian Mothers were preparing to churn out hundreds of dozens of pierogis to sell. All the money they make supports the church and its outreach.
“The parish is important to me. I grew up here, lived three doors away, and it was a more closely-knit community. To me it’s important to help the church.”
Joan Vaulet marched across the room. She was red-cheeked and covered with flour. As the group’s president, she was orchestrating the production. She interrupted Cygrymus to hand her a circle of dough. “Is this thin enough or do you want it thinner?” she asked.
“Oh no, that’s perfect. Perfect,” Cygrymus said as Vaulet turned back to the kitchen.
“They always come to me, I’m sort of the grandmother here,” she laughed.
Women helped themselves to coffee and donuts and then settled into their stations: the lone man in the group rolled out dough, which a mom-and-son-team cut into circles. Three women used ice cream scoops to lay out rows of potato-and-cheese pierogi filling. Once they’d filled a tray, it was delivered to the pinchers: a squad of older ladies who sealed the pierogis to prepare for boiling.
Keystone Crossroads is a statewide public media initiative reporting on the challenges facing Pennsylvania's cities. WPSU is a participating station.