Honoring His Father By Helping Others

By Bill Krasean, Senior Services RSVP Advisory Council Volunteer


Pete McWethy’s wife Maureen first encouraged him to become a volunteer after he retired in 2008, but it’s his father, Gilbert, who continues to provide the inspiration.  McWethy, 65, devotes part of his Wednesdays and Fridays delivering food to the seven different pantries associated with Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes.

Loaves & Fishes distributes food at 24 grocery pantry sites throughout Kalamazoo County, including those located in the outer county areas – Galesburg, Richland and Vicksburg – and a site at the main Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes’ facility. The 24 sites are neighborhood-based and located along easily-accessible transport routes for convenience.  Organized in 1982 by several downtown churches concerned about increasing requests from people for food assistance, the congregations joined together to share resources and create an organized response to local hunger and formed Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes.  “Dad was always at one of the food pantries,” Pete said. “So these days I volunteer in his honor.”

Pete, a Kalamazoo native with a degree in accounting from Western Michigan University, initially worked in the circulation department at the Kalamazoo Gazette.  He soon was moved to the accounting department where he worked for 32 years before retiring.

On his volunteer days, he drives to the seven pantries distributing food as needed. He works out of the Loaves & Fishes building on Portage Street, the primary food assistance distribution center. In the 2015/16 fiscal year the pantry filled nearly 156,700 food orders to more than 29,000 people. During busy periods it serves more than 1,000 residents in a single day.

Pete volunteers through RSVP – Your Invitation to Volunteer, which he joined soon after retiring. RSVP is a national service program that connects older volunteers with area organizations and is part of Senior Services of Southwest Michigan.

Pete also gives his time to Tuesday Toolmen. Every Tuesday Pete joins with other Tuesday Toolmen repairing leaking faucets, installing grab bars in bathrooms and other rooms, building wheelchair ramps and doing other handiwork for seniors.  Tuesday Toolmen was started by Senior Services in Kalamazoo as a volunteer program to help seniors live more safely at home.  The concept has since spread to other senior serving agencies in the state.

 “I like volunteering for the physical exercise and for the life-long friendships I have developed over the years,” Pete said. “I have lived in Kalamazoo all my life and this is a good community for us. I got a good education and I had a good job and now I want to give back to the community.  Since retiring I have the time to do it.”

RSVP – Your Invitation to Volunteer is a program of Senior Services of Southwest Michigan.  Membership is free.  RSVP offers placement assistance and benefits for people age 55 and better to volunteer.  Many opportunities in Kalamazoo County and a few in Calhoun County.  Volunteers are needed with Meals on Wheels, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, Volunteers 4 Seniors medical rides, Mentor Academic Success tutors and mentors, Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP), Senior Services Home Repair, and more. Regular, flexible schedules available. Contact RSVP at 269-382-0515, volunteer@seniorservices1.org or click here to complete our online application.