finish lines

Busy Chalmers Place resident Wilma McNeese spent 27 years with the federal court system, retiring as the Chief Pretrial Services Officer for the U.S District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania. McNeese has served on Mt. Lebanon’s Community Relations Board, and has been active with the Black Association of the South Hills (BASH), Celebrating Diversity, Sisters Place, UPMC Mercy Hospital and Three Rivers Youth.

How do you do it all?

My volunteer work started before I retired, and I had to set priorities in order to manage family and work commitments. I never schedule anything without first checking my calendar. These days, doing things that I really enjoy is a top priority. For example, Wednesday mornings are off limits because that’s my yoga class, and the third Saturday is group home day.

What are the greatest rewards of your volunteer work?

I have met some truly amazing people. While volunteering at Three Rivers Youth and other group homes, I saw troubled teenagers gradually change their angry, self-destructive behavior. It was rewarding to see the effects therapy and mentoring had on teens who were deeply troubled when I met them and headed to college when they left the program. I interacted with residents of Sisters Place who entered the program as homeless parents with children and transitioned into self-supporting members of the community. Talking with them and listening to their life stories was truly humbling.

Was there a synergy between your volunteer work and your job?

My volunteer work was not connected to my job in the court system. However, many of the young people I saw pass through the court system made me willing to become an active volunteer. When I was approached to become a mentor in a group home in the early 1990s, it was an opportunity to help some young people avoid meeting me in my official capacity. Almost 25 years have passed, and I am still trying to mentor young people and encourage them to avoid the court system.

—Merle Jantz
Photo by Martha Rial