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Around Home: Retiree finds satisfying ‘second career’ as a volunteer

Bob Maser first became a fan of The Salvation Army back in 1977 when a devastating flood wreaked havoc on his birthplace of Johnstown.
“I lost four family members in that flood – a sister-in-law, two nieces and a nephew,” said Maser, 76.
“My dad, John, and Ann, my step-mom, were living in a ground-floor apartment at the time. Fortunately, The Salvation Army was only a quarter of a mile away.
“Our first job was to get things cleaned up and in no time The Salvation Army came over with buckets, brooms, mops and all kinds of cleaning materials. Some others in the building had no edible food on hand. Almost immediately, The Salvation Army was there, bringing hot chicken, ham, mashed potatoes, corn and hot rolls,” Maser recalled, adding that that event inspired him to sign up as a volunteer with The Salvation Army.
An insurance agent by profession, Maser and his wife Arlene – also a SA volunteer – have been Tyrone residents since 1962. Maser has been a volunteer with the SA for “at least 15 years,” he said. During that time, he has served as a board member and as board president of the Tyrone facility, which, he explained, is part of the “Pittsburgh Territory” of The SA.
The chief difference between serving as a volunteer and working at a routine salaried job, Maser said, is “the greater satisfaction one gets from doing something that helps a lot of people.”
He noted, for example, that “just recently, we helped a young homeless couple who had been sleeping in the woods behind the Dollar General store. We gave them some fresh clothes and blankets. Three days later, they found an apartment but needed help with the rent, so the SA pitched in.
“Actually,” Maser explained, “that was a rare occasion. We get very few homeless people in this area. Our biggest need now is for kids’ school clothes. Seven or eight people came in today asking for youngsters’ clothing. One girl, a 17-year-old with a baby, came into our service center three or four times.
“Contributions from those in the community, in both money and clothing, have been very generous. Last Christmas season, we collected over eight thousand dollars in our SA kettles, one in Bellwood and three in Tyrone. We do all our work with just three regular staff people, called ‘soldiers,’ and three volunteers, my wife and I and a friend, Judy Campbell,” Maser said.
Due to SA regulations, he added, the local operation is divided into two sections, the Service Center and the Service Unit. The former distributes clothing to Tyrone, Bellwood and Warriors Mark, while the latter helps the needy with necessities such as lights, gas and water. But we still display the traditional SA sign in front of the building on Pennsylvania Avenue, Maser said.
“When we get more requests than we can handle, we refer people to Catholic Charities in Altoona,” he added. The local center is open from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. We don’t charge anything for services but donations are gratefully accepted,” he said.
“There was a SA church here on 10th Street for over a hundred years but it was closed when the new service units opened. Our big project now is trying to have a local church reopened,” Maser declared. “There are a number of disadvantaged people down on their luck who don’t dress very well or smell too good and are ashamed to attend a regular church but would feel free to worship with the SA. I’ve been talking to the higher-ups in Pittsburgh about our need for a church here but the response so far has been less than enthusiastic.”
A graduate of Johnstown Catholic High School followed by a year at St. Francis University in Loretto, Maser joined the American General Insurance Company in 1981 and presently attends the Christian Missionary Alliance Church here. He and his wife Arlene have three grown children, Robert, 65, of Wilmington, DE, and Debra Jean, 52, and Kimberly Jane, 46, both of Tyrone.
A two-time president of the Kiwanis Club, Maser’s favorite leisure time activity, he said, is rooting for the Golden Eagles and attending all their games, at home and away.
As to his volunteer work with the SA, health problems, he said, may force him to retire at year’s end.