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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cross-Country Walker Hopes He Left Legacy

Cross-Country Walker Hopes He Left Legacy

By Paul Heimel--Potter County Today
dec7philthewalkermakesit3Phil Cihiwsky isn’t first person to walk from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, so his name will not appear in any record books. But the impact of his cross-country odyssey is significant. Through his efforts, hundreds of people are more aware of the importance of home-delivered meals and perhaps more inclined to support that important social program. In late August, the 59-year-old Cihiwsky pushed his three-wheel cart of supplies through Potter County, heading east in Rt. 6 and then turning onto Rt. 49 toward New England. On Oct. 4, he ceremoniously walked into the Atlantic at York Harbor, Maine, were he was greeted by family members and other well-wishers.

walkforsrhungertwoCihiwsky set out from San Diego, Calif., in March, dipping his foot in the Pacific to embark on a voyage that covered 3,200 miles and roughly 17 million steps. “I wanted to walk for a cause, instead of just embarking on this trip to prove that I could do it,” Cihiwsky told Potter County Area Agency on Aging staffers when he stopped for a sleepover in Roulette. “The human spirit is all about helping those in need. There are some seniors who are isolated in their homes and not only is a meal of benefit to them, but so is the companionship of having someone come by to check up on them.”

Cihiwsky, a retired IBM electrical engineer, was tested by storms, heat, thieves, fatigue and pain, but he walked on – stopping to talk to everyone who would listen about senior hunger and the work of Meals on Wheels. East of Coudersport, he was met by Potter County Commissioner Paul Heimel (right), who walked with Cihiwsky for about five miles before they parted north of town. He continued to the Tri-Town Firehall in Ulysses to spend the next night and set off for New York State first thing the following morning. “I hope that my walk will result in more support for the worthy mission of keeping senior citizens in their homes and touching their lives through the meal deliveries,” Cihiwsky said. “It makes so much sense for so many reasons to keep our older citizens in their homes where they can enjoy their independence. Studies show that when they’re at home, they’re happier, and when a person is happier, that person tends to be healthier. It makes sense economically, too. When a person moves to a care home, that care is expensive and it does not take long to draw down a person’s life savings. After that, they become the responsibility of the government and that’s a bad outcome for everyone.”

dec7philthewalkermakesitCihiwsky’s message hit home in Potter County, where the Agency on Aging delivered 12,232 meals in fiscal 2012-13, serving more than 80 seniors. As a result of funding limitations, some 16 older adults were on a waiting list at last report. To support home-delivered meals, checks should be sent to: Potter County Area Agency on Aging (write “home-delivered meals” in the notation line), P.O. Box 241, Roulette PA 16746. More information is available from Sherry Hoffman at 814-544-7315. Cihiwsky, a native of Vestal, N.Y., is now back in his Colorado recovering from his trip and thinking about some kind of encore in service to others. Above, Phil is shown on the beach at York Harbor, Maine, where he finished his mission last month.

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