Altoona native recognized for volunteerism

PITTSBURGH – In an April 24 ceremony, Highmark honored 12 employees of the company and its affiliated organizations for their outstanding volunteer work by presenting them with a Jefferson Award for Public Service medallion and a $1,000 donation to a nonprofit of their choice.

Among the recipients was Altoona native Eric Stalnaker of Monroeville, who works at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pittsburgh.

Stalnaker has been volunteering for more than two decades at the Shepherd Wellness Community in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. It is the only AIDS community center in western Pennsylvania. He provides support, education and assistance to those affected by HIV and AIDS.

Stalnaker started out as a telephone volunteer and then became a counselor. For the past several years, he has spent every Friday night at the community center – dedicated to making a difference in the lives of people who seek his support.

He uses his nursing background to help them understand and cope with their disease and to give presentations on such topics as HIV medication adherence and navigating the health care system.

He also volunteers for the Shepherd’s annual weekend retreat as a part of the medical staff and as a group facilitator.

In 2013, nearly 800 employees of Highmark and its diversified services subsidiaries logged some 40,000 hours of volunteer service, the equivalent of more than $800,000 in donations.

Highmark is one of only 23 organizations across the U.S. that serves as a Jefferson Awards Champion – perpetuating in the workplace the prestigious award established more than four decades ago by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and other luminaries as the “Nobel Prize” for public service.