McKees Rocks Mayor challenges others to make holidays merrier for residents in need

Mayor John “Jack” Muhr

By Sonja Reis

Longstanding holiday outreach efforts by McKees Rocks Mayor John “Jack” Muhr are this year taking on a new twist. He’s challenging others to open their hearts and their wallets to those in need.

In year’s past, the longtime mayor has shared in the holiday spirit by gifting turkeys to residents in need. This season he’s pairing up with National Jefferson Award for Public Service recipient and resident Denise “Missy” Zellous and The Zellous Hope Holiday Celebration to do more.

Instead of making the usual gift of turkeys, Muhr will donate $300 to be used to purchase grocery gift cards. Recipients can then purchase a turkey or other holiday fare with the funds.

Just what does Muhr get out of his annual holiday project or from his 34 years of public service for that matter?

“Satisfaction. I’m trying to help people, that’s the main thing. You see so many people in need. There are a lot of people struggling out there,” says Muhr, 79.

Denise "Missy" Zellous

Denise “Missy” Zellous

A lifelong resident, he’s been the McKees Rocks mayor for the past 16 years and before that, he served on the Sto-Rox school board and was borough controller.

According to Zellous, she only first crossed paths with the mayor this year when she started pounding the pavement looking for holiday donations. She commented on how at ease and comfortable she felt during their first meeting.

During that first venture into the mayor’s office, she also says she learned just “how dedicated he is to people in need.”

For the past 6 years, Zellous’ project focused on participating in an annual toy giveaway and fun day for youth in need. With the mayor’s help, she’s now expanding to include a holiday meal drive for seniors.

This will be the first time the Holiday Celebration is held in the Sto-Rox region, she says. In year’s past, the event has been primarily held in nearby Pittsburgh neighborhoods such as Sheraden and Elliott where Zellous previously lived.  April 23 is Denise Zellous Day in the City of Pittsburgh.

Zellous says this year’s toy drive will be available to residents in need from McKees Rocks, Stowe and beyond while Mayor Muhr’s donation is earmarked specifically to McKees Rocks residents age 60+ who are in need of a helping hand. The food certificates he has sponsored will be split evenly amongst all McKees Rocks wards.

“I deal with senior citizens coming in [to the borough offices] every day asking for help. I have to explain to them that we can’t do things on private property that would cost the borough money… but if it’s something I can do, like clean up a sidewalk outside someone’s house, I do what I can,” says Muhr.

The Holiday Celebration toy give-away is set for Sunday, Dec. 10 at the McKees Rocks Borough Building, 340 Bell Ave., McKees Rocks. The holiday meal gift cards will be presented at a separate event (date and time to be decided).

To donate to the turkey fund or toy giveaway head online to and mention “Jack Sent Me” in the comment box! Donations also can be made via mail to Zellous Hope Holiday, 731 Chartiers Ave. #505, McKees Rocks, PA 15136.

For more information on the nonprofit Zellous Hope Project: