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All Around Helpers

Ken Fuerst, Michigan - "Always Available to Help"

Image of Ken FuerstKen helps nonstop at Lighthouse Emergency Services in Pontiac, Michigan. If he is not in the office advocating for someone, he will be mapping out routes for several food delivery programs for seniors. He also signs seniors up for Medicare Part D; buses seniors to luncheons and helps senior living facilities drive people to and from the grocery store or mall.

Whenever Ken is at Lighthouse, he can be called on for help, whether it is to unload donated food or to install a dishwasher or to check on seniors in their homes. He works on behalf of seniors and their rights, and will research questions they may have.

Submitted by Lighthouse Emergency Services, Portland, Michigan

Joel Becker, New York - "A Win-Win for Everyone"

Image of Joel BeckerIn 2006, Joel approached the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSV) Program of Suffolk NY with an idea to bridge the digital divide between technology and poverty. He saw that low-income seniors and families with children did not have access to computers or technology because of lack of funds. Out of his vision, the Community Computer Connections Program, sponsored by RSVP, was born. The program refurbishes donated computers, using the talents and skills of 37 senior volunteers, and provides them at no cost to seniors and families in Suffolk and Nassau counties.

Homebound seniors utilize the computers to communicate with loved ones, to order groceries and medications online for delivery and to research medical conditions. Adults can improve their computer skills, thus improving their employment opportunities. Children can use the web to help in their schoolwork. Senior volunteers use their skills and talents and refurbishing viable computers helps the environment.

Submitted by RSVP Suffolk, NY

Norm Bungard, Florida - “ A Life Focusing on the Most Vulnerable Populations”

Image of Norm BungardNorm has a mantra which he honors every single day - find something to be grateful for and help someone. Helping is an understatement. Norm is a volunteer extraordinaire.

After retiring from the Social Security Administration he used his skills as an SMP volunteer for 11 years at the Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas. He also volunteered for the SHINE Program (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders), specializing in the Social Security arena. Additionally, he makes numerous public speeches on Medicare and Social Security.

Norm also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity for 22 years, and now serves on their Advisory Board. He has been a Guardian Ad Litum, and currently is a guardian for four children. Recently he joined the St. Petersburg Mayor’s Mentoring Program, and is mentoring two twelve year old boys. He also funds a writing contest for the school; serves on the Board of the Daystar Life Center, which cares for the homeless, and on the Board of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. Last year he received their Lifetime Achievement Award.

In 2005 he attended the White House Conference on Aging. He also teaches a social work class at the University of South Florida, combining business, gerontology and Social Security/Medicare to create a unique and special presentation for USF students.

Submitted by Area Agency on Aging, St. Petersburg, FL

Betty Napalo, West Virginia – “She Makes Volunteering Contagious”

Betty is inspiring and encouraging to other volunteers. She makes such a difference by helping with Food Ministries, the local Farmers Market and providing transportation for other seniors. She is the backbone of the senior center. With a positive attitude she formed a fundraising group of seniors who give away bingo prizes weekly, sponsor holiday parties and provide much needed outdoor lighting for the safety of all.

During a recent and terrible snowstorm the senior center served as a Red Cross disaster shelter for families in need. Without hesitation Betty came to help – cooking, cleaning and entertaining children - and stayed at the shelter, sleeping on a cot, until the last family had returned home. Betty also provides home health care for the elderly in her spare time, making it possible for them to remain independent in their homes. She also attends board meetings, educating herself and sharing issues and information with other seniors who are unable to attend.

Submitted by North Marion Senior Center, Mannington, West Virginia

Karen Siler, Massachusetts – “Sharing Friendship and Happy Memories”

Image of Karen SilerKaren manages a dental practice and in her free time volunteers with FriendshipWorks - a non profit organization that for over 25 years has been helping isolated elders and adults with disabilities living in Greater Boston.

Twelve years ago, Blanche, 95 was feeling lonely and in need of a friend. Karen never knew her grandparents and her family was spread out all across the country. She wanted a meaningful connection with someone close to home and was matched to visit Blanche for friendship and everyday assistance.

Twelve years later their bond has grown from friendship into something more like family, enjoying birthdays, trips and meals together. Blanche now lives in a nursing home but Karen continues to visit twice a week, bringing her husband on weekend. Karen also acts as a health care proxy for Blanche. The relationship is an inspiration to Karen and helps Blanche “through the dark spots.”

Submitted by Americorp VISTA

Sandra Jackson, Maryland – “A Miracle of Organization”

Image of Sandra JacksonSandra’s co-workers often say “When I grow up, I want to be Sandy.” At age 50 she co-founded Partners in Care (PIC) – a service-exchange/time-bank program - despite the pressures of a job, caring for her children and husband who was immobilized with “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” As head of transportation for PIC Sandra ensures daily that more than 7000 requests for rides per year by older adults to often-critical destinations are met by the efforts of volunteers using their own cars and driving 142,938 miles (25,903 hours per year).

Sandra has recruited an army of 2600 members with her unassuming, gracious leadership. She has written countless grant proposals, spoken to hundreds of groups, and served on numerous community boards and councils advocating for older adults.

Submitted by Partners in Care, Pasadena, Maryland

Ray Mendes, Massachusetts – “More Than a Medical Escort”

Image of Ray MendesRay has been providing medical escorts for seniors living in Boston since 2006 through Friendship Works, a non profit organization working for isolated elders and adults with disabilities in the Greater Boston area. Ray acts as a bridge between elders and their health care, helping them to access and understand the medical treatments that they need.

Ray developed a special bond with Mrs. Nash, a frail, elderly woman. Their trips to the doctor became a social time for both as they shared stories about their lives. Ray always carried her picture on his cell phone. He would call to make sure she was alright and knew her podiatrist, her eye doctor, and her primary care doctors. Mrs. Nash also appreciated Ray. She wrote a letter to FriendshipWorks to thank them for providing such wonderful volunteers who respected her independence. She said, “They treat you…like you’re one of their special people.” When she died at 91, Ray was there at her funeral.

Submitted by Americorp VISTA