Area senior volunteers honored with 2016 President's Awards at luncheon
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz joined Commissioner of Senior Services Randy Hoak and personnel from the department's retired senior volunteer ("RSVP") program to honor eight special volunteers who give back to their communities by volunteering to help others. The volunteers were honored at a luncheon in the Statler Room at Erie Community College North Campus, where each received an award from President Barack Obama noting their generous volunteer spirit, along with a certificate of appreciation signed by the county executive.
"These individuals are wonderful representatives of our senior population and also exemplify what it means to serve your community by serving others," Poloncarz said. "It was an honor to join them and present to each a certificate from President Obama along with my humble thanks for all they do to make Erie County a better place."
The individuals being honored for their volunteer service included:
•Mary Ann Campbell of Cheektowaga, a longtime volunteer with Catholic Charities' Ladies of Charity group, where she sorts donated clothing for the thrift store and is part of a volunteer team that assembles layettes for new mothers in need. Volunteer service is a family tradition for Campbell, as her mother and all five of her daughters also belonged to the Ladies of Charity;
•Bea Moy of Eden, an active volunteer for nearly 30 years at Operation Good Neighbor, a food pantry and thrift store in North Evans, where she volunteers as the assistant director and helps to write grants to identify funding sources to support the pantry's mission;
•Sr. Johnice Rzadkiewicz of the Response to Love Center in Buffalo, whose life changed when she met Mother Teresa in 1985, and who now coordinates a food pantry for the poor that has positively impacted thousands of lives in Buffalo's Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood. With residents from nine different countries living in the surrounding neighborhood, the center has grown to include English as a Second Language classes to better serve the community;
•May Chou of Williamsville, a member of the Amherst Senior Center Knitters, who brings her passion for arts and crafts to her volunteer service in creating warm winter hats and scarves for school children, as well as blankets for local veterans and sweaters for local women's shelters;
•Gary McKee of Lackawanna, a Vietnam veteran who volunteers at both the VA in Buffalo and at the VA facility in Batavia, where he assists veterans affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, and accompanies veterans on group fishing excursions;
•William Sutherland of Gowanda, a USMC veteran and driver with the DAV Van Transportation Network of the VA in Buffalo, who drives 45 miles from his home to his volunteer service and then greatly enjoys spending his day driving other veterans around the region to medical appointments;
•Walter Matthis of Buffalo, a longtime VA volunteer with the Environmental Services Management Department, who has overcome health problems and enjoys giving back to his fellow veterans, and;
•Richard Reading of West Falls, a retired poultry farmer who volunteered for 18 years with Habitat for Humanity and was involved in the restoration of 75 buildings on Buffalo's East Side, and is now an active volunteer at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park where he gives group tours and has been involved with the restoration of the vessels there.
"The RSVP program is a great way for seniors to get involved in their communities, meet new people and make a positive difference in other people's lives," Hoak said. "These volunteers are an important part of serving our senior population, and their outstanding efforts deserve our thanks."
TheRSVP program in Erie County is open to all residents age 55 or older. It lets seniors help others by sharing their experiences, abilities and skills. A wide variety of fulfilling volunteer opportunities are available, and a volunteer coordinator helps seniors to discuss their interests and explore opportunities that interest them. Typical volunteer activities that may be available include such things as bringing donated food from restaurants and stores to soup kitchens to alleviate hunger, helping children learn to read or improve math skills, and delivering meals to people who are unable to leave their homes.
All potential volunteers participate in an orientation outlining policies and procedures along with opportunities and volunteer benefits. Interested individuals can call 716-858-7548 for more information.
Pictured: Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz joins Commissioner of Senior Services Randy Hoak and the recipients of the President's Volunteer Service Award for 2016. Pictured, bottom row from left, are: Mary Ann Campbell, Bea Moy, Sr. Johnice Rzadkiewicz, and May Chou; top row, from left are: Commissioner of Senior Services Randy Hoak, Gary McKee, William Sutherland and Poloncarz. Not pictured: Walter Matthis and Richard Reading.