SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) recently honored 94 older adults for their volunteerism in every region of the state as part of NYSOFA’s annual …
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) recently honored 94 older adults for their volunteerism in every region of the state as part of NYSOFA’s annual observance of Older New Yorkers’ Day.
The November 4 program is available to watch and share at any time on YouTube.
The adults were nominated by the state’s network of county-based Area Agencies on Aging.
As a group, older New Yorkers aged 55 and over contribute more than 495 million hours of volunteer service each year, at an economic value of $13.8 billion. The 94 volunteers live in 55 counties. Collectively, they represent 5,500 years of life experience, and have volunteered for a combined 2,568 years of service.
“The word ‘volunteer’ cannot capture fully the accomplishments of this group of incredible individuals,” said NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen. “Older adults impress us all with their commitment to a greater good and a greater cause. You tell the real story of what’s good about people, what’s good about New York. Through your deeds and actions, time and again, you show us how valuable you all are to those you touch, to those you serve, to the families and communities and lives you make better.”
Olsen also emphasized that the example set by these 94 volunteers is vital to overcoming ageist stereotypes that one-dimensionally cast older adults as frail or a burden on society.
“Individuals of all ages sometimes need assistance, but older adults as a whole consider themselves healthy, remain active and engaged, and are a very important part of the local, regional, state and national economies, as well as the ability of community organizations to operate. Further, they give a tremendous amount of their time to hundreds of civic groups and organizations that are critical in delivering direct services and supporting local agencies.”
‘A true example of selflessness’: Alice Edwards
In her past work as a foster grandparent, Alice Edwards loved her students/grandchildren. The impression she made is long-lasting. One time in recent years, while at Catskill Regional Hospital, a nurse recognized her, and the encounter brought back instant memories of Edwards opening the young girl’s milk every morning when she was in kindergarten.
When Edwards is out shopping, it is not uncommon to hear at least one of her “kids” yell to her, “Grandma Edwards, we miss you!” She always had a hug for the kids when they needed one, knowing that many did not receive a similar embrace at home.
Edwards has volunteered for the White Sulphur Springs Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary and is one of the founding members for over 80 years. She can tell you every fire, flood, or other disaster that happened in White Sulphur Springs, as she brought coffee or sandwiches to first responders, even in the middle of the night. She served countless meals after funerals.
“Alice is a true example of selflessness,” says her nomination from the Sullivan County Office for the Aging. “There is no way to truly measure the impact she’s had on so many in our community, and Sullivan County is blessed to have her.”
Edwards has lived all of her 102 years in White Sulphur Springs. She and her husband, Bob, owned Twin Service Shell Service Station, where she pumped gas and Bob would work on cars until 1981, when they sold the business to retire. She then started as a foster grandparent at White Sulphur Springs Elementary School in 1986. When the school closed, she then went to Liberty Elementary School until 2019.
Edwards had one son, Robert, who passed away at the age of 29 in a car accident. She has three grandchildren (Lisa, Chan and Kim), six great-grandchildren (Tanya, Robert, Morgan, Chandler, Devin and Madison) and six great-great grandchildren (Brandon, Mathew, Cole, Isabella, Rori and Emma).
Seeking justice for the community: Kenneth Walter
Kenneth Walter has endeavored to hold the government accountable, and works to get others involved in civic engagement. An indefatigable community advocate, he attends all meetings of the Sullivan County Legislature to represent the community’s interests publicly. His strength of mind, quickness of thought, boundless curiosity, long lifetime of experience and wisdom make him a great example to others on how to stay truly engaged in seeking justice for his community.
Walter has a strong sense of fairness, and tries to make sure that everyone is treated equally. He is committed to the success of all organizations he has volunteered for, in particular the Loch Sheldrake Fire Department where he has served as bingo chair, secretary and vice president.
“Ken truly represents an engaged older New Yorker,” according to his nomination from Sullivan County Office for the Aging. “His passion is to improve the lives of those in Sullivan County and to facilitate an environment where people can live their lives as independently as possible and thrive.”
Walter is a native New Yorker and has lived in Sullivan County for all of his 81 years. He currently lives in Grahamsville. Now retired, his past work includes being a chicken and hay farmer at his family’s farm in Loch Sheldrake; farm manager at Mountain Pride Farm in Hasbrouck; assistant paddock judge and paddock judge for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board at Monticello Raceway; industrial arts, print shop, trade math and hobby shop program teacher at various schools; and egg products inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Gibber Egg in Thompsonville and Newburgh Egg in Woodridge, NY. He is married to Carol Montana, a past editor of the Sullivan County Democrat and a freelance publicist.
“Find a cause you care about and be involved,” he says. “Get a different perspective, try to make things better for everyone, and fight for the underdog.”
Learn more about Older New Yorkers Day at bit.ly/3fVuZ1k.
Roger Noyes is the director of public information at the New York State Office for the Aging
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