The word ‘champion’ conjures up different images in the minds of people when tasked with reflecting on what a champion is. Merriam-Webster defines a ‘champion’ as one that does battle for another’s rights or honor. For the communities of Decatur and Hartselle in Morgan County, Alabama, champion means that much and more. During the week of March 26-30, The Partnership’s Meals on Wheels & More program invited Community Champions to join volunteers on delivery routes to meet the customers and engage in conversation with those who receive the daily meals.
Hartselle Mayor Randy Garrison took time out of his busy schedule to join volunteer Alisha Ricketts on her meal route. Mayor Garrison said of his experience, “I truly enjoyed the time I spent last week with (Alisha). She really goes above and beyond with her folks, they all seemed to look forward to seeing her and many of them were happy to talk with us.”
The Community Champions Week is part of Meals on Wheels America‘s March for Meals. During this time, local programs are encouraged to invite local, state and federal officials, local celebrities and other prominent community figures to deliver meals, speak out for seniors and raise awareness for the power of Meals on Wheels. Community Champions week within March for Meals provides local Meals on Wheels programs a wonderful opportunity to engage powerful figures in the community, garner media attention and helps raise public awareness for the nutritional and social needs of seniors.
This year’s Senior Programs Volunteers of the Year are recognized for going above and beyond in their service to others.
Each year The Partnership recognizes its Senior Program volunteers at its December in-service event at the Central Office in Decatur, Alabama. This year’s event highlighted those Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions who have made a measurable difference in the lives of those they serve. Clients and client families are asked to highlight some special moments they shared with their respective volunteers over the last year and submit for consideration for Volunteer of the Year.
Senior Program volunteers are members of the community who are 55 or older and serve as Foster Grandparents in the local school systems to support students who need some individualized instruction or as Senior Companions in clients’ homes to help ease the burden of care for elderly and disabled residents. They each receive a small stipend for their time that does not interfere with their retirement income limits as social security recipients.
This year’s nominees are a testament to their dedication to their roles. Just read what others had to say about a few of these phenomenal individuals:
“Mrs. Johnson is always pleasant, happy, helpful and kind. She helps the teacher and the students each day. Mrs. Johnson always has something positive to say to the staff and the students. We LOVE Mrs. Johnson!” (Teacher Angie Whittington about Foster Grandparent Martha Johnson, Woodmeade Elementary)
“Mrs. Ballard has been in the education field for so many years and has made such a positive impact on many students. She encourages the students daily whether it is or writing their name or reading a book for the first time. She also encourages me as a teacher when I get frustrated or when I feel that I have exhausted my ideas.” (Teacher Lauren Bentley about Foster Grandparent Estelle Ballard, Hanceville Elementary)
“Ms. Mayo stays very busy in the classroom helping the children, making books, sharpening pencils and eager to meet any needs that she sees. She is especially great at loving on the children. Her genuine display of selfless service is witnessed and received by all. We all want to be like Ms. Mayo when we grow up.” (Principal Tiffany Spencer, Austinville Elementary)
“The most important thing about Sylvia is she always comes in smiling and asking, ‘How are you today?’ She always helped so much by taking me to the doctor appointments, running errands for us and doing some meals for us. Besides being a Senior Companion she has become a friend for life.” (Client Daphene H. about Senior Companion Sylvia Turner)
“Edith has been a great help to me. My mother has dementia, which can be a challenge because she is 99+ years old and in complete care. Edith takes great patience with my mother and is a calm presence to her. Thank you for placing this sweet woman in my home.” (Client family member Susan E. about Senior Companion Edith Noble)
“Rose is heaven sent for my mom. My mother gets along so well with her. Rose is always in a cheerful mood, which rubs off on all of us when we are around her. She takes care of all of my mom’s house living needs, including food, medicine and house cleanliness. Just sitting with Mom and watching TV would be enough but she does much more. She even gets my mom to walk outside often.” (Client family member Kim H. about Senior Companion Rose Sutton)
Selecting one Volunteer of the Year for each program was an obvious challenge for Chief Executive Officer Michael Tubbs. After careful contemplation, Mr. Tubbs singled out two nominations that represented the ideal candidates for Volunteer of the Year. On hand to support their respective volunteers were Foster Grandparent Coordinator Michele Andrews (pictured with Ms. Mayo and CEO Michael Tubbs) and Senior Companion Coordinator Carrie Waynick (pictured with client Kim H., Ms. Sutton and CEO Michael Tubbs).
This year’s winners were: Jo Mayo, Foster Grandparent of the Year and Rose Sutton, Senior Companion of the Year.