12/13/06 — More than 200 honored for work with seniors, children

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More than 200 honored for work with seniors, children

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 13, 2006 1:45 PM

O'Berry Center had decked its halls with boughs of holly, as well as Christmas trees and hundreds of snowflakes, just in time for WAGES' annual recognition luncheon for those involved with the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs.

The 200 volunteers serve at more than 20 locations around the county, including schools and agencies such as O'Berry. Foster Grandparents work with youths from birth to age 21, while Senior Companions are assigned to work with older adults and those with special needs.

To participate, workers must be at least 60 years old and income-eligible. June Monk, administrator for both programs, said the senior citizens are faithful, often coming to work every day.

To illustrate the dedication she has encountered, she shared a story about Willie King, a Senior Companion since 1991, assigned to O'Berry Center.

One day when Ms. Monk was called at the last minute to fill in for a bus driver, she said she arrived late, only to find 92-year-old King already in his vehicle, setting out for work.

"He said, 'When you're supposed to be at work at 9, that means you are there at 9:00,'" she said.

Three others in the programs also turned 90 or older this year, Ms. Monk said. Melissa Richardson, also at O'Berry Center, has been with the Foster Grandparents program since 1992. She is 90. Hezzie Mitchell, a Foster Grandparent at Edgewood Community Developmental School, has been in the program since 1981 and turned 91 this year. Thelma Heckstall, a Senior Companion since 1995, works at Home Health Hospice and is 91.

WAGES hosts its annual event at O'Berry, where director Dr. Frank Farrell said the staff is appreciative of the efforts for its residents.

"Christmas is always a special time at O'Berry Center," he said, thanking the visitors who came out to celebrate and especially those who help throughout the year.

"What's always so impressive to me is the care and the attention, frankly the love that you share with them. You make their lives special every day."

Another tradition at the yearly celebration is the entertainment, brought by the Carver Heights Elementary School chorus under the direction of Kevin Alston and Jimmy Aycock.