12/12/07 — Seniors honored for efforts with volunteer program

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Seniors honored for efforts with volunteer program

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 12, 2007 2:08 PM

A capacity crowd gathered at O'Berry Center Tuesday to pay tribute to retirees serving in WAGES' Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs around the county.

WAGES, Wayne Action Group for Economic Solvency, celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Foster Grandparent program earlier this year. Volunteers work with children and youths, while their counterparts in the Senior Companion program assist older patrons in homes and group settings.

The volunteers work for a modest stipend, said June Monk, program coordinator. But what they gain, and what they give to others, she noted, cannot be measured monetarily.

"Some work 40 hours volunteering every week," she said. "They're enjoying it, and they say they can sleep better."

Despite being up in years, the retirees are faithful in their service, Mrs. Monk said. The Foster Grandparent program currently has 106 volunteers, while 80 are serving as Senior Companions.

Of those, she pointed out, "We have about four in their 90s."

The seven who have served longest were recognized during the annual luncheon.

They included: Alma Williams, a Foster Grandpar-ent since 1983 assigned to O'Berry; Nancy Fields, a Senior Companion since 1985, working at O'Berry; Hattie Eason, Foster Grandparent since 1991, assigned to work with children through the Department of Social Services; Dorothy Goggins, a Senior Companion since 1989, working at Glencare in Mount Olive; Rosalee Reddick, Foster Grandparent since 1991, assigned to Edgewood Community Developmental School; Willie King, Senior Companion since 1991, working at O'Berry, is also the oldest volunteer, at 93; and Hezzie Mitchell, 92, a Foster Grandparent since 1981, works at Edgewood.

The service provided through the volunteer effort is important, Mrs. Monk said, adding that she hopes funding will continue to support it in years to come.

"It's just a wonderful program," she said. "It gets better and better every year. They love being recognized and we enjoy recognizing them."

Others were on hand to applaud the time and effort given, with remarks made by such dignitaries as Goldsboro Mayor Al King and Frankie Moye, representing Congressman Walter B. Jones.

Roland "Bud" Gray, chairman of the Wayne County Commissioners, also commented on one important aspect contributed by the senior volunteers, love.

"Your love enables many of our elderly to continue to live in their homes," he said. "Thank you for the gift of love you give throughout the year to those in need."

Dr. Frank Farrell, O'Berry director, said the celebration is an anticipated event each year, expressing appreciation for the services rendered around the county.

"I have seen firsthand the love and caring they share with people. It makes a difference in people's lives," he said.

J.D. Evans, a county commissioner but speaking as a vice president on the WAGES board, also recognized Bryan Sutton, WAGES executive director since its inception more than 40 years ago. Sutton retires at the end of this month. Dr. Marlee Ray, retired administrator with Wayne County Public Schools, will take over duties Jan. 1.

"We are looking forward to working with (Dr. Ray) to complete the work started by Bryan Sutton," Evans said.