The WV Bureau of Senior Services: Aging Well in West Virginia Awards were recently announced.
Jim Strawn from Jim Strawn & Company was proud to serve as a judge for this competition.
The following five individuals were the inaugural 2019 Aging Well in West Virginia Award recipients:
- Carolyn Celeste Arritt, or Cece, of Meadow Bridge. Carolyn is a retired Meadow Bridge High School teacher. For many years, she served on the local school improvement council, and she still spends countless volunteer hours at the school, painting walls, making repairs and cheering players at sporting events. For years, she’s been making and delivering peanut butter sandwiches to the school, so that every student athlete has a snack before practice. She was also ”instrumental” in getting band instruments donated, so that all band members have their own to play. When she’s not giving her time to the high school she loves, she might be sporting an orange vest and picking up trash along local roads or playing piano at Meadow Bridge United Methodist Church.
- Richard Bohnke of Huntington is a 92-year-old veteran dedicated to serving other veterans. At the Hershel Woody Williams VA Medical Center, he answers phones, makes popcorn and assists people to find their way through the center. He also sets up for the annual Veterans Picnic. In twenty-three years of volunteering, he’s logged more than 14,000 hours of service. He helped start a program to provide transportation for disabled vets to medical appointments and was one of the first drivers, and he can always be relied upon to provide Honor Guard services at the funerals of his fellow servicemen. Mr. Bohnke is very interested in health promotion, and in his spare time, he grows a large garden and shares the harvest with veterans at the center.
- Ellen Carter has been a cook at the Rand Center for 38 years, the first 26 years for children and now for seniors. She serves nearly 1,600 lunches per month to seniors who visit the center. Now that’s a lot of cooking! On weekends and in her spare time, Ms. Carter volunteers for the Community of Rand Association, sponsors hotdog sales at the Center and supports fundraisers for local churches and schools. She also organizes volunteers and gathers items for the Rand thrift store. And she feeds people – work release individuals two Fridays each month, Dupont alumni dinners, Kanawha Cleanup Crew and multiple class reunions! As she puts it, “Anyone who needs something, I take care of them.”
- Karen Findley, of Wardensville in Hardy County, is a local history expert. She spearheaded restoration of a one-room schoolhouse and, today, gives tours of the
School and a working sawmill on the same property. Her stories of life in a small logging community were included in a 2013 WVU Press book, Listening to the Land. Love of art has inspired several public endeavors, including a pool house mural, Wardensville visitors’ center décor and refurbished Christmas decorations. Ms. Findley has a catchphrase, “I bring love,” which could be a Facebook prayer request, a peanut butter cake or a full meal for a family in need. Said a friend, “Whatever she does, she makes magic and does it with love.
- Ella Hay, 86, lives in Huntington and still teaches classical ballet to people of all ages at The Art Center. She never turns anyone away. She fosters an environment that promotes individual development, human dignity and personal responsibility. Every year, she creates a ballet for all her students, youngest to oldest, and they perform on the Marshall University stage. Ms. Hay has a scholarship fund for students who can’t afford dance classes, a leotard and shoe exchange for those who need something to wear, and love and compassion for all her students. Most amazingly, she still dances, still stretches easily into splits(!) and is an excellent role model for aging gracefully.
Connect, Create and Contribute was the theme for the event.
“It’s important to have a visual so people know who we are and what we offer,” Jacqueline Proctor, the Deputy Commissioner for BSS said.
“Sometimes someone says they didn’t know we had this. We want to do our absolute best to ensure that every senior in this state, 55 or older, knows what is available to them to use at every stage of their life.”
Congrats to all involved.