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April 7, 2013

Never too old to be kind: Senior volunteers recognized at annual event

NEW ALBANY — The Retired Senior Volunteer Program, a part of Hope Southern Indiana, honored its retired senior volunteers at the Volunteer Recognition dinner at Northside Christian Church in New Albany last week.

More than 1,100 retired senior volunteers donated their time and talents last year and about 450 attended the event. These volunteers contributed $3 million in services in Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Scott counties.

“The scope of service they provide is amazing,” said Ceil Sperzel, RSVP director of Southern Indiana.

Hope Southern Indiana is a faith-based organization dedicated to providing an array of services to Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Jefferson and Scott counties. Jefferson county residents are recognized at their own dinner in the county due to the travel distance.

At the dinner, five retired seniors were recognized for being volunteers of the year. Sperzel said the volunteers of the year are often nominated by other seniors or Hope Southern Indiana is aware of their above-and-beyond service.

“All of them make contributions. We hate to single one out, but it is nice to showcase the variety of service they provide,” Sperzel said.

Those five volunteers of the year were Anna Kirby, Teddi Robinson, Susan Steinberg and Phyllis and Tom Tucker.

Steinberg dedicates 40 hours a week volunteering for the Center of Lay Ministries as a board of director’s member and chair person for their food pantry. She also provides clerical service for the Jeffersonville Housing Authority and is a court appointed special advocate for children and families in need. Steinberg also is a volunteer for the Clark County Grassroots Coalition to fight drug use.

Steinberg said she is not fond of being publicly honored, but said she is humbled to be. Very passionate about volunteering, especially in her hometown of Jeffersonville, Steinberg said she just wants the city to be the “best it can be.”

“It’s nice when you can sit back and see a family come together that has been broken apart from drugs, alcohol and domestic violence,” Steinberg said.

In its 40th year, the program and its volunteers serve in organizations ranging from health care to education. Sperzel said no matter the job, big or small, the volunteers are very important for what they do and all deserve recognition. Many volunteers contribute many hours a week; some a couple hours a month. Some volunteers like to be on-call and some like to do something that they can do while watching TV.

“Whatever they do and enjoy doing, they do for others as well as for themselves,” said Sperzel, who has been with RSVP for 24 years.

For example, during the dinner, many homemade door prices like quilts and pillows made by some of the seniors were given away. The dinner included catered food from Hal’s Catering and as part of this year’s theme for the dinner, “veterans of service,” not only were those seniors who have been volunteering for a long time honored but those who served the country in the military were recognized.

Many representatives from local to state to national government offered their thanks. Former State Sen. Connie Sipes was the mistress of ceremonies. Representatives from Congressman Todd Young and Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore offered thanks on behalf of their respected offices.

Jeff Gahan, mayor of New Albany, personally thanked the seniors for their service and presented Sperzel with a plaque honoring the volunteers’ service and commemorating Mayor’s Day of Recognition of National Service on April 9. On that day, 731 mayors will hold public events and use media and social media to showcase the impact of volunteers in their city.

“We [city government] can’t do the things we want to do without them [volunteers],” Gahan said.

He said couldn’t express how grateful he and other city officials were for the services provided by these retired seniors. He said because city governments do not have enough resources to provide many services — such as running food pantries and health care services — they are thankful so many senior volunteers help fill in where city government just can’t afford to.

“It’s a huge impact. It represents a whole lot of goodwill pushed into the community,” Gahan said.

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