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Volunteers honored with prestigious award

2011 George Washington Honor Medal goes to Brooksby

Created date

January 24th, 2012

From the lengthy list of daily activities to regular efforts to give back to the community and world at large, Brooksby buzzes with volunteers. In 2010, more than 500 registered volunteers recorded more than 51,000 volunteer hours at the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass. Amid difficult economic times, Brooksby residents have continued to give generously to philanthropic causes supporting their community. Those efforts were recognized late last year when Brooksby volunteers received the 2011 George Washington Honor Medal for exemplary civic achievement in an adult community the highest honor in its category. The Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, a national nonprofit organization that promotes citizenship, volunteerism, and community service, presented the award. The true spirit of caring, giving, and sharing never ceases at Brooksby Village, writes Edith De Angelis, who lives at Brooksby, in the letter nominating her community for the award. Elizabeth Hamp, Brooksby s volunteer programs coordinator, adds: I am continually amazed by the generosity of our volunteers. They give their time and energy to the residents, staff, and greater community in ways both large and small. As part of the nomination process, Hamp assembled a binder outlining the community s accomplishments and activities. She later attended the award ceremony. It was a tremendous honor to have the Brooksby Village volunteers nominated for such a prestigious award and a true thrill to accept the medal on their behalf, she adds. Hamp and 22 Brooksby volunteers attended the award ceremony at Spinelli s, in East Boston, hosted by the Bay State Chapter of the Freedoms Foundation. Brooksby Director of Philanthropy Beth McNelis and Director of Operations for Resident Life Helen Lanagan also attended. The excitement was not only that we received recognition on a national scale, but moreover that we are the one and only recipient of the George Washington Honor Plaque in the nation in that category deservingly I would say, says Edith, a past president of Freedoms Foundation s local chapter and a lifelong volunteer.

Variety of volunteer ' opportunities

Volunteerism comes in many forms at Brooksby; Edith laments she couldn t cover them all in her nomination letter and eight-page speech to the room of honorees. She noted Brooksby s veterans group, whose members installed a new flagpole, flag, and plaque and organize annual Brooksby events. Knitting and crocheting groups donate blankets to those in need. Alongside Operation Troop Support, a local organization, Brooksby residents and staff put together packages and greeting cards for deployed members of the U.S. military. Each year the Turkey Trot brings in funds and food donations for Haven from Hunger, and the Brooksby Marathon supports the Special Olympics. On a day-to-day basis, people who live at Brooksby organize and participate in groups for fun and to assist in bettering their community s operations. The Treasure Chest, Brooksby s second-hand store, raises money that is put back into the community to fund new activities. All activities are resident-driven; that means they re all volunteers, says Dick Thornburg, who is an avid volunteer, host of two television programs in Brooksby s TV station, and chair of the resident advisory council (RAC). Dick also sings with the Brooksby Gentlemen a double quartet and the Protestant choir. I think the award is just emblematic of what goes on here and the reason we are the community we are, Dick adds.

Rewarding altruism

Many of Brooksby s most active volunteers appreciate the award, but refuse to take any personal credit for it. We were just one of many, says Joan Pappalardo,who attended the award ceremony with her partner and fellow volunteer, John Murphy. People do so much. I think we all contributed to this award, she adds. Among many other activities, Joan is one of three leaders of karaoke night at Brooksby. Additionally, she calls upon her expertise as a nurse while interviewing guests regarding health and medical topics on Brooksby s TV station and while serving as the RAC s medical liaison. It s so rewarding; it s unbelievable, Joan says of her volunteer work. Dick agrees: It s just something that keeps you interested and involved in things. You feel as though there s a modicum of change that you can exact and make the life of the community better. Many of Brooksby s volunteers have been lifelong volunteers, but they appreciate the additional time they have for volunteering in retirement and the opportunity it brings to meet new people. Edith was first inspired to nominate the people of Brooksby before she had moved there. She kept her finger on the pulse by visiting her sister, who had moved to the community first. I was so, so impressed with so many people giving so generously of themselves, Edith remembers. I thought these people deserve some kind of recognition.