Expo honors golden years
by Sherrie Norris
For more than a decade, the Adult Services Coalition of Watauga County has hosted the event with a trifold purpose, to heighten community awareness of available services, to identify and address needed unavailable services and to develop a networking system for citizens and agencies in the community, said Linda Bretz, chairwoman.
Dozens of seniors participated in the informative, fun-filled event in their honor, with various agencies from around the High Country showcasing the services they provide.
This year's event was a great success, organizers said.
"We have 50-plus vendors here this year," Bretz said. "We are so excited about the participation and about the community response that we're seeing here today."
Coalition board member Jackie Roberts said it was refreshing to see so many different organizations represented and to know that the High Country has such a broad selection of services to offer its senior population.
From 10 a.m. until about 3 p.m., the mall was transformed into a festival-like atmosphere. The Celebration of Living Awards were presented at noon by members of the coalition, with the assistance of emcee Tim Baxter.
Celebration of Living
A highlight of the expo each year is the presentation of the Celebration of Living Awards, given to "very special and deserving individuals," Bretz said.
Burga Steele of Boone was recognized as the 2013 Caregiver of the Year.
"She's unable to attend because she's busy doing what she's being awarded for -- taking care of others," said Julie Getty, who accepted the award on her behalf.
In her nomination of Steele, Ashley Wright said that Steele is an inspiration to those who know her and, in particular, to her special-needs children. One of her children resides at Glenbridge Health and Rehabilitation, where Wright is a social worker; the other lives at home with her full-time assistance."
"Burga visits her daughter at the facility daily and takes her home often for meals and visits with her sibling," Wright said. "Burga is always quick to respond to the needs of her daughter at Glenbridge.
She maintains a positive demeanor and attitude and always displays compassion for her daughter and all those around her."
Charlotte Stanley, a resident of Appalachian Brian Estates, was named "Centenarian of the Year."
Stanley was nominated by Anna Day, volunteer coordinator for Medi-Home Health and Hospice.
"Mrs. Stanley is a very sweet and active lady at the age of 102," she said. "She is involved with activities held at Appalachian Brian Estates and always enjoys sharing about life with those around her and with her many visitors. She still participates in daily exercise classes and frequently goes to the beauty shop and 'out on the town,' with her family. She maintains a strong will and spirit and brightens up the corner wherever she is."
Ruby Bodenhamer, who makes her home at Deerfield Ridge Assisted Living Center, was named "Resident of the Year," based on a nomination from staff member Jennifer Teague.
"I have gotten to know Ruby as the kind and caring woman that she is," Teague said.
Referring to her as "the ideal community member," Teague said that Bodenhamer, "a resident ambassador," is always first to welcome new residents and is always willing to help them in any way she can."
John Albright of Blowing Rock was named "Volunteer of the Year," following a nomination from Anna Day.
"Mr. Albright is involved in several community organizations, is a volunteer with Medi-Home Health and Hospice, as well as with the Guardian Ad Litem program, with his church and with the Blowing Rock Rotary Club. He retired 12 years ago and has since devoted his time to his family -- especially his grandchildren --and to community service. He is always willing to help with any need that he knows about and helps our organization in many ways, such as helping in the office, helping move our clients from one residence to another, sitting with hospice patients, helping with memorial services and assisting with Camp Sunshine. He also involves his family in other community service opportunities. Ours is just one of several groups blessed to have such a caring individual lending a hand. We wouldn't know what to do without him."
Virginia Driver, nominated by Anna Day and Ashley Hampton, was named "Individual with Disabilities of the Year." Dealing with various developmental and physical limitations, some as a result of an earlier injury, Driver is unable to use her hands and has difficultly lifting.
She was admitted to the transitions program of Medi-Home Health and Hospice one year ago, from which she has since graduated through determination and working closely with community resources, Day said.
As a former employee of Watauga Opportunities, Driver now spends time there as a volunteer. She also loves to visit with others at Watauga County Project on Aging. She is a very caring person who always tries to help others. She is hoping to become more actively involved in the community and to volunteer at other locations, according to Day.
Special recognition was given by their fellow coalition board members to Richard "Dick" Hearn and his wife, Joan, who volunteer many hours of their time each year to many organizations benefitting their senior peers and others of all ages.
"Dick and Joan are a blessing to Watauga County," said Bretz, on behalf of the coalition. "They advocate continually for the less fortunate and underserved populations in the community. They support many fundraising activities and never fail to offer their assistance on new programs or projects. The Hearns are a fine example of what it means to be actively engaged and committed to their community."