Triumphant music resounded through the hall on Sunday afternoon, as moderator Linda Stolow played the moment for all it was worth, joking that she felt like a Price-Waterhouse representative at the Academy Awards.
The event wasn't the Oscars but it was pretty exciting to me. After six months of planning by Linda and Chia-Chia Chien of the Culture to Culture Foundation, the Senior Volunteers Awards were being presented.
Linda and Chia-Chia met with me in the spring to talk about their idea of recognizing senior volunteers - both to thank members of the older generation who are still serving others and to inspire more people to volunteer. We talked about how to spread word about the awards. They also asked me to be a judge, which I was happy to do.
After that Linda and Chia-Chia, who live in Danville and Alamo, traveled around the county making presentations at senior centers and asking, "What seniors do you know who go above and beyond in helping other seniors?"
The answer was 35 nominations for the four awards. We five judges met with Linda and Chia-Chia in June to determine the criteria, and after that everything was done digitally, with Linda providing us packets of the nominations.
One Sunday afternoon I curled up on my family room couch with the packet of nominations to pick out eight finalists. "Wow," I thought, reading the first one. The nominee drives a couple to their doctor appointments and shopping, plus helps prepare other volunteers in the Seniors Around Town program in Lafayette. "She certainly deserves to be one of the top eight."
Then I picked up the next one, which was Fran Britt, who has been involved with the Danville Senior Center for years, works at Prime Time at the Community Presbyterian Church, and is president of the Grandmother's Club. Yes, I've met her, and she certainly deserves to be recognized.
And on it went. I thought it was a coincidence that the eight best were right on top of the stack. Then I picked up No. 9. Hmmm. This one was just as good. I looked through the first eight again. I began to get concerned. And I changed my tactics.
I read through all 35 nominations, becoming thoroughly confused and exhausted by the unflagging energy of these senior volunteers. Don't these people know how to sit in front of the fireplace with a good book and enjoy their golden years? Maybe that's what they do with their evenings.
They volunteer in all capacities at senior centers, Contra Costa County Aging and Adult Services, at the Bay Area Crisis Center for Children, Guide Dogs for the Blind, or lending a helping hand to people who are a little further along in their "senior-hood."
Another Danville nominee was Barbara Matheney, who has served as president of the Danville Women's Club many times. She runs the clubhouse, making arrangement with the renters; she visits the sick, telephones them, cooks for them, and shares prayers with them. She gathers used greeting card fronts for one charity group, and collects stamps for another. She is the unofficial photographer for all the nonprofit events she attends. And she helps with the coffee and donuts program at St. Isidore's and launders the church linens. See what I mean about these volunteers? Sparky George of Danville was also nominated for his Hats Off America efforts for Gold Star families.
Finally I narrowed it down to eight, as did the other judges. Linda and Chia-Chia say it was unanimous. Then we narrowed it down to the four who were given the awards Sunday: Pat Dupont, Nora LaPointe, Tina Olton and Ray Zenoni. You can read more about them in the story on page 6.
The afternoon's festivities included singing, dancing and a wonderful buffet of Chinese food. If you ever get invited to anything presented by the Culture to Culture Foundation, go! The whole experience has been inspiring for me as I look forward to retiring and having time to help others as these 35 wonderful seniors are doing. Meanwhile I enjoy reading about them and writing about them.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.