Volunteers get accolades through recognition awards

by Mike Ceraso

You think COVID-19 was going to stop the Claremont Senior Program from appreciating their volunteers? Nope.

The city of Claremont moved its annual Volunteer Recognition Awards online, showcasing local heroes who work to improve the lives of others. 

Last year, nearly 7,000 people walked in and out of the Joslyn Center to receive community services from roughly 200 volunteers, who donated 13,500 hours of their personal time.

Nearly 50 years ago, Jil Stark helped found the Committee on Aging with like-minded pioneers. Ms. Stark also led the charge to create a senior nutrition program in 1970. The city honored Ms. Stark with the LA County Older American Award.

Mike Eschelmon served on the Committee on Aging for 10 years. Mr. Eschelmon’s volunteer work included helping to put in place a Claremont emergency preparedness plan for homebound seniors. He received the Muriel Farritor Award from the city, which was named to honor Ms. Farritor, a retired nurse who worked tirelessly on the city’s Committee on Aging before her death in July 2017.

The award is presented to a person or group that has contributed significantly to the senior program over a period of years. 

But they are not the only ones. Volunteers are the city’s backbone and lifeline. 

“A quiet, determined force of nature, always working to put things in order,” said Program Specialist Janice Masters, describing Joslyn Volunteer of the Year Award winner Rosa Perez. Ms. Perez volunteers every day at the Joslyn dining room, and is known to move through the space with grace and purpose. 

“We notice when she’s absent,” Ms. Masters said. 

Volunteers pack their cars with home cooked meals and deliver food to seniors confined to their houses even when a pandemic looms. 

Volunteers from the Kiwanis Club of Claremont, winners of the Extra Mile, Extra Smile Award, make sure the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank maintains steady support for the free grocery kits they deliver to vulnerable seniors. 

Claremont listens and watches when teachers like Over and Above Award winners Anita Zachary and Laura Hoopes empower seniors to unleash their inner Maya Angelou through courses like “Dynamic Creative Writing,” which they teach together at the Joslyn Center. 

The Over and Above Award is given in recognition of a community member, not on the Committee on Aging, who has contributed significantly to the Claremont Senior Program.

Seniors rely on Anena O’Brien and Charlene Hazleton, co-recipients of the Josephine Smith Award, to be on the ground, organizing people and raising money for big projects like renovation of the dining room and kitchen in the Joslyn Center. Ms. Smith was a COURIER columnist who wrote “On Aging,” a series of columns that focused on the issues Claremont seniors cared about.

Each December the city turns to Blaisdell Volunteer of the Year Award recipients Carol and Jeff Jenson to take off their pedestrian disguises and don their Mr. and Mrs. Claus persona. Without fail, they deliver cheer and smiles to seniors across Claremont. 

“They exude the gift of hospitality,” said Teresa Luce, program specialist at the Blaisdell Senior Center. 

Communities are at their strongest when residents come together to serve.



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