Elaine Baker, Ph.D., MSW, of Mound Bayou, is the 2012 AARP Mississippi Andrus Award for Community Service winner.
See Also: Read About Past Winners
As a longtime volunteer, advocate and community leader in the city of Mound Bayou and previously in Albany, Ga., Dr. Baker has displayed true altruism and dedication to the welfare of those who need it most.
Describing her desire to give back as simply being “a part of who she is,” Baker quickly grasped the concept of volunteerism as a young girl in the small town of Mound Bayou.
“Growing up as a child, I witnessed the lifestyle of the residents and people were always concerned with helping other people,” she said. “I learned people can act as a solution, not just a problem. As a child I was always willing to help anyone.”
With a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology from Tougaloo College and a plethora of other educational accomplishments, Baker admits her major provided a theoretical basis on the importance of volunteering. “Through my Sociology major, I received a theoretical understanding of the role people can play as citizens.”
Baker also earned a Masters of Social Work with a Community Organization concentration from Atlanta University School of Social Work. She earned the Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Public Administration from the University of Georgia with concentrations in General Public Administration, Organization Development and Health Care Administration.
With more than 50 years of volunteer experience, Baker has fought to raise the level of volunteer awareness among seniors; formed partnerships with cities through community conversations; and helped increase membership and educate citizens on the benefits and positions of AARP. Baker proudly states the oldest Mound Bayou chapter member is over 90 years old.
Baker, who is president of the AARP Mound Bayou Chapter, views her volunteer work as the rent she pays for being blessed to live. “Through volunteering you are able to network, meet a lot of people, learn to respect differences and aid others in becoming all they can be and the best they can be,” she said.
Baker goes on to explain why volunteering is vital to her while addressing its great rewards. “Volunteering is important to me because I have been given so much. Not in terms of economic gain, but through people, family, church families and teachers who went beyond the call of duty,” she said. “Students I taught in 1970 still share information with me, some even own organizations and call me to serve on their boards – it’s recycling!”
This year, she also is involved with The Get Out The Vote effort.
Recently, Baker has begun nurturing another effort. Through a recent meeting with Dwana Lyles, who works with the senior group at St. Gabriel Mercy Center in Mound Bayou, Baker expressed the need for an Alzheimer’s Support Group. As a result, Lyles has pushed for the creation of this group and its first meeting is set. “I have been locally distributing the flyers and am very excited about the upcoming meeting,” said Baker.
Baker said she has seen an increase in the number of volunteers in her community. She describes the mission as an ongoing task to keep people engaged. “We are really working to communicate with those approaching 50,” Baker said.
Baker is a Professor Emerita of Social Work at Albany State University in Georgia. Her teaching career spanned more than 30 years in the University System of Georgia and continued with post retirement adjunct appointments at Delta State University and Mississippi Valley State University.
In addition to this, Baker is a member of the Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church. Her other community involvement includes Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Mound Bayou Public Schools Alumni Association, NAACP, NCNW, and Tougaloo College National Alumni Association.