For more than four decades, Helen Raisz of Farmington has worked to enhance the lives of Connecticut’s older residents and people with disabilities. A tireless advocate and self-described “scholar-activist”, Raisz has dedicated her volunteer career to developing and supporting options that enable people of all ages to live independently and with dignity and purpose.
See Also: Find a Volunteer Opportunity Near You
Raisz is the Connecticut recipient of the 2011 AARP Andrus Award for Community Service, the association’s most prestigious volunteer honor. The award, named after AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus, is the most prestigious award given by AARP to a community volunteer.
Raisz serves as a tireless advocate at the state and national level, educating elected officials and policymakers on aging and long-term care issues. She was instrumental in founding the Third Age initiative of Leadership Greater Hartford, a program that recruits retired individuals to give back to their communities through volunteerism. She sits on several Boards, including the Connecticut Coalition on Aging, Connecticut Elder Action Network, Connecticut Community Care, Inc and the Bristol Community Organization.
Raisz was recently honored during the annual AARP Connecticut Volunteer Recognition Luncheon. The event was attended by more than 160 people, who joined AARP Connecticut to salute those making a positive difference in the lives of Connecticut seniors and their families.
Some additional highlights and volunteer awards from the event:
Chapter of the Year: AARP Bridgeport Chapter #831
The AARP Bridgeport Chapter was instrumental in efforts to start a city-wide community supper initiative along with the area Council of Churches this past January. Members collect donations and help to set up, prepare and serve dinners five nights a week at local churches in Bridgeport.
The chapter also hosts annual food drives; collects donations for Home of the Brave - an organization that assists veterans; reads books to elementary schoolchildren; visits nursing home patients and makes friendly phone calls to check up on homebound seniors.
In addition to their community service work, the AARP Bridgeport Chapter is highly engaged in AARP Connecticut’s advocacy campaigns. Members take action: making phone calls to their legislators, signing and collecting petitions, and handing out educational materials at local events. With more than 80 members (and growing!), this chapter is making a positive difference in Bridgeport.
Outstanding Volunteer Specialist of the Year: Michael Klein
There’s an old adage – if you want something done, ask a busy person. Few exemplify this as well as Michael Klein of Huntington, a dedicated AARP Advocacy volunteer. Klein works with staff and fellow volunteers on key federal and state issues that impact older Connecticut residents and their families. Most recently, he delivered 16,000 petitions to the office of Congressman Jim Himes (D-CT4), urging him to protect Social Security and Medicare from potential harmful cuts.
Klein staffs information booths at community events, attends AARP-sponsored rallies, legislative hearings and educational forums, and meets regularly with local legislators. As the 4th Congressional District Advocacy Lead, Klein helps coordinate district activities and congressional meetings.
In addition to his advocacy work, Klein wears several more AARP hats. He is an active AARP Driver Safety Program instructor, and the chief volunteer trainer and coordinator in District 2. Klein is a member of the Board of Directors of his local AARP-sponsored Widowed Person Services (WPS) program, and co-editor of the monthly WPS newsletter.
Outstanding Volunteer Leader of the Year: Joseph Quinn
Joseph Quinn of Hamden began volunteering with the AARP Driver Safety Program (DSP) in 2007 as an instructor and in a short time has assumed a number of leadership positions. Widely admired for his strong problem-solving abilities, calm demeanor and strategic thinking, Quinn currently serves as State Coordinator for the DSP in Connecticut. He sets program objectives, coordinates implementation of program activities in the state and supervises other DSP volunteers.
Partner Program Volunteer of the Year: Betty Domer
Betty Domer has worked as a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Outreach Volunteer at Foodshare, Inc. since 2008. She helped design and implement a volunteer-run outreach program that screens clients for SNAP eligibility and assists them with the application process. Foodshare was a part of the AARP CT SNAP Outreach campaign last year and will continue in 2011.
Thanks to Domer’s determination, Foodshare’s outreach program has helped 1800 clients, completing more than 1000 SNAP applications over the past three years. As a Foodshare volunteer, Domer continues to offer SNAP application assistance at the Enfield Food Shelf each month and, in the wake of Hurricane Irene, she has helped process thousands of people applying for Disaster SNAP benefits.
Elected Officials Recognized for Leadership
In addition to thanking dedicated volunteers, AARP Connecticut recognized a number of state legislators for their leadership on issues of importance to older adults during the 2011 Legislative Session.
For pictures of the Volunteer Recognition Luncheon, visit the AARP CT Facebook page.