DRACUT — If not for the Dracut Council on Aging and the many programs it offers, life for many senior citizens would consist of sitting home alone, watching television all day.
But the Dracut senior center could not run without a bevy of volunteers, seniors themselves, but young at heart and ready to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to provide a vibrant, welcoming and nurturing atmosphere. Eighty people were honored June 20 at the annual volunteer awards luncheon, which featured speeches, food and music by The Comeback Kids.
“Many of you have told me over the years that without this place, you probably would not be around,” said Executive Director Joyce Shadan, in presenting the awards. “This place is full of energy, vitality and friendship, and that really is all you need to make this place a place away from home.”
The senior center served in more than 1,700 people in the past year. More than 100 volunteers have donated 20,000 hours of their time.
“Because of your work, your compassion, nobody has to feel alone and nobody does feel alone,” Shadan said. “I’ve watched with tremendous pride as you welcome new faces and make them feel comfortable.”
State Rep. Colleen Garry and state Sen. Sue Tucker were on hand to present citations to the group.
“This building becomes a home for many,” said Garry. “I can’t begin to name all the ways you contribute to the community. You provide friendship and help. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as sitting down and talking to somebody when they come in.”
Several in the crowd were given individual awards, including members of the Dracut police’s Community Policing Unit for its vigilance in looking out for the seniors. Barbara Dickinson was recognized for recently being honored by the New England Patriots as a 2007 Community MVP. Dickinson donates a minimum of 20 hours a week in assisting senior citizens in Dracut. A $1,500 grant to Community Teamwork Inc. of Lowell was presented in her name.
“And she is all ours,” said Shadan.
Dickinson, who has lived in Dracut since her teen years, was among the those honored by the Patriots during a reception at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. In addition to the Community MVP Award, the Patriots presented a $1,500 grant to Community Teamwork Inc. of Lowell in her name.
Even a certain newspaper reporter received a volunteer award for holding a writing seminar in February in preparation for the Council on Aging’s Legacies Essay Contest.
In a departure from the norm, the Volunteer of the Year Award went to five individuals — Omer Matte, Lorraine Nault, Gert Frechette, Gert Harrington and Claire Laforge. They were all honored for their outstanding work in and around the center, but especially for their work helping prepare and serve meals.
“I’ve always said that this is the brightest building in Dracut,” said Sen. Tucker. “And not just because of the color of the walls or the flowers or balloons. It is all of you who make this place very special. I’m am always happy every time I have the occasion to come here.”
Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.