The state Office for the Aging recently honored 94 older adults for their volunteerism, including Marlene Hathaway and Cheryl Wood of Saratoga County, as part of its annual Older New Yorkers’ Day celebration.
“The word ‘volunteer’ cannot capture fully the accomplishments of this group of incredible individuals,” OFA Director Greg Olsen said in his remarks at the event. “Older adults impress us all with their commitment to a greater good and a greater cause. You tell the real story of what’s good about people, what’s good about New York. Through your deeds and actions, time and again, you show us how valuable you all are to those you touch, to those you serve, to the families and communities and lives you make better.”
During Hathaway’s more than three years of volunteer services, the Mechanicville resident has contributed as a meal delivery driver, delivering hot meals to homebound seniors, and currently as a transportation assistant, driving older adults to and from medical appointments throughout the county.
She is also a Telecare caller, supporting a program that began during the pandemic as a way to connect with older adults who may feel lonely and isolated. Hathaway continues to make these calls, which provide vital social connection while also serving as a wellness check.
She has a lengthy history of volunteering with other organizations. Hathaway graduated from Shenendehowa High School and then entered the U.S. Air National Guard, where she served for 20 years before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. “It is so rewarding to volunteer with seniors,” she said. “There is such a need to help and I absolutely love doing it.”
Her nomination for the honor said “Marlene is the perfect example of what a volunteer should be. She has put the needs of others before her own and has dedicated her time and energy to volunteering in many different ways. Marlene has proven that she is dedicated to volunteering and truly cares for those in her community.”
Wood, of Gansevoort, helps older adults through the Saratoga County Department of Aging and Youth Services; volunteering at her church to aid local food pantries, schools, and charities; and showing compassion to those who suffer from dementia by creating tools to give them comfort.
As a member of the Saratoga County Department of Aging and Youth Services Advisory Council, she helps coordinate and volunteer at senior events. She also volunteers elsewhere in the community.
A graduate of Stillwater High School and Adirondack Community College, Wood worked as a registered nurse at Glens Falls Hospital for 43 years.
When asked her advice about volunteering and what she might say to other New Yorkers, Wood said, “Find something that suits your fancy. It’s out there and it’s worth it.”
As a group, older New Yorkers age 55 and over contribute more than 495 million hours of volunteer service each year at an economic value of $13.8 billion. The 94 volunteers recognized during OFA’s 2022 Older New Yorkers’ Day program live in 55 counties. Collectively, they represent 5,500 years of life experience and have volunteered for a combined 2,568 years of service.