Two AARP volunteers, Gloria Kovnot and Brenda Surae Eaton, were recognized by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Aging & Adult Services Agency in May as Senior Citizens of the Year. The annual award is given to leading community activists.
For Kovnot, 78, her service began more than 60 years ago, when she was a candy striper as a teenager.
“I think we have an obligation to help if we can,” said the Dimondale resident, who founded her township’s senior council and championed creation of Ingham County’s meal-delivery and other in-home services. She also lends her time to the Tri-County Office on Aging, the Michigan State University AgeAlive program and the local AARP Age-Friendly Task Force.
“I always get more out of it than I give,” Kovnot says.
Fellow AARP member Eaton, a retired primary care physician from Lansing, is another lifelong volunteer. She found spare time during her busy working years to lead wellness seminars at churches and neighborhood venues.
“Health care is my passion,” says Eaton, 72, whose activities in retirement include presenting at AARP diabetes seminars, serving in her church’s health ministry and volunteering at a food pantry. “My mother raised me to give back to the community through service.”
She’s looking ahead to a new project with the Metro Lansing Poor People’s Campaign, a social justice group that aims to turn a donated middle school into a resource center with a medical clinic and garden.
Eaton also chairs the seniors work group of the Protect Michigan Commission, an advisory group charged with developing outreach strategies to relay accurate COVID-19 information to communities that have vaccine hesitancy.
“Our agency is honored to celebrate the work of these two remarkable women,” said Scott Wamsley, acting senior deputy director for the state’s Aging & Adult Services Agency. “Their stories will undoubtedly inspire others, and hopefully encourage people to serve and to seek out ways to make a positive difference in their communities.”
In another nod to the impact of AARP volunteers, Joy Murphy, of Kentwood, was tapped to serve on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) Commission on Services to the Aging, where she will help approve grants and ensure that state agencies and budgets keep the interests of older residents at the forefront.
Murphy, 71, is a longtime AARP Michigan advocate with a passion for public policy.
“As an AARP volunteer, I have a working relationship with my legislators—being aware of what’s going on, making phone calls,” she says. “I’ve always been very interested in the process, so this is extremely exciting.”
Murphy is known to “show up at the state capitol with her ‘AARP red’ on,” says Jennifer Feuerstein, associate state director for AARP Michigan.
“She’s one of our leading volunteers, with so many talents,” says Feuerstein. “She onboards new volunteers, does presentations on various topics and contributes in many other ways.”
These exemplary contributors are just a few of the more than 260 individuals who keep AARP activities running throughout the state.
Interested in becoming a volunteer? There is no minimum level of commitment, training is provided, and opportunities are tailored to each person’s personal preference and schedule. There are activities that can be done both virtually and in person.
To learn more, contact Andrea Palmer at email@example.com or call 866-227-7448.
Melissa Preddy is a writer living in Plymouth, Michigan.
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