Last December, AARP Ohio held its 2022 Volunteer Awards Celebration to recognize and appreciate volunteers who go above and beyond in their communities. The virtual event honored nine individuals who are making a difference in their communities and in Ohio.
AARP founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, urged individuals 50-plus to redefine the aging process and engage in “the great army of service.” She believed older adults who volunteer in their communities can inspire changes that will collectively strengthen the voice of the aging population.
Julialynne Walker of Columbus was selected for AARP Ohio's most prestigious award, the Andrus Award for Community Service. A community activist with a passion for urban farming, she believes everyone should have access to nutritious, affordable food.
Walker lived and worked in various African countries for many years. When she returned to this country, she ultimately turned those experiences into a vibrant volunteering role in Columbus' Near East Side neighborhoods.
Walker is the manager of the Bronzeville Growers Market and the principal facilitator for the Bronzeville Agricademy, an online gardening community with over 200 participants. She also volunteers for the Bronzeville Urban Growers, a corridor of backyard growers across the Near East Side, and serves as a mentor to area gardeners, currently comprised of 24 family gardens and five community gardens.
Last summer, Walker piloted an urban farm summer experience for area high school youth, which involved supervising high school students under a city of Columbus summer work program. The students got $12 an hour to weed, water and pick vegetables in the community gardens. The vegetables were then sold at a nominal fee to local residents.
In addition to her grassroots volunteer efforts, Walker developed a seven-month course in urban farming to address food deserts in Central Ohio. USDA's Farm Service Agency sponsored the class.
According to her nominator, Ernestine Jackson, an AARP Ohio Executive Council member from Columbus, it's inspiring to hear local residents express their appreciation for learning how to raise food in and around their home. For others, she says, "the appreciation is being able to get fresh vegetables for free or at a reduced price close to home."
This annual recognition highlights the extraordinary work of AARP Ohio volunteers. This year, we chose six individuals who went the extra mile to ensure our programs were successful.
A resident of Mason in Warren County, Cheryl Burden was recognized for her willingness to jump back into community-based events earlier this year. She was instrumental in maintaining AARP’s presence at the Cincinnati Music Festival and is involved in planning our first in-person event in 2023—the MLK Living the Dream Awards Breakfast.
Tara Harris, who lives in Mason, didn’t miss a beat to help the Cincinnati team set up at the Cincinnati Music Festival and Black Family Reunion. She used her skills to connect with audience members, promote our mission to her community, and recruit new volunteers to our ranks.
Advocacy volunteer, Veronica McCreary-Hall of Mason, has been instrumental in our Better Access, Better Care cohort work, as well as in our successful efforts to pass House Bill 23, which will provide dementia training to Ohio’s first responders. This year, she stepped into her role as a new member of our Executive Council.
Linda McKenzie continued commitment to AARP and her community was demonstrated throughout the year for her work at the Cincinnati Music Festival and early volunteer recruitment events. Her leadership in our renewed Movies For Grownups presence in Southwestern Ohio has supercharged the Cincinnati volunteer team.
Wanda Owens hails from Cleveland Heights. As a committed advocacy volunteer leader, she attends advocacy volunteer meetings and shares important information with the Cleveland and Northeast Ohio teams. Her work developing legislative profiles on several Ohio Congressional members has been invaluable.
Millie Sretenovic, who lives in Brecksville, has provided leadership on every town hall event this year, ensuring the 50-plus in Ohio receive timely and relevant information on key issues. She recruited phone screeners and swiftly addressed the questions of callers. She also volunteered at many in-person outreach events. This year, she branched out to become a Tax Aide volunteer with the AARP Foundation.
This year’s recipient is Westerville resident Steven D’Ambrosio, who has been a volunteer with AARP Ohio for 16 years. He has volunteered for several roles, including as a presenter for our speakers bureau, an advocate, and a volunteer leader. Not only did he provide leadership with thoughtful input to strategies and tactics, he also volunteered at local events, from small health fairs to the Ohio State Fair and Columbus Pride Parade.
This year’s honor is being presented to a tireless advocate for the 50-plus and a champion for equity, Semanthie Brooks. As a 6-year member of the Executive Council, Semanthie has helped lead our strategic planning by pushing us to think outside the box. While she’s from Macedonia in Summit County, you were just as likely to see her on television talking about the Ohio Caregiving Act, making Medicare Part D presentations across the state or encouraging guests to spin the prize wheel at the State Fair.
To learn more about volunteering with AARP Ohio, visit our volunteer page.
This story is provided by AARP Ohio. Visit the AARP Ohio page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.
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