Finalists selected for Shepherd Center’s Golden Years Gala awards

For Clay Today
Posted 4/7/21

ORANGE PARK – This is the 14th time the Golden Years Gala recognizes senior adults for outstanding volunteer service in Clay County. What a wonderful way to say “Thank You!” by celebrating …

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Finalists selected for Shepherd Center’s Golden Years Gala awards


ORANGE PARK – This is the 14th time the Golden Years Gala recognizes senior adults for outstanding volunteer service in Clay County. What a wonderful way to say “Thank You!” by celebrating someone you know for their extraordinary efforts. The 2020 categories are as follows: Lifetime Achievement, Volunteer Senior Man of the Year and Volunteer Senior Woman of the Year. In addition to the nominees, we will be honoring the Shepherd’s Center’s Volunteer of the Year. Senior adults are important to the community. They are a generation of high values, strong work ethic, commitment, integrity, generosity and loyalty. Seniors are a wonderful example to all, showing that true fulfillment is to share their time and talents through serving.

This year’s Golden Years Gala will be held at Sullivan Hall, 7190 U.S. Highway 17 S., Fleming Island, on Wednesday, May 5. Breakfast will be served at 8:30 a.m. with live auction and awards program. Tickets are $50; please call (904) 269-5315 to order yours today. The event benefits The Shepherd’s Center of Orange Park, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which provides services to improve the quality of life and longer independence of hundreds of senior adults in Clay County through award-winning educational programming and events focused on health and wellness.

A listing of the five honorees and the Shepherd’s Center Volunteer of the Year with a brief summary of their activities follows.

Lifetime Achievement honoree

Esther Lee. Esther volunteers at The Food Bridge of the Middleburg United Methodist Church, The Shepherd’s Center of Orange Park, the Clay County Extension Office, Middleburg United Methodist Church serving on two committees, Florida Home and Community Educators Association and the Clay County Fair.

Esther works four days a week at the Food Bridge of the Middleburg United Methodist Church where they distribute about 200 bags of groceries every week to families in need. During this pandemic, the need has greatly increased. She has served on the Board of the Shepherd’s Center of Orange Park, and she also teaches classes covering her travels and nutrition. Ester serves as the Chair of the Staff Parish Relations Committee at Middleburg UMC and serves in the Trustees and Finance Committees. She teaches evening Adult Bible Study Class. She worked with other volunteers at church to create and teach crafts once a month at Cookie Crunchers, a Sunday afternoon class for children. She helps organize speakers and sometimes serves the lunch at the JOY Club. As a member of the Florida home and Community Educators Association. she serves as editor of their newsletter and has presented workshops at several of their state conventions.

Man of the Year honorees

Elmer Posick. Elmer Posick is a long-time volunteer in the community. He volunteers for the James Boys Bicycle Ministry at the Orange Park United Methodist Church, James Boys Ramp Ministry at the Orange Park United Methodist Church and is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediator in the County Court Mediation Program, 4th Judicial Circuit.

At the James Boys Bicycle Ministry, he is the director of the program as well as a regular worker there. He rebuilds donated bikes and distributes them to needy and homeless children and adults. In 2020, 409 bikes were distributed. Elmer coordinates 18 volunteers at the bike shop. This year he organized an event at Orange Park United Methodist Church where 247 bikes were given away. He works with the Clay County School Resource staff to provide bikes to students in need throughout the year. As crew chief at James Boys Ramp Ministry, he assisted in building 54 wheelchair ramps for those in need.

Mike Youngblood. Mike is currently Board President of Clay County Habitat, a position which he assumed three years ago. Mike Youngblood came on as a Habitat for Humanity, Inc., board member when he retired from a successful career as a Publix executive five years ago. In addition to Habitat, Mike volunteers at St. Vincent’s Clay County and at Waste Not, Want Not. He also volunteers with Urban Plunge at St. Catherine’s Church and with Coffee House, a church youth group.

Since accepting the role of Board President of Clay County Habitant, he has learned every aspect of operations by volunteering in each department. He has worked on construction, served on committees, made home visits, reviewed financials, and helped with remodeling the ReStore. Armed with comprehension and commitment, he has led the charge of getting the staff energized and the board and engaged and committed to making some much-needed changes for the organization. Mike meets with the Executive Director weekly for planning and status updates. He is the liaison between the board a community. He leads, supports, and keeps the board apprised of the health of the organization. He and the board members provide guidance, governance, and stewardship for the organization.

Woman of the Year Honorees

Margo Hay. Margo started as a Patient/Family Volunteer with Community Hospice and Palliative Care of Northeast Florida in 2004 and has made a significant difference in the lives of countless patients, their families and the staff by visiting with patients, allowing their caregivers to take a well-deserved and needed break. From the beginning, Margo has been a very active volunteer with both adults and children. Her outgoing personality makes her a wonderful ambassador, and her lifelong passion to help others is a constant source of inspiration to all who meet her.

Margo has completed specialized training and provided service as a Spiritual Care Volunteer, PedsCare Volunteer, Complementary Care Volunteer, and Ambassador. As a Spiritual Care Volunteer, she brings comfort to bedbound patients who sought this support. She drove across the five-county service area delivering holiday gifts for the PedsCare patients and food baskets to those patients who need assistance. As a Complementary Care Volunteer, she has learned about the benefits of music therapy, hand massage and Reiki. However, her true calling is as an Ambassador; Margo has helped encourage people who were interested in becoming volunteers.

Doris Wellner. Two years after relocating to Orange Park from South Dakota, Doris began her outstanding volunteer career with Auxiliary at Orange Park Medical Center. She initially worked in the Cancer Resource Office and the Pink Ribbon Symposium. In 2011 she was elected as First Vice President, and important leadership position where she works tirelessly over countless hours interviewing prospective auxiliary members. During her tenure, the Auxiliary membership grew over 50 percent. Presently during Covid she is volunteering in Guest Services and Employee Health. Doris has spent 8000 hours volunteering at OPMC.

In addition to her auxiliary work Doris volunteers with the Orange Park Clothes Closet. She assists with the “Pink Ribbon Symposium”, volunteers for “Relay for Life”, collects gifts for the annual Salvation Army “Angel Tree” drive and helps with worship service at St. Giles Presbyterian Church. From 2010 to 2020, Doris was very involved with H2U Health to You monthly health seminars. In her H2U roll she oversaw the Christmas Fashion Show. To keep busy during Covid, she started a mini walking club in her neighborhood.

Shepherd’s Center Volunteer of the Year

Suzanne Tower. Suzanne joined the Shepherd’s Center as a member in 2009. She immediately immersed herself in all aspects of the organization. She brought her bright smile, positive demeanor, and can-do attitude to all areas of the organization. Suzanne has served on the board of directors of SCOOP for eight years; holding the positions of secretary and currently chairman of the board. During this extraordinary year, Suzanne has tackled breast cancer while steering the board through the pandemic. When Suzanne is not doing board work, she is the number one cheerleader for SCOOP’s Adventures in Learning Program. Suzanne is constantly searching for new instructors and classes. She encourages community members to join AIL as well, constantly bringing in new members. Suzanne has been an avid champion of this past year’s move of classes from an in-person format to a virtual format on Zoom. She even signed her husband up to facilitate the Current Events class. She has encouraged and cajoled members to join the virtual classes. Suzanne encouraged board members to reach out to our members through bi-monthly phone calls; these calls checked on the member’s health, asked if they needed anything and offered a much-needed telephonic hug while we were quarantining.

You would think with all she does for SCOOP she would be resting. Oh no, not Suzanne. Suzanne is active in the local NARFE chapter, serving as the chapter president. Prior to her cancer diagnosis, she was a dedicated plasma donor with One Blood. Suzanne also serves on the Golden Years Gala committee. She stitches, yes, I said stitches, an amazing cross stitch art piece for each year’s Gala auction. Her stitched pieces bring high bids every year. In addition to stitching an auction item she gathers many other items in the community, always making sure the auction is a success. Suzanne understands the value of lifelong learning and social interaction for older adults. She does everything possible to advance the mission of the Shepherd’s Center: assisting seniors by enhancing their quality of life through educational programming, intellectually, physically, socially and spiritually.


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