The 16th annual Golden Years Gala will be celebrated on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. The Gala recognizes senior adults for outstanding volunteer service in Clay County. This is a wonderful way to say, …
The 16th annual Golden Years Gala will be celebrated on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. The Gala recognizes senior adults for outstanding volunteer service in Clay County. This is a wonderful way to say, “Thank You!” by celebrating someone you know for their extraordinary efforts. The categories are as follows: Ernie Cohen Lifetime Achievement Award, Volunteer Man of the Year and Volunteer Woman of the Year. In addition to recognizing the nominees, we will be awarding the Shepherd’s Center Outstanding Service Award. 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 service.
The Gala will be held at Sullivan Hall, 7190 U.S. Highway 17 S, Fleming Island, Wednesday, May 25. Breakfast will be served at 8:30a.m. There will be a live and silent auction and awards program. Tickets are $50; please call (904) 269-5315 to order yours today. The event benefits Shepherd’s Center of Orange Park, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit which provides education for senior adults to improve their quality of life. The award-winning educational program focuses on health, wellness, art, information technology, and history.
A listing of the nominees and the Shepherd’s Center’s Outstanding Service Award winner with a summary of their activities follows.
Ernie Cohen Lifetime
Chris Baker has been a mentor to volunteers at The Clothes Closet and the Clay County Food Pantry (CCFP) for the past 23 years. She utilizes her skill in accounting, serving as treasurer for the CCFP. She maintains a database of volunteers, records donations, tracks grants received, coordinates with the Postal Service during their annual food drives, organizes a yearly yard sale to provide funding in support of the CCFP. She works with CCFP volunteers every Wednesday and St. Giles volunteers one Saturday each month to provide food for 50 or more families. Chris Baker also participates in St. Giles Sew & Sews, which provides dresses for little girls in Africa.
Norma Layton has been involved as an officer/leader/chairman in multiple organizations. These include: many committees at the Orange Park United Methodist Church since 1995, the Hope Bartlett Foundation, The Clothes Closet and Clay County Food Pantry, PEO International, Chapter GK, Miriam’s Basket, Inc., the Orange Park Woman’s Club, and 100+ Women Who Care. As a member of Nimble Needles, Norma helps make care items for Clay County Nursing homes and other facilities. She has assisted fundraising to aide the homeless, coordinates fundraising to benefit children in crises. She also serves on various committees at Orange Park Women’s club. She is always looking for opportunities to serve and is the person you can depend upon to do her best.
Cathie Grace Parrott serves the Penney Retirement Community (PRC), the Town of Penney Farms, the Penney Memorial Church, and the Green Cove Springs Rotary Club. She chaired many committees within the PRC including the Board of Governors, the J.C. Penney Scenic Highway Fund raising funds via the Old Fashion Farm Day, a 5K race benefitting deserving charities, the fund to assist PRC residents needing financial aid. She is also an instructor in PRC’s Arts & Crafts ‘pottery’ group, a member of PRC’s clothing repair team; a former aide to a foster children’s group, and initiated TLC, a church group founded to provide refreshments or meals following memorial (Celebration of Life) services. As a grant writer, she has successfully obtained funding for the J.C. Penney Scenic Highway, Highway 16, staging for the Martina C. Kohler Park, Penney Farms’ tennis and pickleball courts, and playground restoration for New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.
Millie J. Wilkes has been a resource for the Clay County Agricultural Fair for the past 20 years and the Middleburg Methodist Church as Director of the Food Bridge and Bread Basket programs. Millie served a six-year term on the board of the Clay County Agricultural Fair as Marketing Director, initiating the first dollar night on opening day, the first website, the first online ticket sales and first reserve seating for concerts. She now serves as an Honorary Board member, working where needed on audit, scholarship, budget, nominating, and was the first Superintendent of the Office Ticket Presale Booth. She worked for years as Superintendent of Exhibit Buildings. She not only works each day of the eleven-day fair until closing, but also helps with set-up and tear-down. Millie was honored as the 2020-2021 Volunteer of the Year Award for the Fair Association. At the Food Bridge, she helps with grant writing, coordinates food pickup, deliveries and volunteers. She processes new online applicants and renewals. She is there to help hand out 12,000 to 13, 000 pounds of food each Thursday to 225-275 families. During 2022, she volunteered 586 hours.
Dolores P. Williams has spent her time with the Phillipian Community Church, the Sassy Senior and Steppers, the Duval Academy Advisory Board, the First Coast Bid Whist Players, and the Jacksonville Jazz Society. Dolores serves on many committees in her church. She visits nursing homes visiting the sick, praying for them, and seeing they are entertained with song and music. The Sassy Seniors and Steppers entertain at nursing homes to lift residents’ spirits. Dolores is a volunteer and a performer. Monthly she serves on the board for Duval Academy Advisory that serves troubled youth, where they make food baskets and deliver the baskets, go on field trips, such as museums, football, and baseball games, and cleanup the community. With the First Coast Bid Whist Players she heads the annual toy drive for low-income children. They make Thanksgiving baskets to serve the homeless. The Jacksonville Jazz Society raises money to annually give $3,000 scholarships to three seniors that are jazz artists.
Woman of the Year
Deborah is a retired nurse who served for almost 50 years in Florida hospitals and home healthcare. She volunteers for Young Life’s childcare team and tends to babies and children of teen mothers. She is always ready to hold, rock, play, and love on these little ones. She creates a beautiful fun atmosphere where every mother feels confident leaving them in her care. Deb also volunteers at Young Life camps in Florida and North Carolina. She also spends Fridays at Bannerman Learning Center, volunteers at First Coast Women’s Services, and serves in the children’s ministry at Grace Anglican Church.
Robin spends numerous hours attending to various aspects involving The Salvation Army food pantry and food distribution. She stays busy organizing and dating non-perishable food items and filling brown bags for food distribution. Robin and her husband decorate and distribute over fifty barrels for food drive donations. Picking up donated food bags from Publix and Walmart is included in her volunteer efforts. She is trustworthy and reliable in her service to over five hundred individuals in Clay County serviced by The Salvation Army.
Teri is the Secretary of the Clay County Cruzers Car Club. This organization has over two hundred members. In 2022, Teri organized two car shows, raising money for charitable organizations. With her initiative, she led the Cruzers Car Club to raise $4,500 for scholarships to be used in the Clay County high schools. Another $15,000 was raised and donated to numerous charities. With her leadership and efforts, Teri continues to build more funds for the Clay County Car Cruzers Club charitable efforts.
For fifteen years Lorraine has volunteered for Aging True at the Middleburg Senior Center. She donates her time daily prepping and cleaning the kitchen and dining areas. She also assists with serving lunches and coffee. During Lorraine’s many years of volunteering at the Senior Center, she has demonstrated compassion and love to those she serves. Her presence is an inspiration and brings joy to all. She is a genuine soul and is constantly giving back to the community.
Robin McKenzie began volunteering her time for Haven Hospice ten years ago. She arrives in full Naval uniform and is a total blessing to the patients and their families. Robin is also part of the “No One Dies Alone” program. It’s here she uses her past nursing skills to bring comfort and peace to terminal patients. She also volunteers her time for the Bereavement Deptartment and has spent lots of time speaking with the families who are having difficulty with their grief. Robin also has a gift for making quilts and heart shaped pillows for the Veterans. The fabric comes from the branch of the military in patriotic colors. She also continues to take volunteers under her wing. Robin is a faithful member of St. Catherine of Sienna Catholic Church, Orange Park. It’s here that she’s known as a “Baker” for Bingo night. With all this said, Robin also plans to train as a Eucharistic Minister very soon!
Victoria is a stellar member of the community! Victoria’s passion is to help people anyway she can. Some of her volunteering involves a food pantry pick-up for the elderly; providing home baked goods, seamstress repairs; and provides donations for Bingo games. She also finds the time to volunteer at the Clay County Fair! Most importantly, she has been a great advocate for bereavement within the community and shares her time, kindness and patience when someone has had a death in the family and asks for nothing in return.
Susan was a nurse and served our country in the United States Navy Nurse Corps until she retired. She along with her dog, “Molly Mae” have been volunteering for the Clay County Humane Society for over five years. They visit nursing homes, schools, the Clay County Fair and other non-profit organizations like Challenge Enterprises and the Tim Tebow Foundation’s “Night to Shine” events. Susan is also on of the only three “Trauma Unit” teams that visits Trauma/ICU at HCA Orange Park Hospital. In addition, Susan volunteers at St. Vincent’s Pet Therapy program, is a founding member of the Jax Paws airport therapy teams and is considered a First Responder team through HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response, having deployed during the hurricanes this past year. Susan continues to recruit therapy dogs to become certified and inspires all those around her!
Runa is the joy of Bingo! Runa faithfully continues to be the heart and soul of Bingo three times a week at the Orange Park Senior Center! Runa always has a smile on her face and welcomes newcomers and visitors learning all their names for the next time. In addition to volunteering at the Orange Park Senior Center, Runa also volunteers at her church, Faith Community Church. She gives of her time in the nursery, assists with fundraisers, serves on the Welcoming Committee and on the fellowship ministry making for a valuable, loved and much appreciated member of the congregation.
Carolyn is a member of the Garden Club of Orange Park in addition to the Club’s Arrangers Guild. She’s also a Governing Board member of the Garden Club, the Chairman of the Birds, Butterflies and Bees Committee along with the District IV of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, and makes the most beautiful floral arrangements! Carolyn is also the past president of the Garden Club Whippoorwill Circle. The work of this Garden Club won a first-place award from the FFGC and the Deep South Region encompassing seven states. One of her passions is her community butterfly garden at Edgewater Landing, Green Cove Springs. Both adults and children enjoy the peaceful beauty of the butterflies. The garden has become a place for the neighborhood children to learn horticulture and the importance of protecting our environment.
Man of the Year
William “Bill” Hockenberry, a Salvation Army volunteer, is a great team player with a genuine passion to work endless duties to keep the organization running smoothly. He loads and picks up food donations every Friday, works at the HUB, organizes the walk in freezer and fridge, and works at the back pack outreach. He is just a phone call away and willing to step in when needed. Bill is very humble about his work and focuses on why he volunteers, which is clearly to make an impact in helping those in the community.
Larry Hollingsworth, a Pastoral Care volunteer at HCA Florida Orange Park Hospital for the past three years, he serves as a member of the hospital Patient Safety Committee and is one of three on-call chaplains for emergencies on nights and weekends. Larry consistently goes above and beyond in all that he does and exemplifies the type of volunteer service that so many of our Clay County seniors provide. Larry volunteers at the Food Pantry in Green Cove Springs recording donated and distributed food amounts. Larry, over the past six years, takes a blind Vietnam veteran to the YMCA three days a week. He is a regular blood platelet donor.
Mike Hourihane, a volunteer with the Clay County Cruzers, has led the organization to two car shows and other events which raised money for charitable donations in the county. With his initiative, Mike led the car club to raise over $4500 in scholarships for Clay County High Schools and $15,500 for local charity organizations.
Leland Taylor and his golden doddle Wyatt volunteer at the Care Center at Haven Hospice every day of the week and brings pleasure and peace to patients, families, and staff. Wyatt is called the “angel dog” as he often will help a patient transition if having a hard time letting go of this world. Leland became a volunteer in February of 2022 and in that time, he has spent 700+ hours visiting the Care Center at Haven Hospice. Leland and Wyatt share their time with sixteen other Care centers/schools across Northeast Florida.
Gary R. Wade
Gary gained his first experience in a leadership role within the Boy Scouts of America Organization in 1999. Starting with the Cub Scout Pack 25, he has held several positions within the K-5th grade age group of scouts, culminating in the leadership role of Cub Masters. Gary continues to serve Clay County as the District Eagle Scout Coordinator and the Charter Organization Representative.
Shepherds Center Outstanding Service Award
Hal Hill has been a volunteer instructor with the Shepherd’s Centers since 1996. He has taught line dancing every session since that time, 108 sessions! Line Dancing is one of the most popular classes at SCOOP, typically having an enrollment of 25 people per session. Hal shared that he told Jinee Ballou he would teach a few free classes for SCOOP, but only for a few weeks; look where he is 27 years later. Hal and his co-teacher, Lou Ann Simpson, kept teaching through the Covid shut down on the Zoom platform; he did everything he could to keep his students engaged and happy while they were shut in. Hal shared that teaching for free is more valuable than getting paid because he sees how SCOOP changes people’s lives for the better. He has had students join who have not danced in ages, who have slowed down both physically and mentally improve their lives through dancing. Hal owns A-1 Towing and Storage. This year Hal will be married to his wife Janet for 40 years. Together they have six children and five grandchildren. Hal is a native of Clay County, he was born at NAS Jacksonville Naval Hospital. SCOOP is blessed to have such a caring and dedicated volunteer!
The Shepherd’s Center is honored to tell these amazing volunteer stories and honor these volunteers at the Golden Years Gala.