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Volunteers Honored for Service to Older Adults

A Grapevine man and a North Richland Hills woman who volunteer countless hours enriching the lives of older adults are the 2014 recipients of awards presented annually by United Way’s Area Agency on Aging. Ken Anderson and Rosa Gonzalez have received the Outstanding Older American Award and Outstanding Advocate for Older Americans Award, respectively. The honors were bestowed at a reception held at The Stayton in Fort Worth.

The Outstanding Older American Award honors an individual in Tarrant County who is at least 60 years of age and who continues to lead a dignified, independent, and productive life and to contribute to the community. The Outstanding Advocate for Older Americans Award honors an individual in Tarrant County of any age who exemplifies dedication to improving the quality of life for older adults in Tarrant County.

Outstanding Older American honoree Ken Anderson of Grapevine became the Lead Volunteer Coordinator for the computer lab at the Grapevine Senior Activities Center in July 2002. Under his guidance, about 32 other volunteers teach computer skills to people age 55 and older, many of whom have had little or no computer experience. Ken is responsible for quarterly scheduling and registration for classes, recruitment and orientation of new volunteer teachers and assistants, program development, software maintenance and administrative recordkeeping. The computer program is under the umbrella of the City of Grapevine Parks and Recreation Department. More than 1800 seniors have enrolled in classes since the computer program started in 1998. Computers, Ken says, “open up the world to seniors.”

Ken helped create a nonprofit organization called Friends of the Grapevine Senior Activities Center (FOGSAC) in 2004. The organization was formed to receive tax deductible gifts to improve technology, support recurring programs and further educational opportunities at the Grapevine Senior Activities Center. Ken has been president of FOGSAC since its inception and works diligently to find grants and write grant requests.

Rosa Gonzalez, honored as the Outstanding Advocate for Older Americans, is the Volunteer Executive Director for Social Transportation for Seniors (STS). STS is a service that uses volunteers to provide older adults in North Richland Hills with rides to the grocery store, bank, senior centers, church events, retirement centers, hair salons, barber shops and other places that foster social interaction for those at risk of losing their involvement in the community because they no longer drive.

Three days a week you will find Rosa in the STS office scheduling rides for clients, recruiting drivers, planning thank you events for volunteers and performing other duties. If a volunteer driver must cancel and a replacement driver can’t be found after making one or two calls, then Rosa herself will provide the transportation needed. Rosa fulfills her volunteer responsibilities while maintaining her status as an international purser for American Airlines. She seamlessly balances the two roles. It’s not unknown for her to answer her cell phone for an STS matter while in an airport in Brazil. It’s little wonder, then, that Rosa has been called “the heart and soul” of Social Transportation for Seniors.

The Area Agency on Aging invited agencies, organizations and business leaders and their employees to nominate deserving volunteers for the awards. Other nominees included Alene Washington for Outstanding Advocate and Rosa Arroyo, Kay Blanding, Adell Campbell, Ernest Paul Doclar, David Killen, the late Richard Kirk, Mrs. Tommie Moon and Vicky Otterman for Outstanding Older American.

United Way and its Area Agency on Aging work year-round to promote healthy aging and independent living in Tarrant County.