Oco News

OCO recognizes its Volunteers at Annual Meeting

George Donahue Award

With more than 1,000 dedicated volunteers devoting their time and talent to Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) choosing a recipient for the agency’s Howard Wilcox Volunteer of the Year Award is a difficult task. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic presented OCO with a plethora of challenges and obstacles that at times seemed insurmountable. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of its volunteers and staff OCO continued to provide uninterrupted services to its consumers.

While the efforts of OCO’s volunteers were truly exceptional, several volunteers stood out for their willingness to continually go above and beyond and play an integral role in OCO’s ability to deliver services in spite of the pandemic.

George Donahue is this year’s OCO’s Howard Wilcox Volunteer of the Year Award, recipient, along with the tutors of OCO Literacy Volunteers. For the past eight years Donahue has been a volunteer for OCO Nutrition Services and has served the program in many capacities. Twice a week he delivers meals to those in OCO’s Home Delivered Meals Program in the Parish area. Prior to the pandemic, he assisted in operations at OCO’s Parish Dining & Activity Center. He and his wife engaged other seniors in activities and projects to bring social networking to the Parish community.

Donahue was recognized for his volunteer work as a driver for OCO’s Home Delivered Meals program and his assistance at OCO’s Dining and Activity Center in Parish.OCO Nutrition Services Coordinator Lori Halstead (l) and Support Services Manager Christine Parks (r) are pictured here presenting George with the award.

“George is the embodiment of our Home Delivered Meals program,” said Nutrition Services Coordinator Lori Halstead. “He is a caring and compassionate person, who is always willing to lend a hand to people in any way he can. He understands that delivering meals to homebound seniors is more than just a meal delivery. George recognizes that some of his clients have no social interaction and prior to the pandemic he would make time to engage in friendly conversation with the seniors. He enjoys sharing life stories and will relate to the seniors to brighten their day and make sure that they are safe and secure. Since the pandemic George continues to deliver a friendly smile and social distanced wave and hello with each meal.”

Donahue cherishes his work as a volunteer. Upon retirement he realized he was not ready to fully retire and wanted to continue helping others. “Volunteering has made a difference in my life,” said Donahue. “Anyone can be a volunteer and they should. It’s a great way to give back to your community. The world would be a better place if everyone took a small amount of time each week to help someone in need. I hope my experiences as a volunteer will make me a role model for children and grandchildren and that someday they too will carry on my legacy in the community and volunteer as often as possible.”

Kim Ryder, a registered nurse, is a volunteer with OCO’s Home Delivered Meals program and assists at OCO’s Dining and Activity Center in Central Square. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic Ryder would offer health tips and blood pressure checks at the dining and activity center as well as help serve meals, engage in activities and assist with cleanup. A strong advocate for seniors, Ryder has a passion for ensuring that seniors remain as healthy and active as possible. Her kindness and patience with those at the center is evident in the bright smiles on the faces of those she interacts with.

Jamie Thomson, a family member of Oswego Head Start Center Manager Teresa Lentzer, was recognized for a very special contribution to Oswego Head Start. “We were at Jamie’s house one evening and I noticed a chalk mural that he had done in his kitchen,” explained Lentzer. “We started talking about his artwork and his amazing ability to freehand so well. When I mentioned that we would love to have some art on the walls at Oswego Head Start to liven it up and make it even more child friendly Jamie volunteered right away and said he’d be happy to do so.”

Thomson spent many hours painting wall murals that featured a number of familiar storybook characters. “The children love to come in and be greeted by the colorful murals,” added Lentzer. “When they walk down the halls they can be heard asking their parents if they can read those books when they get home. Jamie’s interest in Head Start and his desire to help his community resulted in the creation of a fun and friendly school setting.”

“It’s truly amazing to think about the number of volunteers we have and the amount of time each devotes to helping us achieve our mission of empowering people, supporting the community and changing lives,” said OCO Executive Director Diane Cooper-Currier. “We greatly appreciate each and every one of our volunteers and we can’t thank them enough for all they do for OCO.”

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