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Each year, AARP recognizes it’s outstanding volunteers for their good work and selfless service on behalf of others.  This summer we took a cruise on the Connecticut River (alas, on a very rainy day!) as a small way to say “thank you” to our dedicated corps of volunteers. Without their dedication, we couldn’t accomplish our mission.  Read more about our 2013 Andrus Award winner, and other outstanding volunteers who are making a difference, right here in Connecticut…

AARP Andrus Award for Community Service — Dr. Darla Shaw

The AARP Andrus Award for Community Service is named for founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus and is AARP’s most prestigious volunteer award. We’re pleased to honor Dr. Darla Shaw of Ridgefield, CT as this year’s Andrus winner in Connecticut for her extensive volunteer work and the significant impact her efforts have had on individuals, her community and beyond.

At age 75, Dr. Shaw still works full-time and has no intention of retiring.  She has been a teacher and educator for more than 56 years and currently serves as Professor of Education and Reading Program Coordinator for the Master’s Graduate Education Degree Program at Western Connecticut State University.  Three years ago, Shaw helped co-found, with Dr. Scott Russell, The Alzheimer’s Awareness Program in the Schools.  The first program of its kind in the nation, the Program helps teach students in grade 3 through college age about Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on individuals and families.  Through the Program, students have organized fundraisers to support Alzheimer’s research, helped raise awareness of the disease in the community and advocated for public policies.

In addition to her work in the public schools, Dr. Shaw has helped initiate new programs that serve older adults in the community and help bridge the intergenerational gap between young people and seniors.  She is also an accomplished musician and writes articles touting the work of local seniors for the newspaper.  Dr. Shaw also started a Dyslexia Support Group for Adults and volunteers as a certified counselor in domestic violence and sexual abuse.  She has initiated successful education and mentoring programs in the local community that are helping women take charge of their lives and move forward in ways that can lead to positive futures for them and their children.

Dr. Shaw’s commitment to helping others goes beyond her local community and the state of Connecticut.  Over the years she has organized and led numerous international humanitarian missions to raise funds for orphanages and increase literacy among children and adults throughout the world.  She recently returned from a trip to Bulgaria this summer where she worked to raise funds and develop programs for a local orphanage.

Outstanding Volunteer Leader of the Year – Jim O’Brien

According to AARP State Director Nora Duncan, “Jim has shown a strong interest in AARP issues and has increasingly taken on more and more responsibility as a volunteer. His strong leadership skills and commitment have helped expand AARP’s outreach and presence in local communities and have been instrumental in helping us achieve AARP’s legislative priorities and advancing the Association’s overall mission and vision in Connecticut.”

Jim, who resides in Cheshire, currently serves as Chairperson of AARP’s volunteer Advocacy Leadership Council, a responsibility he took on in 2012.  In the position, he leads monthly meetings of up to 40 AARP volunteers who work with staff to advance the Association’s state and federal legislative priorities, provide community presentations on topics of interest to older adults, and recruit and train other volunteers.

Jim also serves as the 5th Congressional District leader, coordinating volunteer activities in the district and regularly meeting with federal and state elected officials.  Jim also helps lead AARP volunteer advocacy efforts at the State Capitol and has served as a media spokesperson on various AARP priority issues.

Outstanding Volunteer Specialist of the Year – Byron Peterson

Peterson, a resident of Shelton, is a current member of the AARP Connecticut Executive Council, an all-volunteer body that helps advise and set priorities for the state office.  In addition, he is active in the local AARP Shelton Chapter where he serves as Legislative Liaison.

Peterson began volunteering with AARP in the fall of 2012, and has quickly become an active and invaluable member of the AARP Volunteer Advocacy Leadership Council, where he supports the legislative and advocacy efforts of AARP at the community, state, and federal level to help improve the quality of life for older people.  He meets regularly with local elected leaders and has provided testimony at the State Capitol on AARP-supported issues related to aging and utilities.

Byron also was active in AARP Connecticut’s voter education efforts during the 2012 election season, contacting legislators to solicit responses for AARP’s Voter Guide, and helping to organize a 4th Congressional District Candidate Forum in Bridgeport.

Chapter of the Year – Apple Valley Southington Chapter #4943

The Apple Valley Southington Chapter of AARP celebrated its 19th year in 2013 and currently boasts more than 200 members.  The Chapter serves Southington and its surrounding communities and encourages involvement of AARP members in service to those in need in Southington.

The Chapter participates in monthly drives that collect items for donation to the Rocky Hill Veterans Home, as well as troops serving overseas.  Members also consistently save and bring box tops, labels, soda and can tabs to their monthly meetings to be donated to local schools.

Chapter members also regularly donate used books to the American Legion Auxiliary, which uses the proceeds from the sale of the books to support literacy programs in local schools.  Chapter members also provide support for Southington’s Bread for Life program and funds two annual $500 scholarships for local graduating seniors.

In addition, Chapter members regularly meet with local legislators and help advocate on issues important to Connecticut’s elderly population at the state Capitol in Hartford.

The Chapter will be honored with a local ceremony in their hometown on September 26.

Are you interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities with AARP?

Please email Elaine Werner at ewerner@aarp.org or call 860-548-3169.

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