Having dedicated countless hours over five decades to volunteering with a variety of non-profit organizations in Toledo to help make life better for people in his community, Norman A. Bell Sr. is convinced that, “Nothing is more important than establishing and promoting helpful relationships.”
His fellow volunteers couldn’t agree more solidly. They unanimously selected him from among those nominated to receive the 2014 AARP Ohio Andrus Award for Community Service, the organization’s highest volunteer honor.
“You don’t make it alone in this world,” Norman says. “My feeling is always to try to give something back. People helped and reached out to me. It’s important to me to help make people aware of opportunities and benefits in their communities, to share information that can help fill the void, help fill unmet needs.”
AARP, with 1.5 million members in Ohio, is committed to honoring volunteers whose efforts are making life better in their communities. Norman, who has volunteered with AARP Ohio since 1990, was honored with this year’s award because his work embodies the service and spirit that is the legacy of AARP Founder Ethel Percy Andrus.
Norman was nominated for the Andrus Award by the Area Agency on Aging of Northwestern Ohio in recognition of his exemplary spirit and commitment to civic engagement with the RSVP Patrol, a collaborative program with the Toledo Police Department.
“Norman is a member of the volunteer class of 2001, the second group of volunteers trained for this program, and he is just as dedicated in 2014 as he was in the beginning to supporting a decent quality of life for older adults,” writes Sally Davis, the RSVP volunteer coordinator who nominated Norman for the Andrus Award.
RSVP Patrol volunteers make weekly visits to older citizens in their homes to combat isolation and provide companionship, socialization and emotional support while monitoring their well-being and safety. Davies reports the RSVP Patrol, whose members spend no less than 12 hours a month making home visits, has allowed 90 frail and vulnerable seniors to continue to live independently over the past year.
“Norman has demonstrated exemplary spirit and commitment to civic engagement in the Toledo community for over 50 years,” Davies noted in her nomination. “Norman has spent the past 27 years providing service with over 20 agencies and organizations. Norman’s fundamental beliefs include a desire to be part of the community by giving back through volunteerism and fostering positive relationships in the community as the basis of his service.”
He volunteered while he and Ora, his wife of 60 years, were rearing their five children, and became a full-time volunteer once he retired in 1987. Norman holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Southern University A&M, and a master’s degree in education from the University of Toledo, where he has served on the board and is active with the alumni association. He also serves on the Area Agency on Aging’s advisory board.
At age 82, Norman continues to be an active and willing volunteer for projects benefitting older adults and a strong advocate for enhancing benefits for seniors.
Davies wrote, “He tirelessly supports the development of a community that addresses our common need for dignity, respect, economic security, safety, accessible housing and affordable healthcare. Northwest Ohio is very fortunate to have a senior member of the community who represents the positive image of aging with a lifestyle defined not by age but by contributions that impact the future of all older adults.”