AARP Eye Center
AARP Maryland is honoring exceptional Marylanders aged 50-plus for their volunteerism and commitment to service. The awards were presented at a formal celebration October 17.
“This year's honorees exemplify the good that comes when we work together for positive social change,” says AARP Maryland State Director Hank Greenberg. “AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism and the important contributions volunteers make to their communities, neighbors, and the programs they serve.”
2022 Andrus Award for Community Service
If you drive through the historic town of Havre de Grace on a Saturday morning, you can’t miss them. Legions of smiling citizens equipped with orange buckets and litter grabbers out in force plucking refuse and cigarette butts from downtown streets, sidewalks and alleyways. Ranging in age from students to seniors, they are members of the Citizens Against Trash (also called the CAT Club), a community clean-up crew dedicated to keeping their hometown beautiful.
Havre de Grace businessman Al Peteraf founded CAT Club nearly a decade ago, after lamenting to friends about the litter strewn about the downtown area. Determined to do something about it, Al and his friends decided to meet on a regular basis to tackle the trash street by street. Word spread and more volunteers jumped in to help, including seniors, business owners, families, students and youth groups. Today, the CAT Club counts more than 100 volunteers, many operating as teams that “adopt a block” to maintain every week. The concept has now spread beyond Havre de Grace, with CAT Clubs popping up in neighboring towns and across county lines.
In nominating Al for the 2022 Andrus Award, Richard Freed said CAT volunteers are filled with a sense of pride and achievement. “Many of us are retired seniors who find it very rewarding to participate not just in keeping our city clean but the joy of making new friends along the way,” he wrote.
For his commitment to making Havre de Grace a clean and livable community for all ages, his generosity of spirit, and his embodiment of the values of AARP founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, AARP Maryland is proud to present Al Peteraf with the 2022 Andrus Award for Community Service.
Please join us in congratulating Al!
AARP Maryland State President’s Award
Ulessly Relf, Jr., better known as “Bernie,” is the backbone of the St. Camillus Food Pantry in Silver Spring Maryland, where he spearheads the effort to feed between 400 and 700 families every week, says Jean Guevera, the pantry’s volunteer coordinator. At 87 years old, he arrives first thing in the morning for one of four shifts each week, unlocking the pantry and pushing pallet jacks as food is delivered and overseeing operations.
Bernie supervises 60 volunteers a week, making sure each one feels valued and appreciated. He zooms around in his motorized wheelchair to make sure volunteers know what their task is for the day, from sorting and shelving food to preparing bags for pick-up. During the height of the COVID pandemic, when operations were moved outdoors for 19 months, Bernie remained on the job undeterred by the rain, cold and or blistering summer heat.
The people the pantry serves are mostly immigrants, many of them undocumented and thus unable to access government assistance, according to volunteer Patricia Kolar. In her nomination of Bernie, she wrote: “Bernie tries to assure that everyone is treated with dignity and along with others tries to provide a menu of food that is culturally appropriate and nutritionally balanced for those who are dependent on the pantry.”
Volunteer Christine Quinones says working with Bernie is an inspiration: “Bernie’s dedication and hard work is the backbone of our operation and keeps things running smoothly,” she wrote in her nomination. “During the pandemic, the need for food increased and the health and safety of our volunteers and clients became more important. Changes were constantly required to meet these goals.”
Bernie was born in Montgomery, Alabama and served in the United States Air Force for 21 years. Upon retirement from military service, Bernie was employed with the Safeway Food Chain for 24 years. He became a member of St. Camillus in September 1980.
For his selfless dedication to the St. Camillus community, his role as a mentor and inspiration to fellow volunteers, and his tireless commitment to feeding families in need, I am proud to present Ulessly “Bernie” Relf with the AARP Maryland President’s Award.
Please join us in congratulating Bernie for his continued service to the country and to his community!
With 860,000 members in Maryland, AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. AARP works to strengthen communities and advocate for what matters most to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also works for individuals in the marketplace by sparking new solutions and allowing carefully chosen, high-quality products and services to carry the AARP name. As a trusted source for news and information, AARP produces the nation's largest circulation publications, AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media