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AARP AARP States Ohio Volunteering

AARP Ohio Spotlights Outstanding Volunteers for 2023

Andrus Award

Introducing Ohio's Newest Andrus Award Recipient and 16 AARP Volunteer Honorees

It's been awhile since AARP Ohio had its Volunteer Awards Celebration in person. That's why AARP's 65th anniversary year was the perfect time to get back together post pandemic to honor this year's inspiring volunteer award recipients and celebrate outstanding volunteerism. The evening event took place Nov. 1 in Columbus.

The inspiration behind the awards was Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, AARP's founder. She urged older adults to redefine aging and engage in "the great army of service." She believed that by volunteering, they could make a positive difference where they lived.

AARP Ohio State Director Holly Holtzen emceed the event. Presenters included Clare Long, president of the AARP Ohio's Executive Council, and Leo Asen, AARP regional volunteer director.

2023 Andrus Award for Community Service

The annual Andrus Award for Community Service is AARP's most prestigious volunteer award. It recognizes exceptional individuals 50 and older who share their experience, talent and skills to enrich their communities in ways that reflect AARP's purpose, vision and commitment to volunteer service, as well as inspire others to volunteer. Only one volunteer (or couple volunteering together) per state can receive the award each year. Nominees can volunteer with any nonprofit organization.

The 2023 Andrus Award honoree is Sue Buddenenbaum, founder of Big Hearted Blooms in Cleveland. From her experience witnessing loneliness and isolation in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Sue met many people who needed an emotional lift. She created the nonprofit to surprise them with bouquets of recycled flowers and to make a personal connection. Sue recruited a corps of volunteers to help collect flowers from events and grocery stores that would otherwise be headed to the trash. They then break down the arrangements to make new bouquets and deliver them to those in need of an emotional lift. What started as Sue's passion project five years ago has impacted more than 30,000 individuals—mostly seniors.

2023 Andrus Award for Community Service for Ohio
Sue Buddenbaum, on right, is presented with the 2023 Andrus Award by AARP Ohio State Director Holly Holtzen.

Her nominator, Judy Kovach, said, “Sue’s passion is both contagious and inspiring. ...During the first year or two, she and her friends would show up at the end of weddings at midnight on Saturday nights to dismantle, pack and fill up their vans with thousands of flowers, so they’d have inventory for volunteers to work with the next day. Quite a feat for a group of seniors.”

2023 AARP Volunteer Recognitions

Making the Volunteer Award Celebration even more special was adding the New Volunteer and Emerging Advocate categories to the awards program. Many thanks for the outstanding efforts of these volunteers.

New Volunteer Awards
These individuals made a significant impact within the first two years of service in their communities, as well as bringing new energy to our volunteer teams:

  • Paula Cross of Willoughby Hills.
  • Margaret-Mary Davis of Maineville.
  • Sandy Harris of Pataskala.
  • Jane Korsberg of Solon.
  • Sandra Perry of Cincinnati.
  • Richard Yepson of Columbus.

Emerging Advocate
This award recognizes a volunteer who has stepped into AARP Ohio's advocacy work and made a meaningful contribution to the lives of Ohio's 50-plus population.

  • Krishna Jayakar of Groveport.

Spotlight Awards
These individuals have gone the extra mile, and whose work should be singled out and applauded.

  • Diane Byrd of Cincinnati.
  • Linda Feagler of North Ridgeville.
  • Tudor Fernando of Hilliard.
  • Diane George of Beachwood.
  • Sandy Houpe of Westerville.
  • Theresa Summers of Cincinnati.

Director's Award
Given to someone who has made a significant impact and/or shown volunteer leadership in a statewide capacity.

  • Joyce Madison of Gahanna.

Legacy Awards
AARP Ohio recognized two volunteers this year, with a decade or more of service each, and who have demonstrated ongoing volunteer engagement.

  • Mike Kessler of Powell.
  • Millie Stretenovic of Brecksville.

Previous recipients were Donelda McWilliams, Norman Bell, Ernestive Jackson and Earl Goldhammer.
Interested in becoming an AARP Ohio Volunteer? Please fill out our Volunteer interest form.

About AARP Ohio
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