2015 Andrus Award for Outstanding Community Service
Verteal “Vertie” Patterson
Congratulations to Vertie Patterson! AARP enhances the quality of life for all as we age, and Vertie is a true champion when it comes to delivering that message. A Warwick resident, who attended Johnson & Wales University and Rhode Island Community College, Vertie is a long-time member of the AARP State Legislative Committee and was a major asset to the AARP Warwick Chapter. After the Warwick Chapter closed, Vertie and its co-founder (Charles Dress, last year’s Andrus Award recipient) strategized alternative options and shortly seized on the opportunity to launch the AARP Community Group to continue to engage Warwick seniors in the work of AARP.
She has endless energy and is the first to volunteer to help at community events. Devoted to improving her hometown for seniors, she donated her time as a three-term secretary for both the Warwick Association of Affordable Assisted Living and Friends of the Warwick Seniors. She uses her talents and skills as a volunteer for the Mayor’s Advisory Commission on Disabilities and West Bay Community Action/RSVP. She was appointed to the accreditation committee, which was responsible for obtaining the certifications for Buttonwoods Community Center and the Pilgrim Senior Center.
Vertie is the consummate cheerleader for AARP, speaking up about the organization’s important advocacy and community outreach work as well as advocating for the 50+ community. One of her strengths is calling and writing letters of support to R.I.’s Congressional delegation regarding bills that benefit seniors and those with disabilities. As an ambassador for AARP, her efforts to encourage people to volunteer, and the good deeds she is known for doing for Rhode Island’s nonprofits all embody the true spirit of AARP’s founder Ethel Percy Andrus.
Advocacy Carlo Gamba
For decades, Carlo, a retired teacher who holds a Bachelor’s from Providence College and a Master’s from Rhode Island College, has dedicated his time to AARP as a volunteer and a State Legislative Committee participant. He provides outstanding work educating seniors on how to protect themselves from identity theft, investment fraud, or other telephone, email, and online scams. Carlo has become an avid volunteer spokesman for AARP’s free service called the Fraud Watch Network. He travels around Rhode Island leading workshops and informing residents on the latest scams. He uses his teaching acumen to reinforce prevention tips; explain the latest breaking scams; listen to people as they share their experiences; and ensure they sign up to receive “watchdog” alerts. In addition, he attends senior expos and other outreach events to grow the community of smart and informed citizens who are taking action to protect themselves, their families, and others.
Carlo is a U.S. Army Korean War Veteran. He served three terms as president of the R.I. Retired Teachers Association and worked as an elementary school teacher in Coventry; a Principal in Foster and Cranston; and Director of Grants for the Cranston Public Schools. He has gone above and beyond the call to duty in helping others learn how to combat against con artists and their trickery. He is a proven leader who has diligently taken on the mission to ensure Rhode Islanders are safeguarded against fraud.
Community Advocacy Douglas Victor
A social and environmental advocate and a homesteader since the 1980s, Doug has been a superb community partner and advocacy volunteer for AARP’s target neighborhood of Elmwood in Providence. More than six years ago, we met Doug, and we were impressed with his high energy, take-charge attitude, social conscience, and intense focus and involvement in addressing and solving the major issues that face his neighborhood. There was no doubt that we wanted to partner with Doug who has dedicated his time to giving back to his community. Immediately, we forged a strong bond with him. Doug embraced Complete Streets. He worked tirelessly with many partners to see to fruition road improvements that increased safety on congested Elmwood Avenue. He ensured the installation of better crosswalks, new bus shelters and trash bins, and planters for which AARP donated the junipers.
Doug is a community leader who is results-oriented. His passion is infectious, and it is seen every day in his work for the neighborhood, which includes the Book Sale, planting gardens and caring for the grounds of the Knight Memorial Library, Peace Street Community Garden, and the Friends of Peace and Plenty Park. He is responsible for planting over 300 urban trees in Elmwood and the West End. Today, Doug’s work has made Elmwood a safer and improved neighborhood. He is the first to say that many others have been involved with these initiatives and accomplishments. “People see possibilities instead of seeing the environment as a negative,” he says. “Where you plant a flower or pick up a piece of litter makes a huge difference for many. The most important thing is to do something, either big or small. The effort can make all the difference.”
Community Presence Janet Fenton and Sandra Norton
Dedicated, devoted, and available are words that only scratch surface when describing Janet’s and Sandra’s contribution to outreach work. They are the consummate volunteers who in a pinch will make themselves available. They are reliable. We have come to depend on them fully aware that when they take on a volunteer effort, they deliver quality. Some of the highlights of their efforts this year alone include managing large events such as the Home Show, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, WaterFire, Back to School backpack distribution, as well as various senior expos and events.
A resident of Warwick, Janet is a retired elementary teacher who found her way to AARP through an advertisement in the AARP Bulletin in 2012. She likes to meet new people and help where she can. Sandra is a retired accountant who lives in East Greenwich. Throughout her life, she has enjoyed assisting others and volunteers for AARP to continue her mission to help and improve the community for seniors. In addition, to their commitment to AARP, both Janet and Sandra volunteer in the Warwick schools for an anti-bullying program.
Volunteer Engagement Joseph DiPalma
More than 18 years ago, Joe responded to an advertisement in the newspaper requesting volunteers to help with tax preparation. Always accomplished at preparing his own taxes and community-oriented, he felt this was the best way he could give back. He has gone the extra mile to help seniors with their taxes becoming an instructor and helping volunteers to learn how to do preparation. Joe, who lives in Warwick, is a proven leader. His leadership, dedication, and commitment have sustained this important program, which helps more than 5,000 Rhode Islanders each year.
Tax-Aide, an AARP Foundation program, helps low and moderate income taxpayers have more discretionary income for everyday essentials, such as food and housing by assisting with tax services and ensuring they receive applicable tax credits and deductions. Tax-Aide is available free to taxpayers with special attention to those 60 and older. Through a cadre of trained volunteers, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide has helped individuals for more than 40 years in every state and the District of Columbia. The AARP Rhode Island state office is a Tax-Aide site during the tax season. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in cooperation with the IRS.
Joe, thank you for answering that advertisement 18 years ago!
Driver Education Helmut Reinhardt
As a top trainer and leader for the AARP Rhode Island Driver Safety Program for 11years, we applaud Helmut for being the positive energy behind this important program. In 2002, he enrolled in an AARP driver’s safety class where the instructor observed his leadership skills and passion for the course. He was invited to become an instructor, and without missing a beat, he said: “Yes!” His work in ensuring older drivers are independent, safe, and confident on the road has provided an unspeakable key service to thousands of Rhode Islanders. In addition, he willingly volunteers at AARP Rhode Island’s engagement events.
AARP Driver Safety first launched in 1979 and, today, the program continues to meet the needs of older drivers through educational programs such as the AARP Smart Driver™ Course, Driving Resource Center, CarFit, and We Need to Talk. The major role these programs play in our community have been punctuated by these words from AARP’s Chief Executive Officer, Jo Ann Jenkins: “The AARP Driver Safety Program is the first and most recognized comprehensive course offered nationwide that is designed especially for older drivers. It identifies ways that we, as older drivers, can compensate for the physical changes that occur as we age.”
Two of our honorees were unable to attend our awards luncheon and are not pictured.
Maria Matias Award Donna M. Policastro, RNP
Early on in her nursing career, Donna, a Registered Nurse Practitioner for some 30 years, discovered first-hand that for women to obtain economic stability and security, they must take control of their health and make the choices that are right for them to thrive in today’s society. She is an avid advocate for women’s health. With a razor-sharp focus on empowering women, specifically underserved women, Donna has selflessly given back to her community, particularly her hometown of Providence, as a professional and a volunteer for decades.
Donna’s work with AARP Rhode Island stretches back more than 10 years. Her passion is infectious, and this year she worked tirelessly with AARP Rhode Island to see through to enactment a law that requires hospitals to train caregivers before taking a loved one home from the hospital. Her volunteer commitments are extensive and in addition to AARP’s Executive Council, she has donated her time to the Central R.I. Area Health Education Center, the Welcome Back Center, Clinica Esperansa, the Senior Agenda Coalition, and YWCA of Northern Rhode Island where she established a health care work force program for teen mothers who have dropped out of school. This year, the Governor appointed her to two taskforces: One that focuses on overdose/opiate addiction and the other is on health innovation.
As Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, Donna serves as the primary voice of professional nursing in the state. Her ability to relate to all people is a great asset, which embodies the essence of caring. At the state level, she was the founder of the Rhode Island Institute Charter High School and Middle College. She also sits on the Lt. Governor’s Leadership Council on the Healthcare Reform Commission. She represents RISNA on Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Nursing Caucus.
The awards and recognition she has received are numerous. Some of them include being named the Clinician of the Year in 2001 by the AANP-RI, Carol Leitar Award by the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, Woman of the Year by the Northern RI YWCA, and the Welcome Back Center’s Mary Reilly Advocacy Award.
Extraordinary Service Phil Zarlengo, Ph.D.
Few are more deserving of this award than Phil, who lives in Jamestown. For more than a decade, Phil has presented AARP in a positive light skillfully telling AARP’s story. He is a role model, an inspiration and a leader. He chaired the national AARP board, 2010-2012, currently serves on several national AARP committees including the Volunteer Alumni Communications Committee; represent senior citizens on the National FEMA Board; and CEO of his own educational consulting firm. During the 2006-2008 biennium, he joined the Board Membership Committee and the AARP Insurance Trust. Prior to election to the AARP Board, Phil was AARP Rhode Island’s State President and a member of AARP's 2006 National Leadership Forum Planning Committee and National Volunteer Engagement Project. He previously served on the Rhode Island General Assembly Legislative Commission on Predatory Lending and is a past chair of the Scholarship Committee for United Italian Americans.
Currently, he is a national consultant for developing and evaluating innovative staff training programs for urban school systems. Formerly, he authored the grant proposal and served as executive director of Brown University's Regional Education Laboratory and director of the Andrew Mellon National Center for Leadership Training at Brown University. He developed an interdisciplinary system integrating health, education, and social services in his earlier role as director of health and social services at the Rhode Island Department of Education. Among his numerous awards, Phil has received a National Conference Presenter award from the National Association of Elementary School Principals for his work on regional leadership networks; a President's Award from the National Education Knowledge Industry Association for promoting research-based models in education; and a recognition and appreciation award from Bradley Hospital for his interdisciplinary work on education and health.
Along with experience in managing multi-million dollar projects and working with boards in the development and implementation of policies, Phil’s strong media background, and experience testifying in a variety of settings including state legislatures and Congress continue to be an asset to AARP.
Also greatly appreciated for their dedication and work throughout the year...
Our Chapter Presidents
Our Volunteer "MVP's