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AARP Virginia Honors Volunteers from Across Virginia

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AARP Virginia has presented Virgil Cook of Blacksburg with the highly distinguished Andrus Award for Community Service, and honored volunteers from across the state for their dedication to enhancing the quality of life for all as we age.

AARP Virginia held its annual All Volunteer Assembly in Staunton, where volunteers were lauded at a banquet on November 12. The All Volunteer Assembly honors AARP Virginia’s most dedicated volunteers. AARP Virginia volunteers provide outreach and advocacy for more than one million AARP members in Virginia as well as all Virginians age 50+, and are committed to community service and helping everyone age with dignity and purpose.

Keynote speaker for the event was Dr. Richard Lindsay, founder of the Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving. The Lindsay Institute is an initiative of SeniorNavigator, a statewide public/private partnership non-profit that helps Virginia’s seniors, caregivers and families find vital information and community programs so they can live with independence, dignity, and hope. Lindsay also is a member of the AARP Virginia Executive Council.

Former State Director Bill Kallio, who retired earlier this year, was honored at the event with a tribute from the volunteers. Kallio, whose career at AARP spanned 27 years, was the first Virginia state director and the organization’s longest-serving state director when he retired in April 2015.

It was the first volunteer awards event for AARP Virginia State Director Jim Dau, who joined the state office staff in October after eight years in the association’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

AARP’s commitment to volunteer service can be traced back to its founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, whose motto “to serve, not to be served” has shaped our community service efforts at the national, state, and local levels. Each year, AARP honors the legacy of Dr. Andrus with the AARP Virginia Andrus Award for Community Service.

The annual Andrus Award for Community Service is AARP’s most prestigious and visible volunteer award. It recognizes individuals who are sharing their experience, talent, and skills to enrich their communities in ways that are consistent with AARP’s mission, vision, and commitment to volunteer service, and that inspire others to volunteer. Only one Virginia volunteer (or couple performing service together) can receive the Award

Andrus Award recipient Virgil Cook leads a life filled with a heart for his community, his loved ones, and everyone around him. Totally blind, his accomplishments are outstanding – both professionally as an English professor at Virginia Teach, and also in his totally selfless service to others through AARP and other organizations. His long-time local community leadership, especially in AARP, his active participation in AARP Day at the General Assembly, and his numerous activities in service to others is inspiring.

“Virgil Cook embodies the philosophy and spirit of AARP's founder for whom the Andrus Award is named,” said Ben Crawford of Blacksburg, who nominated Cook for the award.

Cook has served as Secretary of the award winning AARP Blacksburg Chapter for seven consecutive years (2007-2014) and as a chapter officer before that. He has been an advocate for AARP visiting with state legislators, and participating in AARP Day at the General Assembly in Richmond.

“He is a leader who, by example, makes this region and our state a better place to live, work, and raise families,” Crawford said. “His active volunteer involvement and leadership has enriched and continues to enrich the lives of countless people age 50 and better.”

He has served as a Sunday school teacher, member of the Board of Deacons, choir, and Music Committee of the Blacksburg Baptist Church; as President (2002-2004) of the Blacksburg Host Lions Club and is currently their Program Chair and Chair for the Bland Music Contest; as Secretary (1991-92 & 1995-97) and member, Board of Visitors of the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, appointed by Governors Tim Kaine and Bob McDonnell through 2015; and as President (1987-1989 & 1991-1994) of Voice of the Blue Ridge and has served on their Board since 1986. The organization of volunteers raises funds and reads to the blind and other people with disabilities.

Cook demonstrates the importance of working closely with state and national AARP leadership and programs. On the Divided We Fail campaign, he helped plan and conduct a variety of activities leading up to and including the presidential debate. From 1988 to 1992, he served on the Town Of Blacksburg as Secretary of their Para-Transit Subcommittee. As a member of the Board of Directors of the Blacksburg Master Chorale, and as Vice President, he coordinated publicity for all concerts of this highly renowned volunteer group. He also chaired the Search Committee for Music Director for the Blacksburg Master Chorale which involved publicizing the position, coordinating interviews, conducting trial rehearsals, and writing rejection letters. Through his widely-distributed AARP Blacksburg Chapter minutes and in numerous other ways, Cook has influenced thousands of AARP members in the New River Valley and beyond.

Cook earned a BA from Roanoke College, and a MA and PhD from Vanderbilt University. He had a distinguished career teaching English at Virginia Tech, retiring in 2002 as Associate Professor, Emeritus. During his 40-year tenure at Virginia Tech, he authored several publications and chaired/served in many volunteer groups including the Faculty Senate, University Council, University Building Committee, Commission on Undergraduate Studies and on Graduate Studies and Research, Upward Bound, the Academic Policy Group, Accessibility Advisory Panel and the Search Committee for Director of the University Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, as well as the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). He received numerous awards including the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award – all this while performing meritorious volunteer community service.

He also planned, promoted, and participated in highly successful food drives the past two years – events which have benefited hundreds of needy families in the New River Valley.

“Virgil’s volunteer work through AARP has impacted the lives of thousands in positive and meaningful ways,” Crawford said. “Focusing on AARP goals and programs, Virgil has directly improved the lives of countless Virginians age 50-plus.”

AARP Virginia also recognized volunteers with the following awards at the banquet:

Elvira B. Shaw Advocacy Award : The Elvira B. Shaw Advocacy Award was created in 2013 in memory of Elvira Beville Shaw’s outstanding service as an advocate for over 40 years on behalf of AARP Virginia. The annual recipient of this award may be an individual or a team who has demonstrated dedication to AARP’s legislative priorities, effectiveness in advocacy outcomes, and exceeded the call of duty in their willingness to serve. The 2015 award was presented to Altamese Johnson of Richmond.

Gordon Morton Award : The Gordon Morton award is presented to an individual AARP volunteer who has made outstanding contributions to the work of AARP in a manner consistent with the dedication and quality of work modeled by Gordon Morton, an AARP volunteer who passed away in 2002. Carol Downs of Alexandria is the 2015 winner.

Chapter Awards: The purpose of the Chapter Awards is to recognize the education, advocacy, and service work of chapters that contribute to achieving AARP’s mission by highlighting outcomes and impact on their communities regardless of Chapter size or demographic. These awards give Chapters the opportunity to showcase their work for countless hours of service devoted to enhancing the experience of aging and AARP’s mission. The Fredericksburg Chapter and the Bayside Chapter of Virginia Beach were honored at the 2015 ceremony.

President's Awards: The President’s Award for Community Service is given to deserving individuals or groups chosen at the AARP state president’s discretion. Past recipients have included exceptional chapter presidents and community outreach, advocacy and training volunteers who have furthered AARP’s social impact agenda. The 2015 President’s Awards were bestowed upon Marilyn Maxwell of Norton and Tom Sellinger of Cloverdale.

Bob Blancato of Arlington has served as AARP Virginia’s state president for three years; he is the chief volunteer representing more than one million AARP members in Virginia and an advocate for all Virginians age 50+. He lives in Arlington and is President of Matz, Blancato, & Associates, a full-service firm integrating strategic consulting, government affairs, advocacy services and association and coalition management based in Washington, DC. He is the National Coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world's largest-circulation magazine with over 35.5 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP's 40 million members and Americans 50+; AARP Segunda Juventud, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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