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West Virginia Celebrates the Spirit of Volunteerism

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, the anniversary book of photos by West Virginia’s photographer-volunteers is worth an 80-page volume.

Front cover of book showing state capitol

Preparing to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their state office, Team AARP West Virginia recognized the best thing to do was to leverage a decade’s worth of photographs captured by Volunteer Communication Specialists Ginnie and Dewayne Lowther.

“Since Day One when they started volunteering with us,” Senior State Director Gaylene Miller recalls, “Ginnie and Dewayne have been visually journaling our activities, so we had lots of great pictures to work with to tell our AARP West Virginia story.”

The anniversary book, The Spirit of Volunteerism in West Virginia, tells a powerful tale of the difference that the volunteer and staff team has made through education, advocacy and service for the nearly 300,000 AARP members, their families and their communities in the Mountain State.

Poring over snapshots to choose some for the booklet, Senior Operations Associate Patti Hedrick says everyone noted two things:

1) How much things have changed: “Back in 2002, who would have dreamed that we’d hold a social media training for our volunteers in September of 2012!”

2) How much things have remained the same: “In so many of these photos, we’d see the same faces year after year after year—individuals who have continued to volunteer with us, bringing their passion, and compassion, to us at AARP West Virginia.”

Second Life-Long Calling

For the Lowthers, both retired United Methodist clergy, photographic journaling has been a second life-long calling. Their earliest collaboration was in 1950 at Parkersburg, West Virginia, High School, where both were on the yearbook and newspaper staff and Dewayne was school photographer.

Since then, they have photographed many different projects, including documenting community disruption when three interstate highways were built through their neighborhood. They spent four years chronicling the artistry of the men and women constructing the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston.

Among the many causes they have supported with their photojournaling is the Heart Gallery of West Virginia, which is connected to a national program designed to raise awareness of adolescents eligible for adoption. Ginnie remembers the power and potential of their camera lenses to create a happy ending in the life story of each child.

“Natural Extension” … “Magic Carpet”

Ginny and Dewayne Lowther at art exhibit

On why they choose to share their time and talents with AARP, Ginnie says, “When the AARP state office was established in Charleston and we were asked to create visual documentation of volunteers in action throughout the state, it seemed to be a natural extension of our 49 years of concern for persons we had served through our clergy appointments.”

Dewayne adds, “Our visual journaling for AARP has been like a magic carpet, taking us to places we may not otherwise have gone and experiencing a wonderful sense of community with persons whose bright, snappy eyes reveal deep concern for the welfare of others and a very evident joy at being AARP volunteers.”

In telling the AARP WV Story, the Lowthers have captured a wide array of expressions on the faces in the photos, from intense concentration at legislative summits and consumer universities to proud smiles at volunteer recognition ceremonies.

They have documented AARP West Virginia volunteers tossing out the first pitch at an AARP Divided We Fail night at the ballpark, asking questions at volunteer leadership retreats, celebrating advocacy successes and—perhaps most important—serving their communities.

Southeast Regional Vice President John Caine sums it up best as he leafs through this commemorative book: “If you asked me to define the spirit of service our volunteers bring to fulfilling our mission, I wouldn’t use adjectives to describe it. I’d just point to one of the photos in this booklet and right away, you’d get it!”

Lily Liu, AARP Brand Strategy & Services

About AARP West Virginia
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