PHOTO:  Paul and Donna Worth, and Therapy Dog Jacki were among the dozens honored at the annual Volunteer Recognition event at Care One in Middletown last week.

MIDDLETOWN, NJ – More than two dozen individuals, groups and organizations were honored at the annual Volunteer Appreciation gala hosted by the Recreation Department of the Care One at King James Care Center last month, with a variety of guests including Tall Man, dogs, singers, Bingo players, and barbecue chefs.

Recreation Director Cathy Kane, in presenting awards, certificates and home-made candy to each of the honorees, said “your dedication to our residents is nothing short of remarkable. The residents are blessed to have so many that share the interaction we all need with members of our community. Thank you for making time for the residents of this facility, your talents, your friendship, and most of all for caring enough to give of yourselves.”

Kane could not estimate the number of volunteer hours residents and organizations give daily, but noted their volunteerism fills ten or more hours in an average week, many weeks much higher and holiday season always at the highest peak

The practice of having an evening set apart to honor volunteers, with residents joining in the cocktail hour and festivities that precede music for dancing to the music of George Markey and the awards ceremony, started more than a century ago, Kane said, with a small reception, a cake and a certificate. As more individual volunteers offered to give of their talents, and more community groups offered expanded services, so too did the volunteer reception grow with the hand-made chocolate candy the crowning touch in recent years.

Kane also introduced Mark Serrano, who had just been named the new administrator earlier that week. Serrano praised all the volunteers, noting how vital their talents and time are to complete the homelike atmosphere of the care center and to add to the amount of activities and entertainment the recreation department always provides. Both Serrano and Kane also praised recreation staff members Kitty Wheeler and Karen Cohen who had just been named NJ Activity Professionals of the Year by the NJAP Association.

Honored as groups who participate on a regular basis bringing entertainment and events to the residents were the Vince Lombardi Council of the Knights of Columbus, the longest serving volunteer group at Care One, providing barbecues annually, along with other parties, food and flowers; a trio of Visiting Ladies, Marylin Cosby, Daisy Davis,Georgette Thomas, Robyn Keys and Norma Smith; the Highlands Community Singers, the Wednesday Night Bible Story Readers Corrine Beers, Geno Pipitone, Zach Lujan and Evelyn Thomas; St. Our Lady of Perpetual Help/St. Agnes parish, Faith Fellowship Church, Kelly Dancve Loft, and the Rumson Far Haven Public School system.

Individuals honored for their volunteerism included the Craig Bahrs Family, Michael St Amour, who frequently visits the center as a stilted Tall Man in a variety of themed costumes for every holiday; Emily Fitzpatrick and Megan Conlon who visit the residents and say the rosary with them on a regular basis,   Pat Fowler, who conducts regular Bingo games, Virginia Ligot who offers help in a myriad of ways wherever needed, Bob Prochnik, who shows up simply to make residents laugh and enjoy company, and Jay Cohen, Dom and Lyn Zarilllo who come from Ocean County to volunteer with Jay’s wife, Karen’s recreational programs.

The recreation director also honored the four-legged visitors who come with their owners to interact with residents.  Jacki was accompanied by Paul and Donna Worth and Bennie, known as the Gentle Giant, by Robert Micieli.

“We’re grateful for all our volunteers and can always use more,” Kane said, noting “volunteers are always needed at night when activity staff is not here for most units.  Many residents enjoy an activity or entertainment after dinner or simply conversation. Persons interested in volunteering can contact Cathy Kane at 732-291-3400.

Although they are not volunteers for the care center, Kane also acknowledged and thanked resident advocates Al Pescoe and Muriel Smith for their interest and time in ensuring residents receive proper care and attention. Both are certified by the State of New Jersey as advocates under the state Ombudsman program.