Edgartown Council on Aging luncheon highlights value of volunteers

Council leaders said many programs depend entirely on those who donate their time, which amounts to nearly $60,000 in work hours.

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Council on Aging administrator Paul Mohair, left, and Jean Bishop, right, present selectman Michael Donaroma with a faux check representing the $57,700 Edgartown saved by the work of volunteers. — Photo by Monica Busch

On Friday, the Edgartown Council on Aging held a luncheon to honor and thank the volunteers who contribute so much to the program. Despite dismal weather, more than 60 volunteers, staff, and a few patrons gathered at the Anchors building at noon Friday.

The council, which employs five people, depends on its 114 volunteers to run and manage virtually all of its programs, which vary extensively, from elderly exercise classes to food delivery, director of senior services Wendy Benedetto said.

Collectively, the volunteers have contributed 2,855 hours of work, which at a rate of $20 an hour, comes to about $57,700 in town savings, nearly what it would cost for the salary of a single town employee, Ms. Benedetto estimated.

At the Friday luncheon, volunteers presented Edgartown selectman Michael Donaroma with a faux check, designed by Edgartown School art department director Nicole Shank, representing the the money saved by volunteer work.

Board chairman Kevin Ryan, who has volunteered at the Anchors on and off for 20 years, underscored how imperative their help is to operations.

“No matter how much work we do … this place can’t be what it is without its volunteers,” he said.

When not volunteering, Mr. Ryan runs the Second Hand Store in Edgartown, which benefits the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club.

“Things are changing a lot on the Island, and we need to keep this,” he said.

The number of volunteers doubled in the past year, from 57 to 114 people, he said.

Chappaquiddick volunteer Shirley Dewing spoke briefly about her husband and his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, after which, she said, she became his caretaker. She said that volunteering at the Anchors has lifted her spirits and bettered her overall outlook on life.

Ms. Benedetto read a statement about the friendly staff at the Anchors from volunteer Jean Bishop, who stood shyly at the microphone with Ms. Benedetto. Ms. Bishop has volunteered with the council for a decade.

“I’m excited to begin my next 10 years volunteering on Nov. 1st,” Ms. Benedetto read, evoking cheers and applause.

The event itself was partially the product of volunteer donations: Whippoorwill Farm donated the flowers used for centerpieces, Morning Glory Farm donated decorative gourds, and Chilmark Chocolates donated 70 boxes of chocolate.

Volunteers at the Anchors range in age from 8 to 93. The youngest, Phoebe Griffiths, volunteers with her mother, Amy Mead, delivering meals to the elderly. The pair have been volunteering for over a year.

The eldest volunteer is celebrated artist Rose Abrahamson, who volunteers to visit other elderly. Both Ms. Griffiths and Ms. Abrahamson attended the luncheon.

Edgartown has more than 1,000 elderly, director of outreach Victoria Haeselbarth said. In the past year, the council served over 700 individuals.

For more information on the Edgartown Council on Aging or to volunteer, contact Wendy Benedetto at 508-627-4368.