Volunteer innovation award presented to local volunteers


Montour Falls, N.Y. (WETM)- The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) recently celebrated Older New Yorkers’ Day virtually, recognizing 87 volunteers from across the state who demonstrate their extraordinary value every day to their family, friends, and community. The celebration traditionally takes place each year in May in Albany; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year it was premiered as a virtual event. 

Annually, Older Americans Month highlights the incredible efforts and diverse contributions older adults make to their communities. In New York, there are almost 1 million volunteers age 55+ who contribute approximately 500 million hours of service each year at an economic value of more than $13 billion. The 2020 Older Americans Month theme is “Make Your Mark,” which perfectly captures the role older New Yorkers are making during this pandemic. Their time, experience, and talents benefit family, peers, and neighbors every day. This year’s theme highlights the difference everyone can make to support and strengthen their communities.
Each year on Older New Yorkers’ Day, the New York State Office for the Aging and its 59 area agencies on aging across the state honor extraordinary individuals, who through their actions, demonstrate the spirit of civic engagement and selflessness. Many older New Yorkers have been providing essential services during this pandemic as a result of Matilda’s Law by delivering meals, groceries, supplies, and medication; providing transportation to critical medical appointments such as dialysis and cancer treatments; and making phone calls to older adults to combat social isolation.

This year’s Older New Yorkers’ Day celebration honors 87 individuals from 49 counties who volunteer their time and energy to more than 460 different organizations throughout the year to help others. This year’s Schuyler County honoree is Father Michael Hartney. Father Hartney was recognized for his numerous contributions to the Schuyler County community through Habitat for Humanity, the Schuyler County Coalition on Underage Drinking and Drugs (SCCUDD), the Schuyler County Youth Board, Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce, Southern Tier Regional Development Board, and Appalachian Regional Commission’s Human Services Committee. It was noted that through his work, Father Hartney has served in areas that support older adults and that his contributions have exemplified this year’s Older Americans Month theme of Make Your Mark.

Schuyler County residents and retired teachers, Marie Fitzsimmons and Kate LaMoreaux were honored for their work in recruiting volunteers and developing and facilitating a learning pod for Watkins Glen students who were in a hybrid learning system. Marie and Kate worked with a number of local entities to make this a reality. Partners included the Watkins-Montour Lions Club, St. James Episcopal Church, the Watkins Glen Presbyterian Church, other retired teachers and retired school personnel, additional volunteers, and Cornell Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program as well as the local REACH program. The learning pod recognition was endorsed by WGCS Superintendent, Greg Kelahan.  

The Schuyler County Legislature is recognizing the accomplishments of both Father Michael Hartney and the Watkins Glen learning pod. The Legislature will be formally acknowledging both honorees via individual resolutions. 

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