Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Volunteers honored for their work, and the heart behind it

First-Link names its top 4

By Marquita Smith
The Lexington Herald-Leader

        LEXINGTON — For 16 years, Virginia Bell has volunteered at the Alzheimer's Association, working with seniors who need individualized care for untreatable memory loss.

        Ms. Bell, 77, was one of four volunteer award winners recently honored by First-Link of the Bluegrass at its annual JCPenney Golden Rule Award breakfast.

        “It's very difficult to do something for someone else and not get something out of it yourself,” said Ms. Bell.

A Helping Hand
        One of the founders of Second Presbyterian Church's Helping Hand Day Center for those with Alzheimer's, Ms. Bell held several paid positions, including director.

        But she still has found time to volunteer at the center since its inception 18 years ago.

        “She started the 'best friend approach,' the idea that we all do a lot better when we have a friend around,” said Tonya Tincher, programs director at the Alzheimer's Association.

        Ms. Bell, travels across the world explaining the approach, which encourages one-on-one attention to those dealing memory loss sufferers.

        She instructs groups how to set up centers using the Helping Hand center as an example.

        First-Link of the Bluegrass, formerly the Volunteer Center of the Bluegrass, has presented Golden Rule awards to people since 1990.

        “The award was created to honor volunteers who help nonprofits serve the community,” said Lisa Stroub, First-Link director of training and development.

Examples young and old
        And Ms. Bell is a wonderful example, said Ms. Tincher.

        “She gives so much of her time and love unconditionally,” Tincher said.

        Elliott Fleming, 16, won the youth Golden Rule award. Elliott is a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. In less than two years he has given more than 100 volunteer hours to organizations such as the Hope Center, God's Pantry, University of Kentucky Medical Center and Kid's Vote Kentucky.

        “Volunteering is a cheap way to find people to work, and that way communities as a whole can benefit,” said Elliott.

Lessons new and bold
        Elliott said volunteering is a kind of a job training. He's received clerical and research experiences through volunteer efforts.

        He was awarded a sculpture, a $500 donation to one of his service organizations and a $500 scholarship.

        “I have to be on time and I do more than what's required,” Elliott said. “Well, it's kind of like a job. I only hope I have as much fun when I get a real job.”

        Winners in the group category were Dr. Ross and Cathie Brown, who founded the Life Adventure Camp 24 years ago. The Irvine couple created a camp for youth, particularly those with emotional and behavioral difficulties.

        “Unselfishly, the Browns started the agency with a dream, purchased the property and recruited staff,” said Lynda LeVan, a camp staff member.

        Bluegrass winners are eligible to compete for the National Golden Rule Awards Program.

        “People who help others should be really careful about volunteering; because once you do, you're in it for life,” Ms. Bell said jokingly, adding that two of the original volunteers still work at the day center.


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- Volunteers honored for their work, and the heart behind it