Featured Stories

Tigard Senior Center honors volunteers at annual reception

Pacific Pointe again hosts event where appreciation fills the air
by: Barbara Sherman, VOLUNTEERS RULE – Tigard Senior Center Director Jay Gilbertson (right) hands the microphone to Forrest Masters while Bill Gerkin looks on during the program honoring volunteers.

Every year, dozens of volunteers donate thousands of hours to the Tigard Senior Center, and they do it cheerfully and willingly with no expectation of a reward.

However, the senior center staff likes to acknowledge their efforts at an annual volunteer reception, which is traditionally hosted by Pacific Pointe Retirement Inn in King City.

April was National Volunteer Month, so April 26 was the perfect time to treat the volunteers to some refreshments and entertainment by Tigard High School's Choralation Choir.

Senior center Director Jay Gilbertson used an "exercise" theme to kick off the event, noting that there at least 20 different ways people can volunteer at the center, and he asked everyone to stand up when he named their activity.

"I hope to get everyone up at least once," Gilbertson said before naming the activities: Helping in the kitchen, office or administration? Signing in people? Hosting groups? Serving beverages? Packing Meals-on-Wheels? Working in the gift shop?

Working during bazaars? Repairing things that break? Serving on the steering committee or as a tutor? Preparing the newsletter? Organizing bingo games? Coordinating special events or decorations or entertainment? Delivering Meals-on-Wheels? Setting up or taking down for events?

Picking up donations for the center? And finally, leading one (or more) of the many groups and programs such as the knitting and crocheting group, quilters or garden club?

Gilbertson next introduced a couple of men, Forrest Masters and Bill Gerkin, as "a couple of guys who've done the heavy lifting for the last couple of years."

Gilbertson, who noted that in December Gerkin marked 20 years as a Meals-on-Wheels driver, asked them about their volunteer duties.

Gerkin said he has been a volunteer for the Washington County Sheriff's Office for nine years, writing tickets for drivers violating handicapped parking laws, and he received a round of applause.

Gerkin is a member of the King City Lions Club, and one of Lions Clubs International's focuses is helping people with sight and hearing issues.

"I transport corneas, and I'm part of the 'ground angels' who pick up people at the smaller airports who fly in for specialized services," Gerkin said.

Masters said he has volunteered to help seniors with their taxes for 20 years through AARP's tax preparation program, and he is a Meals-on-Wheels driver.

He recalled a delivery experience that is only funny in the retelling: Masters took an extra route and found himself in front of a house on a hill with a lot of steps. Walking up the stairs with two meals, he missed the last step and fell.

Blood streaming down his face, Masters rang the doorbell. A woman opened the door, grabbed the food, slammed the door in his face and locked it; Masters cleaned himself up, made the last two stops on his route, went home, put a cold pack on his wound, and was ready to go the next day.

He added that drivers never know what they will face when they ring doorbells, and he has caught people in various states of dress and undress.

"One lady answered the door with nothing on below the waist," he said. "Someone asked me if she had shoes on, and I said that I never noticed."

And then there is the woman with a huge dog that always barks at Masters. "He thinks I'm his meal," Masters said.

Gerkin countered, "It's a pleasure to deliver meals. You see people with a big smile on their face. Sometimes you're the only person they see all day. It warms your heart."

After hearing these stories, Gilbertson said, "I didn't know delivering meals was so much fun. I'm going to take over a route."

As for the volunteers who work at the center over lunchtime, Gilbertson gave the guests a math problem, asking them to count up everyone serving in various capacities as he counted out the jobs and the number of helpers.

The answer was 27, which is exactly the number of bones in the hand, giving credence to the old saying, "Many hands make light work."

When the time came to introduce the volunteer of the year, Theresa Thornton, the senior center's assistant manager and kitchen coordinator, said the decision is always a struggle to make because there are so many people worth of consideration.

"This person is a delight to have in my kitchen," Thornton said. "She is always smiling and wears many hats: She does a great job in the kitchen, serves beverages in the dining room, prepares the paperwork for bank deposits and helps me with the shopping for big parties.

"She is the official bingo caller, and I can call her at the last minute to come in and help with something. I appreciate her kindness and generosity."

With that, Thornton announced Sharon Capps as the volunteer of the year, and Gilbertson added that she donated a "staggering" 500 hours last year.

"Theresa and I appreciate every one of you - we couldn't do this without you," he said. "We're very proud of you. We hope you feel like you got a pat on the back today."

Following the event, Capps said that although the volunteer of the year is supposed to be a secret until the reception, she had "an inkling" that she might win the honor.