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GUEST BLOG: Thoughts from 2012 LeadingAge MA Volunteer Service Award

Posted: October 5, 2012

All of us at JCHE are beaming with pride: Coleman House resident Marvin Wilkenfeld just won LeadingAge Massachusetts' 2012 Volunteer Service Award. In addition to leading English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and serving as resident photographer at Coleman, Marvin has revitalized the Coleman convenience store. Today, the store is now a place where residents can find well-stocked shelves with items they need, dependable hours, and even fresh fruits and vegetables. When not overseeing the smooth operation of the store, Marvin is often at WGBH where he leads building tours or volunteering as an usher at The New Rep Theater.

Here are Marvin's remarks upon receiving this well-deserved award from Paul Hollings on behalf of LeadingAge.

Thank you for this great honor that LeadingAge has given me.

What I contribute to JCHE and WGBH is my way of giving something back to my adopted community.

Coleman House and Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly is more than a building full ot older folks. The staff provides opportunities and activities that many of us as we age would not have access to living alone. Our amazing staff with the support of our President and CEO Amy Schectman and the dedicated staff at Coleman House work to provide a standard of living that honors each of us.

Some may refer to us as the "entitlement class" but we live with dignity as respected folks who have contributed to society. We were teachers, business people, parents, mentors and taxpayers. Some of our tenants have advanced degrees in science and medicine. Some of our tenants, as I have, served in the military.

One of my duties as an ESL tutor is to help those who struggle with English having left a country as a professional and now find it a challenge to communicate on a basic level. What I have learned from those that attend my class has given me an insight into how difficult having a lifetime of limited freedom and repression was for many of them. It helps me appreciate how fortunate I have been. I grew up in a tenement building in the Bronx and attended free public schools while they were forced to survive the horrors of internecine warfare and religious bias. We are all first among equals.

I'm certainly not unique in my effort, and I am very grateful for your acknowledgement of my work at Coleman House, as a WGBH supporter and tour guide, and as a volunteer usher at the New Repetory Theater in Watertown.

Managing the convenience store at Coleman House is an outgrowth of running one of the first natural food stores in Manhattan for 30 years. It gives m the opportunity to apply my retailing skills and the satisfaction to know that it is greatly appreciated especially during the long winter months when getting food like milk and bread and cheese are just a few steps away.

We should each strive to be a productive member of our community so in a way, my efforts being acknowledged for my work has given me an added incentive. I don't see what I do as labor but simply as enhancing my life as a senior citizen well into my 70s. I don't see it as a hindrance, rather an opportunity to be a vital part of my community.

You have honored me to have been selected for the 2012 LeadingAge Massachusetts Volunteer Service Award.  Thank you very much.

In the photos below:

Left side: Marvin receiving the award from Paul Hollings and Elissa Sherman from LeadingAge.

Right side: Marvin with Robin Nasson, Executive Director of Coleman House. Robin nominated Marvin for the award.

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Comment by Caren | 10/05/2012

While Marv was speaking, the room of over 200 people was completely quiet. Congratulations Marv on an honor well deserved!