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By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Tuesday, April 4, was National Service Recognition Day, so the newly built Walpole Senior Center looked to honor the over 60 RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) volunteers in the town of Walpole that help with projects ranging from Meals on Wheels to Rides for Veterans.
While there were only 30 volunteers present (likely because many were volunteering at the time) and their certificates were being mailed, not presented at the event, the volunteers’ contributions to Walpole were well noted and celebrated.
Robert Pierson, the director of the Norfolk County RSVP Program, was the first to speak, noting that in these highly divisive times, it was especially necessary for people to show they were willing to help each other. “I can’t imagine what we would do or where we would be as a county without volunteers,” he would ultimately declare. Pierson spoke of the importance of every type of volunteer Walpole has, noting that the Rides for Veterans program alone provides veterans with over 70 rides a month.
Norfolk County Commissioner Joe Shea of Quincy took note of the new Walpole Co-operative Bank South Street Center and declared: “I’ve been to a bunch of senior centers, but this might be the crème de la crème.”
After delivering a few brief words, Walpole Town Administrator Jim Johnson called each volunteer by name and had them stand to be recognized. Then, a few of the volunteers spoke.
“I can’t sing,” Joanne Damish, a member of the Senior Moments chorus, joked. “I was the one in grammar school where they would say, ‘when we’re singing, you be quiet, so you don’t throw us off.’” She then sought to acknowledge the long, concerted effort that went into the new senior center. Damish noted how many people that pushed for the project weren’t around anymore, and moved to acknowledge their own volunteer efforts. “So many people are gone that wanted a senior center,” she said, “and we need to thank them as well.”
The Rides for Veterans program hit home for many of the volunteers that spoke. Steve Eosco mentioned that one of the reasons he drives is because sometimes, the veterans want another veteran to open up to, and he can be that guy.
Ruth Pomtremoli talked about driving veterans because her son is an Afghanistan veteran that “didn’t come back quite the same.”
Fran Donovan’s husband was a Marine, and she talked about how she likes to “share their stories to make sure they’re not forgotten.”
She also volunteers for Meals on Wheels. “It takes so little time,” she mentioned, “just an hour a week, and in that hour, I know that nine people got a good meal.”
Ellen Kischel, a former teacher, talked said that volunteering allowed her to get back in the classroom she wasn’t fully prepared to leave. She relayed the story of an assignment in which students were asked: “What made the most impact for you in the fifth grade?”
She then read a student’s answer: it said that her volunteerism had made the most impact - and that when he gets older, he would like to volunteer like her.