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Local residents receive presidential lifetime service awards

SOUTHTOWNS — The Erie County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program annually recognizes volunteers who have given more than 4,000 hours of volunteer service through RSVP. These individuals receive the Presidential Volunteer Service Award on Oct. 25.

This year, 10 volunteers were presented with this award, as well as a pin and certificate from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, and a proclamation from the Erie County executive and Legislature.

Sarah Bissel of Angola

Sarah Bissel has been volunteering at Operation Good Neighbor for 15. She handles the books, which include finding clients and helping them with paperwork.

Kathleen Ray of Angola

Kathleen Ray said that, when she was 13 years old, she knew she wanted to be a social worker. She worked at Erie County Child Protective Services for 20 years and volunteered at Little Portion Friary, a homeless shelter. “I liked the challenge,” she said. “It’s a fascinating place, started by all volunteers, and it has stayed that way. It is one of the most democratic organizations I have ever been involved in.”

Following her retirement, Ray became a volunteer at Operation Good Neighbor, a food pantry serving the Southtowns, and volunteered as executive director. “I feel like my role is helping the volunteers to be the best that they can be,” she said. “Each one knows what they can and should do, and they do it very well. I’m very proud of them.”

Ray earned her Masters of Social Work degree at the age of 52.

Norman Brzezniak of Derby

A former employee of Buffalo General Hospital, Norman Brzezniak has continued as a volunteer, after his retirement. For the last eight years, he has spent time with patients and their families in the surgical waiting room. “I’m a joker,” he said. “Most people are anxious before their surgery, so I like to get them to laugh and relax a bit. It’s a good feeling, to help others feel comfortable and safe.”

Brzezniak said that the “good feeling” he gets, while helping others, keeps him volunteering.

Doris Ann Perl of Hamburg

Doris Ann Perl began her volunteer work as a Sunday school teacher. She then applied to volunteer at Mercy Hospital. For two decades, she has been volunteering in the gift shop, helping visitors find gifts. “I’m very blessed to be able to so what I do,” she said. “It is very fulfilling.”

The Erie County RSVP matches volunteers’ skills and interests with community service opportunities.

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