By Jane Smith
Special to the Tribune
CONNEAUT LAKE —
The words to a song sung by MASHappella at Thursday night’s fifth annual Wesbury Senior Tribute perhaps said best what the event was all about.
“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine,” sang members of the chorus from Meadville Area Senior High School. That defines the work done by five area people who were recognized as this year’s honorees.
Two of them, Jack Thompson and Pastor Phil Torre, are from Meadville. Others honored were Audine Deeter of Sugar Creek, Francis Hook of Brockport, and Venango College Veterans Club of Venango County.
All were recognized for work they have done to brighten the lives of others.
“It’s a great honor,” Thompson said following the dinner held at the Iroquois Club in Conneaut Lake. Thompson was recognized for his work with the Meadville Sertoma Club, including work done for the annual Jimmy Moore Christmas Party for children.
“Thank you to whomever nominated me. I’m very happy. It’s self rewarding,” he said of his volunteer work. Thompson said his grandfather always told him “If somebody needs help, you help.” He then added that he is only one of many who volunteer to do the Sertoma Club’s work.
Torre of the Assembly of God Church was recognized for his volunteer work at Wesbury, where he assisted former chaplain Rev. Ellen Rezek and then became involved with holding devotionals each week at the facility and visiting many people as well as delivering lunch meals to the residents.
“I’m very honored and happy to be recognized,” Torre said.
“People (at Wesbury) captured my heart,” Torre said when asked why he volunteers. “I feel very bad for the people who don’t have anybody to visit them. I try to find somebody who needs a visit and extend the love of God to them.”
Deeter was honored for her many years as a volunteer at the Utica Senior Center as well as her activity in the United Methodist Women of Sugarcreek UM Church. She also assists with making homemade dolls for “Toy Makers,” an organization that gives toys to sick and needy children as well as producing blankets for “Welcome Every Child,” a program that gives a basket of items to new mothers throughout Venango County.
Hook volunteers in a program which collects and gives away teddy bears to residents of nursing homes in the Brockport area — something he has been doing for many years. Last year, more than 400 bears were delivered.
In addition to collecting the bears, he works with children in the church youth group who deliver the bears. He gives the children the experience of what it is like to share a thoughtful gift with another person who may be in need of that sentiment.
The Venango College Veterans Club started in 2009 with the intention of welcoming the influx of post 9/11 discharged veterans seeking a college education. Its first project was buying and delivering gifts to veterans in area nursing facilities during Christmas. That now has expanded, and the Oil City School District’s elementary students have joined to make cards for veterans as well. The club’s goal is to build multi-generational relationships centered on service and dedication to their country.
Rhonda Thompson, director of development for Wesbury Foundation, was mistress of ceremonies. The event is not only an opportunity to honor local volunteers but a fundraising event for the foundation. Proceeds from the dinner and auction are used to supplement the benevolent care provided for Wesbury residents who need some financial assistance.
Don Clawson, president and chief executive officer of Wesbury, noted that Wesbury’s annual budget is $25 million. Approximately 50 percent of the patients receive some type of government or charitable financial assistance. The benevolent fund is used to help supplement those costs.