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Greater Springfield Senior Services Home Care Heroes make a difference

When Karen M. Martin, community services director for Greater Springfield Senior Services Inc., is asked to describe a hero, what first comes to her mind are people who spring in to action to help others, sometimes at their own personal risk and expense, like the man who took a pickup truck to rush dozens of severely wounded Las Vegas shooting victims to the hospital.

“It could be an altruistic whistle blower, someone who takes a stand against an injustice or even an organ donor,” she says.

“Being a hero can be in the mind of the beholder,” she continues, offering as examples a person who shovels and sands the sidewalk of an elderly neighbor is a hero to that person. The volunteer who tutors a fourth-grader in reading is a hero to the parents when their child’s grade goes from a D to a B. The customer service representative you spoke with at your health insurer who got your bill straightened out when four of their colleagues put you on hold, accidentally hung up or didn’t return your calls can be your hero.

Greater Springfield Senior Services this year presented its second “Home Care Heroes” awards to individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help Greater Springfield Senior Services assist its clients.

The honorees included:

* Vickie Bouknight and Deborah Farias, MassHealth co-location community specialists;

* Ludlow police officer Jerome Mayou;

* Ann Sabato, protective services coordinator for Greater Springfield Senior Services; and

* Carrie Sibilia, a geriatric clinician at Greater Springfield Senior Services.

“It feels good to be honored for the work you do, especially with a geriatric population, which I think is a population that is underserved,” Sibilia said.

Working with the elderly is a passion for her, and she likes to advocate for the elderly to make sure their needs are met.

The award recipients must have improved the lives of others through extraordinary care, assistance, intervention and expertise. They must have demonstrated an exceptional capacity to help Greater Springfield Senior Services assist its clients, and they must have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help others or have been consistently willing to assist the agency whenever asked.

“It’s important to remind ourselves that there are still good people who are doing good things and truly care about other human beings,” Martin said. “Hopefully, it will balance out the evils that we seem to be seeing and hearing more of, and serve as positive examples for impressionable young people. Heroes offer us hope for the future. They represent what is best in human nature.”

This year’s honorees share a sense of fairness, a desire to do what is right, compassion and a desire to make a difference in the quality of life for others, Martin explained. “And they greatly help us to do our jobs effectively at Greater Springfield Senior Services. Without them, we wouldn’t have as many success stories and positive outcomes,” she added.

Nominations came from Greater Springfield Senior Services employees and were reviewed by the agency leadership team who made the final decision

Executive director Jill Keough is an advocate for community and agency partnerships that can offer a holistic approach to meeting the multi-service needs of older adults. “By publicly recognizing these deserving individuals who come from various disciplines and organizations, we hope to call attention to the needs of elders and serve as a voice for those who cannot advocate for themselves,” Martin said. “It not only takes a village to raise a child – it takes one to support an older adult.”

The organization seeks to inspire and bring together those individuals and organizations that can make a difference in the quality of life for an elderly person.

The first Home Care Hero awards were in 2015. This year is the second year they have been awarded.

“We want this honor to be truly special, and we don’t want to dilute it by offering it every year just because 365 days have gone by,” Martin said. “We certainly will be honoring our ‘heroes’ again. Folks will just have to stay tuned!”

Since 1972, Greater Springfield Senior Services has enabled tens of thousands of older (age 60 plus) and disabled individuals maintain their wellbeing and independence in the community by providing assistance and access to a comprehensive range of services throughout a 12-town service area. For more information, call Greater Springfield Senior Services at 413-781-8800.

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