EATON — During the annual Senior Day event, held Tuesday, May 8, the Preble County Council on Aging announced Joan Hemmelgarn as their 2018 Outstanding Senior Citizen.
Previously named as the 2014 Senior Volunteer of the Year for her work with the HIT Foundation, Hemmelgarn has dedicated her life to helping the Preble County community — an area she was not born into, but chose to call home.
According to Executive Director Shelley Ratliff, every May the Administration on Aging, part of the Administration for Community Living, leads the nation’s observance of Older American’s Month.
“The 2018 theme, Engage at Every Age, emphasizes that you are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It also celebrates the many ways in which older adults make a difference in our communities,” she said.
“Participating in activities that promote mental and physical wellness, offering your wisdom and experience to the next generation, seeking the mentorship of someone with more life experience than you—those are just a few examples of what being engaged can mean. No matter where you are in your life, there is no better time than now to start.”
For this year’s event, PC Council on Aging exceeded its goal of 300 participants to 357, including staff and vendors. The event included live music by The Silvertones, a cook-out, games, and vendors offering many different services. In addition, there was a selfie machine so attendees could capture the moment.
Senior Day also featured Specialty Talks where they had four different topics led by four different businesses or organizations. The talks were on topics such as Hospice: What does it really mean?, Eating Well, Legal Talk for Seniors and Safe Living as you Age.
“Each year, after the event, we poll the staff and our Participants Council (made up of members) and review the day. Good and bad, we want to talk about it and see how we can make it better next year,” Ratliff added. “As far as I know, the biggest mishap we had this year was no golf clubs for our putt putt game. We can make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Once dinner finished, it was time for the annual Outstanding Senior Citizen of the Year ceremony. Ratliff announced Joan Hemmelgarn as this year’s winner.
“Joan is originally from New York State. She married her husband Dale many years ago and has made Preble County her home since then and made her life calling – a mission of service. Joan has three children, Gary, Marilyn and Robert, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” Ratliff said.
“According to Joanny’s Christmas letter this year, at 83 years old, she voluntarily calls and visits people for the Preble County Council on Aging, helps Habitat for Humanity in Richmond, takes notes for Reid Health’s Auxiliary meetings, Helps with the Senior Home Repair program at the HIT Foundation, helps with St. John Church duties, including the monthly breakfast, participates in Bible Studies at Visitation Church, helps and participates in some of the New Hope United Methodist Church activities. She has made her life’s ambition of services to the elderly, the poor, the sick and the disabled.
“Although she is of different faith of the New Hope church, she is very supportive of all their projects. New Hope is a very small hamlet and Joanie is very proud to be a resident there. She provides transportation for many (who are unable to drive anymore) to and from the Jackson Township to the senior center each month to play cards and to enjoy fellowship” Ratliff said.
“She is continually looking for new recipes and baking goodies to take to individuals and she willingly shares the recipes for anyone available. She always finds time in her busy life style to visit people in the nursing homes. She is a very faithful friend. I was told to tell you Baby boomers – if you need a mentor – Joan Hemmelgarn would be a good model. Her life of service is outstanding. She has given her whole life of service to others,” she continued.
“HIT Foundation says that Joanny has been an essential part of the HIT Foundation’s, Senior Home Repair Program Committee since July 2014. Her willingness to help at events, schedule speaking engagements, locate clients and projects for future Senior Home Repair Program endeavors, obtaining articles about the struggles seniors face, and brings comments and suggestions to the Committee earned her the 2014 Senior Volunteer of the Year Award. She still is going strong!
“I have the utmost respect for Joan,” Ratliff added. “In my position, most of the phone calls I get are business related. I rarely get a call from anyone telling me what a great job we are doing. Joan will specifically give employee names and why she feels as though they need to be celebrated. I can’t tell you how great that makes me feel when I know she appreciates our services and because of that she gives back to us by volunteering.
“Luckily, Joan hasn’t retired from volunteering yet. She is very deserving of this award. Preble County should be very thankful that Joanny Hemmelgarn chose our county to be her home.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH