You've probably seen their faces around the county, singing with thePascal Go-Getters. Now you can see them on a deck of playing cards, too.
Joe and Dee Birely, of Glen Burnie, were chosen from among 250 nominees from around the country to be honored as senior volunteers by having their photographs printed on playing cards. The recognition program, Older Volunteer Card Game, was sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons.
Joe, 73, and Dee, 71, were nominated by Ann Wagner, director of the Pascal Senior Center, for the work the couple has donated since the opening of the Glen Burnie center 11 years ago.
"There are so many other people who do so much around the center, that I'm surprised one of them wasn't chosen," Dee said.
Said Joe, "It's quite an honor; there are a lot of people who really work around here."
Wagnersaid she nominated the couple because of the longevity and amount ofwork they do for the center.
Joe and Dee are the co-founders and directors of the senior entertainment group the Go-Getters, who perform about 45 shows a year throughout Maryland and neighboring states for senior centers, nursing homes, schools and veterans groups.
Thecouple met through Joe's sister, Mary, while they were attending Western High. They've been together ever since, singing in church choirsfor more 35 years, entertaining with the USO, the Baltimore City Opera Company and with the Go-Getters.
Joe studied music at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore and has kept his love of music alive all his life.
"I get so much satisfaction out of what I do, that I can'tunderstand people who retire and just sit home doing nothing but watching TV," said Joe.
As their AARP playing card proclaims, "Seeingpeople in the audience, especially in nursing homes, makes it all worthwhile."
The Go-Getters perform audience-specific shows, often rehearsing four times a week and performing on their "day off." The Go-Getters perform free by invitation only. They ask for donations whenthey need to hire a bus.
"We like to be a role model of adults who have gifts to share," Dee added. "You haven't seen anything until you've seen a 70-year-old grandmother tap dance."
"We like to do things that are animated, with a lot of movement, something to surprisepeople," Joe said.
Perhaps the real reason the Birelys were chosen for this honor is their generosity of spirit. "We love this place,"Joe said. "We like it so much we don't mind doing so much. We'd do anything for them."
Copies of the senior volunteer playing card deck can be obtained free from the AARP. Information: (202) 872-4700.