Honors for those who give the most

Seniors: Maryland has a hall of fame that honors not athletes or entertainers, but older citizens who give back to the community

Life After 50

January 02, 2000|By Linda Siemon | Linda Siemon,Special to the Sun

And the award goes to ...

Maryland's seniors.

Halls of fame are no longer only for baseball and Hollywood -- Maryland has its own for seniors. The Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame honors those over 60 who donate their time to serve the community.

This generation has its own "Geri" as well. A takeoff on other awards such as the Tony, the Emmy and the Grammy, the Geri is a plaque for five of the 50 inductees who exhibit the most outstanding commitment to volunteerism.

George Schoenadel, one of this year's Geri winners, could almost be dubbed a Renaissance man of volunteer work. "My wife tells me I've signed up for everything but the Girl Scouts," says Schoenadel, 68, of LaVale, near Cumberland.

She may be right. Between the LaVale Lion's Club and the Pope John XXIII Knights of Columbus, he devotes his time to various efforts, including maintaining road signs, providing eye glasses to needy children in the public school system and delivering medical equipment.

But it was his biweekly trips to the Johnstown, Pa., Red Cross to donate platelets that carried a lot of weight with the hall of fame judges. He logs 150 miles round-trip. He says he was inspired to donate after hearing about a friend's son who has leukemia.

The Maryland Senior Citizens Hall of Fame was founded in 1987 by Charles E. Claybaugh. According to current president Robbie Robinson, the late Claybaugh was responsible for starting many senior centers in Maryland because he felt this age group was being ignored.

Robinson, of Timonium, was inducted in 1995 and continues to donate his time to Meals on Wheels. "You get started in all this volunteer stuff, and the next thing you know, you're doing three or four days a week," says the former public affairs representative for Exxon.

Nominations come in around June, and a panel of about eight judges reviews them. The organization sponsors an annual awards luncheon; the most recent one was in late October. While guests know ahead of time that they are being inducted into the hall of fame, they don't know who will receive a Geri.

For Schoenadel, it was quite a shock. "They started talking about this guy who makes 150-[mile] round trips to donate blood and I thought, 'That sounds kind of like me.' "

Arliene McElveen, 79, of Cambridge, received a Geri for her work with the disabled. "It was quite exciting. I was kind of stunned," says McElveen, who has been volunteering for 20 years.

"I think when you've been busy working, when you retire you have to do something," she says. McElveen monitors residential homes of the disabled, visiting them to make sure everything is running smoothly.

Humble and incredibly active is the way Diana Brooks, manager of community resources at Oak Crest Village, a senior living facility in White Marsh, describes this year's inductees. Twenty-five percent of the seniors at Oak Crest perform some type of community service. Four residents were inducted into this year's hall of fame.

While the Geri recipients receive plaques with a design of a large hand holding a baby's hand, symbolizing "understanding and love between generations," all inductees receive certificates and a lapel pin. All hall of famers have their name and a small biography published in the "Blue Book," which is on display at the Ethel Percy Andrus Library in the Johns Hopkins Geriatric Library at the Bayview campus.

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