Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan honors two senior advocates with Claude Pepper Award

More than forty individuals and organizations also recognized; New Baltimore chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars receives Diana C. Jones Award

July 17, 2009

DETROIT - Two Michigan seniors and an organization helping older veterans were honored for their outstanding dedication and advocacy to senior issues by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Senior Advisory Council at the Annual Community Service Awards. The event was held during the Wayne County Senior Fun Fest at Hines Park in Dearborn Heights on June 27.

The individuals received an award named after the late Claude Pepper, the U.S. congressman from Florida who was one of the principal sponsors of the Older Americans Act of 1965 and a major force in strengthening Social Security and Medicare. The award is presented to two individuals whose professional or volunteer efforts have made significant contributions to improving the lives of Michigan seniors, particularly those whose access to health care services may be hindered by physical, mental, financial or geographical limitations. The Blues SAC has honored outstanding senior citizen advocates with the Claude Pepper Award since 1990.

This year's Claude Pepper Award honorees, who each received a $1,000 check to be given to nonprofit organizations of their choice, are:

Mary Beth Lepczyk of Grosse Pointe Farms, who was honored in the working-advocate category. Lepczyk oversees two nurse practitioner practices, is a nurse practitioner herself, and is a staff specialist on aging at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. She is also an adjunct employee of the Detroit Medical Center where she serves as a manager of the Rosa Parks Geriatric Program and oversees the DMC's Ambulatory Geriatric Program. Lepczyk works with older adults, their families and caregivers to enhance patients' quality of life by providing opportunities to preserve and maximize the physical, intellectual and psychosocial functions of life. She also organized a community-based program to bring educational resources on the aging process to older adults.

Woodrow Skaff of Flint, 91, who was honored in the volunteer category. Skaff spends as many as five days a week visiting up to 20 seniors who are without family or friends. Skaff enriches the lives of many seniors who have come to count on him for his weekly visits to homes or hospital bedsides. His proudest achievement is bringing Young Life, an international nondenominational Christian outreach organization, to Flint. He was one of the original members and also served as president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Flint. The Blues SAC also presented an award named in honor of Diana C. Jones, retired Blues vice president of Community Affairs, who is known for her advocacy and concern for the needs of the elderly. This award recognizes an exceptional organization that provides older adults with health or social services, allowing them to continue to live meaningful lives.

This year's Diana C. Jones Award was given to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Lempke-Blackwell Post 7573 of New Baltimore for exceptional community service to older veterans. The post was chartered in 1949 and continues to be one of the most respected posts in Michigan. From May 2008 to April 2009, VFW Post 7573 donated more than $80,000 and countless hours of volunteer service to the community, including assistance to widows and their families.

The following individuals and organizations received honorable mention certificates for their help in improving the lives of the elderly.

Claude Pepper Honorable Mention Winners

  • Maggie Allesee, Bloomfield Hills
  • Ulysses Austin, Detroit
  • Irvin Bailey, Jr., Detroit
  • Sandra Carol Booker, Melvindale
  • Wayne W. Bradley, Sr., Detroit
  • Gene Buchan, Farmington Hills
  • Frank Carcone, Troy
  • Cheryl B. Dworman, West Bloomfield
  • Gary L. Easton, Lapeer
  • James Elmleaf, Troy
  • Edward P. Forst, Troy
  • April Harbach, Onsted
  • Ralph Harrington, Greenville
  • Larry W. Hines, Spring Lake
  • Esther Howell, Grosse Pointe
  • Jan Kuiper, Jenison
  • Matthew Makowski, Clinton Township
  • Leonard Peters, Lansing
  • Harriette Peterson, Detroit
  • Paul Reinhart, Lansing
  • John Ryan, Bloomfield Hills
  • Jay Silvers, New Baltimore
  • Patricia Simpson, Hamtramck
  • Ellen Skuta, Southfield
  • Phillip and Marjorie Smith, Royal Oak
  • Marie Verheyen, Pontiac
  • Helen Wallace, Clarkston
  • Yolanda Whiten, Ann Arbor

Diana C. Jones Honorable Mention Winners

  • AgeWell Services, Muskegon
  • Area Agency on Aging 1-B, Southfield
  • Franklin Wright Settlements, Inc., Detroit
  • Geriatric Center of Excellence and the Rosa Parks Geriatric Clinic, Detroit
  • Hospice of Lenawee, Adrian
  • The Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University, Detroit
  • MICafe Program, Lansing
  • Neighborhood Service Organization, Older Adult Services, Detroit
  • Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency, Pontiac
  • Redford Township Senior Citizen Club, Redford
  • Saint Patrick Senior Center, Detroit

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to 4.7 million members residing in Michigan in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. The company offers a broad variety of plans including: Traditional Blue Cross Blue Shield; Blue Preferred®, Community Blueand Healthy Blue Incentives PPOs; Blue Care Network HMO; BCN Healthy Blue Living Flexible Blue plans compatible with health savings accounts; Medicare Advantage; Part D Prescription Drug plans, and MyBlue products in the under-age-65 individual market. BCBSM also offers dental, vision and hearing plans. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit

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