2013 Claude Pepper Award Recipients
Jim Bonnema volunteers 25 to 30 hours a month as a receptionist for the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Grand Rapids, Mich. They serve more than 1,000 seniors in 13 nearby counties each year. Bonnema has been a board member and board president for many years. His genuine caring is noted by both clients and staff. As one of only two visually impaired seniors who greet the public for the Association, Bonnema directly impacts dozens of individuals each day. Vision loss is a prime factor in reducing independence in seniors. Bonnema can relate to the client's needs. He hopes others can accept and better manage vision loss by gaining the same training, skills and insights that helped him. By helping hundreds of seniors access and accept services, he has furthered the Association's mission of promoting independence for the visually impaired.
Nearly two years ago, the Ecumenical Senior Center in Kalamazoo, Mich. asked Margaret D. Smith to serve as interim director. On any given day, the Center is filled with seniors, most with health problems, eating lunch, creating craft projects and mentoring youth. “Across Ages” Intergenerational Programming is an integral program for the seniors. Because of Smith’s partnership with the Kalamazoo Junior Girls Organization, as many as 35 girls, ages 8 to 18, spend time with the seniors during the summer months. They make jewelry and pottery, prepare meals, and read and recite poetry with them. This helps the young volunteers to understand the aging process. Under Smith's leadership, the center makes donations to a local YMCA domestic assault center and holds the annual “Golden and Glamorous” Fashion Revue. Smith helps the Center acknowledge veterans, mothers, fathers and grandparents through celebrations. In the past, the seniors designed a composition of the “Life and Legacy of African Americans” in a Kalamazoo booklet.