The Oxford Dictionary defines a volunteer as someone who “offer[s] to do something without being forced to do it or without getting paid for it.”
An alternate definition for a volunteer is Shirley Walton. She exemplifies everything a great volunteer should and much more, which is why she has been selected for the 2022 Volunteer of the Year Distinguished Service Award from LeadingAge PA.
Walton possesses all the traits of a great volunteer, and the Tel Hai Retirement Community is blessed to have her offer so much of her time to spend with their residents.
“Altruistic, selfless, charitable, devoted and helpful are all words that come to mind when thinking of characteristics that describe Shirley Walton,” Residential Living Administrator Katie Buck said. “Shirley is very much like the other Tel Hai volunteers who are happy to cover the front desk or be a friendly visitor or sort the mail. What makes Shirley stand out is her desire to do all this and more – her care and concern reaches beyond Tel Hai’s campus.”
Volunteerism is contagious, and anyone who knows about Shirley Walton and her service gains a newfound respect for volunteering. Walton leads by example and she never asks for anything in return. What she does for Tel Hai is truly irreplaceable.
She is always willing to step in to help in any way she can, and it is amazing to see her many contributions.
So, why does she do it? For no reason other than the fact that she merely has a servant’s heart and loves senior citizens. She started volunteering far before she became a senior herself, and Walton has no plans of stopping anytime soon.
“Shirley served as the self-appointed ‘leader’ in many ways of several on-campus volunteer groups, including the Sew Creative and Nature Club,” noted the Executive and Leadership Teams of Tel Hai Retirement Community. “But long before her service to Tel Hai, Shirley has served in a volunteer capacity for more than 60 years! She first started as a volunteer with her children’s school. Fast forward to her impact on life at Tel Hai, her contribution is tremendous.”
Volunteers are already irreplaceable, but when the day comes that Walton is no longer volunteering, Tel Hai will have such a massive void to fill. She is more than just a volunteer but an advocate, and she is appreciated in numerous ways.
Walton’s service has not been limited to Tel Hai, either, which makes what she does that much more commendable and amazing.
“Shirley’s servant heart and servant leadership has served the senior population, victims of domestic violence, orphaned children, our veterans and so many other individuals or groups who might benefit from tangible things such as clothing and blankets, or walker bags and mending needs,” Buck said. “Shirley pulls others into her efforts; she is a great organizer and she is a caring cheerleader. Shirley recognizes the attributes and contributions of others, and she is the first to shine a light on others before herself.”
On top of being a volunteer herself, Walton works to convince many others to give of their time and serve their community too. She recognizes the importance of volunteerism, so she feels that if she continues to convince others to serve, then she has done her duties well.
“She is a community organizer, a grassroots go-getter and a selfless servant to those in need,” the Executive and Leadership Teams of Tel Hai Retirement Community said.
It is one thing to volunteer your own time, but to be able to gather others to volunteer their time as well is awesome to see. Building community is important, and that is what Walton does each and every single day.
She does what she can to make sure the Tel Hai community, as well as so many others, feels the love from more than just the employees of the community, but by everyone else too. She has such a big heart, and the residents of Tel Hai enjoy getting to know and be around Walton.
“It’s very typical of Shirley… to which everything she does has meaning, community benefit and purpose,” the Executive and Leadership Teams of Tel Hai Retirement Community commented.
At the end of the day, that is what Walton is all about. All she wants to do is make sure that the people at Tel Hai are taken care of, and her proactive involvement does not go unnoticed.
Walton has also created the Sew Creative group at Tel Hai, which serves to create handmade items for groups such as domestic violence victims, cancer patients and many others, as Buck mentioned.
“Perhaps most importantly, Shirley has been willing to share her love of sewing and quilting with others,” the President of Calico Cutters Quilt Guild Maureen Ciemian said. “She has spent thousands of hours leading various Committees over the years and assisting novice quilters as they learned how to make a quilt.
“In recent years, we have received dozens of quilts each month for our charitable giving programs that Shirley had facilitated. In many cases, it was her artistic ability that helped bring fabric and thread together to make a beautiful quilt out of donated materials.”
“Monday morning was always a time I looked forward to because it was our sewing time,” resident Ruth Ann Reichert added. “Chatter and ideas flowed. Shirley Walton had sewing projects for us to donate to the Tel Hai residents and the larger community. There were also ideas for items we could stitch for ourselves and to give as gifts.”
Reichert then went on to say that much of the material they use to sew these gifts was donated by Walton herself. Who knew sewing could make such an impact?
When people think of Shirley Walton, not only do they think of the most selfless volunteer they have ever met, but they also think of the Sew Creative group that she has initiated. It is making an impact at Tel Hai because it provides residents with an engaging opportunity to volunteer their time and make a difference in the community around them. Talk about a double blessing!
It is no wonder why Shirley Walton was chosen for the LeadingAge PA Volunteer of the Year award. Congratulations, Shirley!