ROOTSTOWN — With this time of year comes crisp air, fall foliage and homecoming. For the past few weeks, area high schools and colleges have been celebrating homecoming with football games, parades, dances and bonfires — special events that unite current students with alumni.
On Tuesday, the Portage Senior Services Network hosted its own homecoming at Northeast Ohio Medical University that brought together Portage County senior citizens with local senior advocates.
“Each year, Portage Senior Service Network does something to honor our seniors,” PSSN president Paula Baughman said. “Our mission and our goal is that we network with a group of individuals who are senior advocates. Each year, we do a special event just for our seniors.”
The theme for this year’s event was homecoming, Baughman said. There were 35 vendor’s tables and 50 advocates representing a variety of senior services including independent living, nursing services, hospitals, law firms, in-home care and fire departments, she said. The event drew around 400 people, she said.
“I was touched,” Baughman said at the close of the program. “It’s such a blessing to see these people honored today. What a great day.”
Among those honored was Evelyn Peck who received the women’s Senior Service Award. Peck began her work as a senior advocate as an outreach coordinator at Reed Memorial Library. After she retired from the library in November 2014 she started volunteering at the Portage Senior Center in Ravenna, performing clerical duties in the office.
Peck said she was surprised to receive the award.
The men’s Senior Service Award was awarded to Leon Jankowski, a U.S. Army veteran who volunteers with RSVP in Portage County. He picks up and delivers food donations and provides transportation to area residents.
“I’ve been taking food to the Center of Home pantry once, sometimes twice a week. I’ve been picking up pastries in Solon and Twinsburg and dropping them off at the senior center in Streetsboro on Sundays,” Jankowski said. “And I’m driving people around who need a ride to the hospital, doctor, post office, grocery store — running errands within a reasonable distance and amount of time.”
Jankowski, 84, said he’s been volunteering his time delivering food for 12 years and pastries for 10 years. He drives a 2016 Ford Fusion, which he said gets good gas mileage. His only stipulation for passengers is they are able to get in and out of the car themselves.
He was also surprised by the honor he received, which included a sash with “king” printed on it. Peck wore a sash that said “queen.” They also donned royal headgear, as well; a crown for the king and tiara for the queen.
They were the homecoming king and queen.
“I’m very thankful to all the people who attended,” Jankowski said. “I’m glad I can help people. In the future, I hope somebody’s able to help me if I need help.”
A third Senior Service Award designated for a couple was given to Mr. and Mrs. Ken Pyles. “Ken and Kay Pyles started their service in Liberty Bible Church and went out to the nursing homes,” Baughman said. “They were putting on play in the fall and winter, and providing music and Bible study for senior citizens.”
Baughman said the couple increased their programs to every other Sunday and then they added weekly Friday programs. “They served faithfully for 14 years,” she said. “Ken passed away at the beginning of this year, but Kay has continued the mission that they started in their ministry. Very deserving.”
She said NEOMED was also deserving of credit for providing the location for the senior homecoming. “The venue is absolutely fantastic,” she said of the NEW Center. “And the colors the venue had for us are so beautiful, to celebrate fall … And it was a great meal.”
Baughman is in her first year as president, having just started last month. She succeeds Stephanie Yeaglin, who served as president for four years. Yeaglin was honored for her service to Portage County seniors and awarded a plaque for her service. Yeaglin said she was honored by the award.
“I feel I received more than I gave,” she said. “I think that is often a feeling people have that they are getting more than they give. As much education I’ve provided to the community and advocacy, I still felt like I gained more from the stories, history and commitment of the people here within the community.”
Read the original Record-Courier article here.