By Danielle Woodruffe
Parker honors its volunteers each year with a big splash during our Volunteer Recognition Dinner at the Imperia banquet hall in Somerset. However, three Parker volunteers were recently honored by the state, at the New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson Awards ceremony in Trenton. The evening was meant to honor those who achieve measurable community impact and represent without the expectation of recognition or compensations.
Anna Gao, who volunteers her musical abilities playing piano for residents at Parker at Stonegate and Elders at Parker at River Road, was awarded the Good Neighbor Honoree. Ariel Kruger, who has also volunteered at Parker at River Road since 2015 leading trivia sessions with a group of 4-5 residents, was recognized as a Volunteer Leadership Honoree. The third recipient was Jared Aftel, who received recognition for Youth in Service for his volunteer work at Parker at Monroe.
“I started volunteering because I wanted to give back to the community. At that time, both of my grandmothers were widowed and living alone, and I knew how much they valued having someone to talk to,” said Kruger. “I decided to volunteer at the nursing home because I knew from firsthand experience with my grandmothers just how much elders appreciate having company.”
“I absolutely love volunteering, especially at Parker, because of the countless friendly faces,” remarked Gao. “It's a great feeling to see people happy and enjoying their time wherever they are - whether they're a resident or visitor. Every time I volunteer, it's incredibly rewarding and relaxing to play piano for them.”
It was a significant night for Parker to honor the three volunteers who represent the more than 350 who make up the Parker Volunteer Program!
“It is impressive and humbling to see members of the younger generation like Anna, Ariel and Jared, who embody the act of kindness and dedication to serving others. They are instrumental in improving the quality of life for our elders and are a perfect representation of the excellence in volunteerism at Parker,” says Volunteer Services Supervisor, Carla Angeles. “We really have a remarkable group of volunteers at Parker who help make our homes and programs run more effectively while bringing joy to those around them.”
The Volunteer department is an essential part of Parker culture and has been since the very beginning. When Henrietta Parker opened the first nursing home on Landing Lane she encouraged and welcomed members of the community to help out and care for the residents. Although times have changed, we still could not do all that we do without our wonderful volunteers.