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3 senior citizens recognized as dedicated community volunteers

Photos by Tom Rivers: Florence Surdi of Albion is recognized on Thursday as one of two outstanding senior citizens from Orleans County who will be honored in Albany on May 22 during an awards program at the State Capitol. Melissa Blanar, director of the Orleans County Office for the Aging, is at left, and State Assemblyman Steve Hawley is at right.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 May 2018 at 8:31 am

KNOWLESVILLE – Three senior citizens in Orleans County were honored on Thursday for their commitment to community service in retirement.

The Orleans County Office for the Aging held its annual Spring Jubilee program to celebrate “Older Americans Month.” About 200 seniors attended the program at the Trolley Building of the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The OFA accepted nominations for outstanding seniors from the community. An advisory council then picked the two seniors who would represent the county in Albany during an awards program on May 22.

Florence Surdi, 88, volunteers with Hospice of Orleans, the American Red Cross, Office for the Aging, Genesee Orleans Ministry of Concern and Holy Family Parish.

Surdi worked five years at Kodak before going back to school to earn a nursing degree. She worked in many doctors’ offices in a 35-year career.

State Assemblyman Steve Hawley thanks the seniors for their many years of service to the community.

Surdi has been a very active volunteer the past 12 years, and is a past winner of Hospice’s “Volunteer of the Year.” At Hospice, she provides companionship to terminally ill patients. She also helps with the administrative office at Hospice.

“Florence calmly and efficiently handles any task she is given,” the nominator wrote about Surdi.

At the OFA she assists with the newsletter and a volunteer driver. As a driver, she took an elderly man to visit his wife in a nursing home for five years.

She also helps the American Red Cross during blood drives. When the Ministry of Concern needs to assemble a mailing, Surdi can be counted on.

At Holy Family Parish, she is active with two charitable organizations, the Ladies of Charity and Catholic Daughters.

“Mrs. Surdi always serves the community with a giving and open heart,” the nominator wrote. “She brings her compassion for others and a fabulous sense of humor to her volunteer work.”

Surdi encouraged more seniors to volunteer, saying she has made many friends in the community through serving the different organizations.

“You will find while volunteering it doesn’t seem like working at all,” she said. “It’s very interesting, you learn a lot, and besides that, it’s fun.”

Don Snyder of Albion was recognized Thursday for his community service as a senior citizen.

Don Snyder has been very busy in retirement, helping church leaders respond to the opioid crisis in Orleans County. Snyder, who is retired as a chaplain in the state correction system, was nominated for the senior citizen award by Sheriff Randy Bower.

Snyder was instrumental in setting up the Sheriffs CARE (Community Addiction Rehabilitation Education) as well as an on-call chaplains’ team. He has been active in helping the community establish an addiction recovery program and is a trained recovery coach.

For the past two years he has been a member of the Genesee Orleans Wyoming Opioid Task Force meetings. He also serves on the Orleans County Mental Health Service Board, which oversees delivery of mental health services in the community.

He also is a board member for the Oak Orchard Assembly of God in Medina, the Grace House in Buffalo/Saving Grace Ministries, and From the Inside Out Ministries.

Snyder also volunteers with the American Red Cross’s Disaster Action Team, responding when people are made homeless, and he participates in Pastors Aligned for Community Transformation.

“With our ever growing opiate epidemic, many times hand in hand with mental illness, Don has volunteered his time as well as getting others involved to assist our community to educate and rehabilitate those struggling,” Bower said.

Snyder said people need to be involved in community issues, especially when they are a resource or can connect people to resources for help.

Patricia Cammarata of Albion receives certificates of commendation for her volunteer service.

Snyder and Surdi will both be recognized in Albany for their volunteer work. Patricia Cammarata also was recognized during the Senior Jubilee on Thursday.

Cammarata worked as a licensed master social worker in children’s mental health. She volunteers with the Catholic Charities Friendly Phones Program, and has been a trustee on the Swan Library Board of Trustees and a member of the Albion Historic Preservation Commission.

She was nominated for the award by Catholic Charities.

“She has happily and consistently made calls or visits to socially isolated elders in our community,” the nominator said. “She has provided friendship and empathy in each relationship, improving the lives of our members significantly.”

The Albion High School Women’s and Men’s Select Chorus performed several songs for the seniors. The group has about 40 members and is led by director Gary Simboli.

Sophia Zambito has a solo in “Draw the Circle Wide.”

Arella Ives also was a featured soloist in the “Draw the Circle Wide.”

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