IMPERIAL — Sofia Vasquez was selected Volunteer of the Year and was presented with a plaque and certificates of recognition Wednesday by elected officials at the 12th annual Senior Appreciation Day at the Casa de la Mañana Building, Imperial Valley Expo in Imperial.
She appeared to be overwhelmed by the accolades that, after each presentation of recognition, she would walk away only to be guided back to the center stage by emcee Rosie Blankenship, assistant public administrator and program manager.
Vasquez was born in 1938 and has been a volunteer for 30 years at the El Centro Desert Villas. “I am very happy to have this award,” she said.
“Our senior volunteer of the year helps out in the six different area agency on aging services which include legal services, congregate meals, home delivered meals, transportation, respite care, health care and health prevention,” Blankenship said.
Michael Kelley, chairman of the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, presented the Volunteer of the Year plaque to Vasquez. She raised the plaque for all to see and the audience correspondingly responded with cheers and applause. She also received certificates of recognition from Alondra Perea in behalf of Senator Ben Hueso -40th District; and from Christian Nuñez who represented Assemblymember Juan Vargas -51st Congressional District.
But for other individuals in their seventh or eighth, perhaps more, decade of life, the appreciation day was a justification to get out from the comfort of their homes and socialize with other elderly friends and individuals. The live music provided by Pure Inspiration inspired their feet onto the dance floor were they swayed with the blaring music. Many who were unable to dance, just tapped their feet to the beat.
A few, however, came ready and competed for the best dressed costume according to the theme —Harley Davidson Motorcycle.
Frederick Bryant, by a popular vote from the audience, smiled and raised his hands for winning the best costume. For Bryant, the costume was his motorcycle club uniform. He had a sleeveless leather jacket decorated with patches, metal chains and a silver cross necklace. Bryant, a member of the law enforcement club Blue Knights California X and the chaplain of the motorcycle club said, “This is great to see all the seniors out.”
“I’m probably older than a lot of them here. It is good to see that people are aging gracefully. With the grace of God, we are living longer today. I’m not living pain-free or ailment-free but I trust in the Lord and he has blessed me. It is a blessing every day that I wake up and I’m still in the land of the living,” Bryant said.
While there were only a handful who came in with their motorcycles, many senior citizens arrived in their cars or special transportation, then walked from the parking area towards the registration table inside the building. However, some used their canes, walkers and wheelchairs with the assistance of their caregivers.
Blankenship estimated about 500 elderlies and their caregivers attended the event. Over 40 vendors participated to share their services related to seniors needs such as healthcare, hospice, long term care facility, transportation, banking, insurance and legal assistance. The Imperial County Sheriff’s Department also gave a presentation on identity theft and scams.
With 32,000 seniors in Imperial Valley, Blankenship emphasized the importance of addressing senior needs such as assisted living and long-term care facilities. “There is so much malnutrition and isolation with our seniors that we want to make sure that they’re eating properly, that they get the socialization that they need.”
As the number of seniors increase in the Imperial County, there is a need to reach out to them to make their lives enjoyable through visitation, taking them to dinner or taking them to social events such as the senior appreciation day.
For more information about services offered by the Imperial County Area Agency on Aging, call 1-(800)-510-2020.