On a Wednesday you can find Beulah Hughes, 87, delivering Meals on Wheels to Ward Circle-Georgetown residents. "I'm a Wednesday lady," she said. "I tell them on Wednesdays I'm always there. I call myself 'Legs.' "
For more than 12 years she has volunteered her services because "I like to help people who are housebound. These people need more than just food, they need someone to whom to talk. Anytime they think I talk too much, they'll have to fire me."
Hughes, a volunteer for the past 12 years, was one of 56 seniors honored last week at "Super Senior Day" ceremonies organized by Iona House, a Senior Service Center in Northwest Washington. The event was sponsored by the D.C. Office on the Aging.
Veronica Pace, executive director of the Office on Aging, praised the honorees for their energy, pointing out that what they do "has to be a love affair of the heart, because you don't get paid -- and yet many of you work jobs and run circles around some of us who do get paid."
City Council member Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) presented citations to the award-winning volunteers, who were nominated by schools, civic organizations, churches and nutrition sites throughout the city.
Almost 103,000 people over age 60 live in the District, or about 16.2 percent of the population. Super Senior Day highlighted the different ways older Washingtonians contribute.
Rebecca Finkelstein, 80, has worked with the Gray Panthers for 10 years on housing and health issues.
"I'm interested in advocacy work," she said. "I'm a quiet person generally, but when I get started talking about the rights of people, when I see needy people and what little they have is taken away, that does get me riled."
For Regina Chandler, 87, honored for more than 20 years of service with the League of Women Voters, "volunteering and helping make the way for others has been a part of my whole life."
This year, injured with a broken arm and leg, she raised $300 for the league by selling calendars from her bed.
The Visiting Nurse Association nominated Grace Baskerville, 69, for providing five years of companionship to those who live alone and to patients with Alzheimer's disease.
"I'm retired and I always wanted to do something like this," she said. "When you're working you haven't got time to do anything else."
"It's something of a privilege to work with people at this very critical point in their lives," said Winifred Brown, 63, who has served the dying through Hospice Care of D.C. for five years. Brown also does volunteer legal work because there should be "some obligation on the part of lawyers to do this work when we know there are many people who need assistance and can't afford it."
There was also strong concern about shaping the lives of the young.
Alma Knox, 73, has worked with Girl Scouts for 55 years because "I enjoy it so much and believe in it. When you're a Girl Scout, you have your feet on the ground."
LaVelma Anderson, 53, who has tutored daily for four years at Garnet Wilkinson Elementary School, said, "My grandson started school; I started, too. I love helping the children. When I can see one child progressing from what I'm doing, it makes me so happy."
Shackleton, who is in her 70s, said that "sometimes people who are retired feel they are no longer useful, and I think this is proof of what they can accomplish, and the personal rewards they receive from doing this volunteer work."
Volunteering not only helps the community, it helps seniors "who would have sat at home, isolated, to be involved with other people and develop and use their skills," said Vera Jackson, Project Director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), which places 400 D.C. volunteers each year.
Others noted that retired persons are ideal for volunteer work that must be done in the daytime.