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Village Stories 2012

national village volunteer of the year nominee:  Tom Boyden

by Kristina Holland, Ashby Village Member and Volunteer

As Tom tells it, he began volunteering for Ashby Village when his all-knowing wife announced to him that he "couldn't retire unless he found some place to volunteer at least eight hours a week" and then directed him to Ashby Village. That was three years ago. From that first meeting, he was smitten, signing up to answer phones and give rides. After a few weeks he began taking on the role of everything from handyman to computer guru (for the office as well as for members), chauffeur to MedPal mentor, e-mail recruiter to outreach ambassador.

Tom quickly worked his way up to a regular schedule of five days a week, opening the office at 8, welcoming staff at 9 and "clocking out" at noon. Tom really has found his calling as the "go-to guy" on hard-to-fill and last-minute assignments where "getting to Yes" is imperative, and as the indispensable follow-up caller whose warmth and natural love of people inspire prospective members to join the Village and reassure new members that this is the place where they belong.

Tom says he misses the early handyman experiences that so often touched him deeply. These days he finds equal pleasure in spending most of his time in the office--on the computer, making sure every member's needs are met; on the phone, enlisting last-minute help and arranging connections with the community; on a ladder, or on his back, wrestling tangled under-desk computer connections into miraculous working order.

As the staff member puts it, Tom wears so many hats at Ashby Village it would simply be impossible to replace him. And, luckily, it sounds like that won't be necessary. Tom says this is "the best work experience of my life," and he plans to keep on doing it..."until I can't."

national village photo contest finalist

by Peter Sussman, Ashby Village Member

When we think of villages, we don't always envision older people tracking the paths of hawks through a redwood forest, but in Ashby Village they do. Ashby Village helps connect its diverse members through communal events, of course, but also - and every bit as important - through members' shared individual interests, in small groups initiated and shaped by members to reflect those interests.

Through its newsletter, website and recent "Interest Faire" barbecue, our village assists members in finding others who share their passions, among them bridge, modern poetry, knitting, photography, computers, painting and - among the earliest and most popular of the interest groups - nature walks.

Audre and Roger Newman, world-traveling nature lovers, suggested the nature walks and have been energetic organizers of the group ever since. The Newmans - shown here with Irene Marcos in one of our resplendent regional parks - have led walks through many of the natural wonders that encircle the urban core of our membership area, from a bird migration walk in a local marsh to a fern walk in a redwood forest and a wildflower walk in a hillside park, among others. Guest experts often serve as guides; one, a naturalist and gerontologist, led a tour through a park built on landfill, explaining not only the natural features but the park's historical and ecological context, including how methane gas is systematically released from the garbage dump on which the park was built.

Sometimes, prospective members join in the walks, forming friendships with current members who share their interests and sampling the pleasures of joining Ashby Village. The group's walks often end with the reading of a nature poem or, in one case, an essay on the pleasures of sauntering - as opposed to hiking - in natural surroundings. Afterward, the hiker/saunterers often like to share a lunch, deepening bonds formed on the trail. At the end of one walk, a member read a poem by William Wordsworth celebrating daffodils. One of the walkers reported in our member newsletter: "It was a foggy day at Inspiration Point, prompting each of us to feel as if we had 'wandered ... as a cloud,' as the poem says. We enjoyed the incomparable beauty of Tilden [Park] and shared thoughts, memories, and good conversation along the path. This richness of nature and of friendship continues each month."

none too early

by Bob Davis, Ashby Village Board Member

My wife, Merle, and I were in our 80s when we attended our first Ashby Village Living Room Chat. It was 2009 and there were only about 30 members. It all seemed too good to be true. We were doing fine on our own at the time. But because we live in the Berkeley Hills where we can’t rely on public transportation, we knew the day might come when we couldn’t get out and drive ourselves to wherever we needed or wanted to go. Everything about Ashby Village seemed so right, so we decided to join then, before we needed assistance. That way, if something happened so that we couldn’t keep our cherished dream of aging together in our hillside home, we’d be prepared.

Neither of us believed that time would come so soon. Since joining Ashby Village, I have been a member of the board as well as an active volunteer. I have driven people to medical appointments, taken them shopping, and sat through an evening with a member whose husband underwent abdominal surgery. I was, to quote Joan Diamond, "Paying forward for services I might need later."

In 2012, payback became a reality. On Jan. 23, I had ankle replacement surgery at Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco. Because my right ankle was in a cast, I couldn’t drive. Merle and I were stranded at home and dependent on others for all of our transportation needs. Naturally, I turned to Ashby Village for help, and they came through for me. I needed transportation to San Francisco to have a new cast put on and, six weeks later, to remove it. Merle needed rides to the store so we could replenish our food supplies. There were trips to rehabilitation to assist in my recovery, follow-up medical appointments at Richmond Kaiser, and there may be more still to come.

The volunteer services we received have been exemplary. All of the volunteers who helped us have been punctual, friendly, and helpful. They load my wheelchair into and out of their cars and push me to my appointments, wait for me, and then drive me home. I have offered remuneration, but they would have none of that. How could volunteer services be any better? Joining Ashby Village was one of the best decisions we ever made and, as it turned out, none too early. Our thanks go to Ashby Village and its wonderful corps of volunteers. .