When Goldie Honey, an 88-year-old Tooele native, moved back to her hometown last October, one of the first things she did was register to work in the kitchen at the Tooele Senior Citizens Center.
“I just like to get out of the house,” she said. Six months later, she’s never regretted the decision.
“It’s just like a happy family here,” she said. “Everybody is so good to each other.”
Honey was one of 38 volunteers recognized for their service at the senior center on Wednesday. Those volunteers, alongside 10–15 other volunteers who work at the Grantsville Senior Citizens Center, put in about 650–700 hours a week and are essential to the centers’ operations, said Debbie Winn, Tooele Senior Center lead.
“The center would close (without the volunteers’ contributions),” she said. “You could not afford — with finances they way they are, or even when times were good — to serve as many people as we do.”
On any given day, about 15–20 volunteers help man the senior center’s kitchens, run the front desk, and provide transportation for seniors around the valley, Winn said. Over time, they have developed an impressive knowledge of their work and what needs to be accomplished to keep the center running, she said.
But the volunteers themselves say they get as much benefit from working at the center.
“It’s a good way to meet people — people I never would have met in my life,” said Mark Martin, an Erda resident who has volunteered at the center for the last five years with his father, Mike Martin.
Though the volunteers initially took their jobs for various reasons, many said that it was ultimately the friendly atmosphere and camaraderie shared among the volunteers and the senior center staff that kept them coming back.
Mary “Rusti” Seely, a Tooele resident who mans the front desk at the senior center for four to five days a week, said she initially started volunteering there after her parents, who were long-time volunteers themselves, passed away.
“I started doing it for them,” she said, “but I love it.”
After more than two years of volunteering at the center, Seely said she has seen the impact the center has on the lives of Tooele’s seniors. She recalled one woman, who recently moved back to the area after spending some time in Arizona.
“They said she wasn’t eating,” Seely said, “but she came here yesterday for lunch and cleaned her plate. I think she just missed us.”