The threat of thunderstorms and a few raindrops did little to dampen the spirits of Helene Girard as she was named the 2008 Senior Rose Queen during the 24th annual crowning in the Central Park Rose Garden. The event was sponsored by the Catholic Charities of Schenectady County Congregate & Home Delivered Meal Program.
“I’m so surprised and honored,” said the 85-year-old woman who wore a pink pantsuit with a white blouse as about 100 onlookers cheered the queen and her court.
State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Schenectady, placed a crown of red and white silk roses on Girard’s head, while Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Schenectady, placed a red velvet robe over her shoulders.
“Lock up your daughters,” Tedisco joked as Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, gave Girard a kiss.
The crowd clapped loudly as Girard smiled for several photographers.
The R.O.S.E ceremony — the acronym means Reach Out to Seniors — salutes the fundraising campaign for Catholic Charities programs for the elderly, including the home-delivered meal program. Money was raised through sales of chocolate roses around Valentines Day and other activities.
The R.O.S.E. day focus has always been on the people who help brighten the seven meal sites sponsored by Catholic Charities of Schenectady County. Each site nominates a Rose Queen candidate. A women who receives home-delivered meals is also singled out for appreciation. The queen is chosen at random among the eight candidates.
Each Rose queen candidate received a citation from the city, a rose corsage, a bouquet of flowers and a white statue of a woman holding a flower.
The other senior R.O.S.E. Queen candidates were Betty Hayes, Duanesburg; Sylvia Zuravin, Jewish Community Center; Alma Anderson, Mont Pleasant; Mary Coletta, Scotia-Glenville; Margaret E. Sandifer, Summit Towers; Margaret Halvorsen Ten Eyck; and Ruth Pitts, Dayhaven.
Girard, who lives in Cambridge Manor Scotia, said she has five children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“I enjoy reading a lot and I like to watch the Yankees on television,” she said. “I like being outdoors in the summertime, and I enjoy my family.”
Girard, who represented the Home Delivered Meals Program, said she enjoys eating the hot meals once a day five days a week.
Susan Ripley, Senior Nutrition and Transportation Program director, said she hopes that Catholic Charities will continue to help seniors to remain strong and independent in the community without worrying about how they may get to the grocery store, or where they may get a healthful meal and find friendship.
“Last year, we talked about change, challenge and rewards,” said Ripley. “I can assure you these things continue to happen.”
In July 2007, as part of a Health and Wellness Program, a new exercise program called Strong Bones was started through a grant received from Farley, said Ripley.
“The walking program, in its second year, has continued to challenge participants to seek health and wellness as part of their daily routine,” she added.
In 2008, another grant was received to continue the Health and Wellness Program by adding a brain exercise component.
Grants for three new vehicles were received from private foundations. Two new minivans and a new 12-passenger four wheelchair- capacity bus were added to the Catholic Charities fleet.
“We continue to seek other efforts and opportunities to add to the fleet and improve the effort to provide safe transportation,” said Ripley.
Peggy King, president of the Schenectady City Council, said it’s important to recognize those seniors who are active and involved.
“They become kind of a role model for everyone,” said King, who was representing Mayor Brian Stratton, who was out of town. “This is a very nice event.”
Tedisco said the event highlights the tremendous contributions Schenectady’s seniors make day in and day out.
“They are individuals who just keep on giving,” said Tedisco. “They gave in their younger days, and they are giving a lot now. They built this great community for us. So it’s only fitting that we honor them in this way.”
Entertainment was provided by the Oneida Middle School Harmoneers, who sang and danced to several rock ’n’ roll songs, much to the delight of their audience.
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