An 85-year-old Troy woman has been named the state winner of Home Instead’s Salute to Senior Service award.
Grace Bulger has been volunteering at Van Rensselaer Manor since her husband’s move there in 2000. Every Friday since, except for a few holidays, she has supervised the rosary prayer group her husband created before his death 11 years ago.
She was nominated for the award by her son, Tom, who began volunteering at the nursing home himself after seeing the impact it had on residents.
Tom Bulger called his mother a woman full of humility and compassion and said she has always made a large impact on the lives of those around her. Her service at Van Rensselaer Manor is only the latest chapter, he said.
“She’s the only person I know who still sends St. Patrick’s Day cards. That’s the kind of person she is, she goes out of her way to think of others,” he said.
Bulger is a passionate yet modest woman and doesn’t feel she deserves the award more than any other volunteer.
“A lot of people do a lot of volunteering and don’t get recognized for it. It just seems like a kind thing to do,” she said.
She is thankful for winning, however, because of the $500 donation she will receive to help fund the manor’s purchase of a new minivan. The activities department takes residents shopping and to local destinations such as fairs and the Saratoga Race Course and needs the new vehicle to continue those services.
It is because of donations, devoted staff and volunteers like Bulger that manor patients are able to stay mobile and active. She says even a few hours of volunteering can really make a difference, especially when more people are involved. Many times, just talking to a new face can make a patient’s day, and Bulger says there is a lot of local history hidden in those otherwise quiet minds.
She hopes her recognition will help encourage others to get involved.
“Even if it’s only a couple of hours, even if it’s just talking to someone for a while, it’s a positive for them,” she said.
Bulger’s relationship with the patients at the manor is deeper than her weekly rosary readings.
“She’s like a ‘Dear Abby,’ ” her son said. “Most of the patients just want someone to talk with, who can try to understand what they’re going through, so she listens and gives them advice when they need it or a friendly face when they don’t.”
The Salute to Senior Service Award is given to a senior citizen in each state to “honor their commitments to their causes and communities.” Each state winner receives a $500 donation to the nonprofit group of their choice and is entered into the national competition, where a $5,000 donation is at stake.
The Home Instead Senior Care network calls itself the world’s largest provider of non-medical in-home care services for seniors.