The Monroe County Area Agency on Aging Advisory Council held its annual presentation of Helen G. Brown Quality of Life Awards luncheon at the Tannersville Inn.

Each year it receives nominations for this important service award. This year's recipients were Joyce and Bill Raczko, Beverly Hartje and Support Services for Seniors.

Joyce and Bill Raczko, Cresco received the Helen G. Brown Award for being instrumental in the creation of the permanent, appropriate and cheerful new home for the Barrett Senior Center. Under their leadership The Friendly Community Center was formed, achieved not-for-profit tax status, created a board of directors with representation from throughout the community and in August 2011, acquired the old library building, now the new permanent home of the Barrett Senior Center. Fundraising for the project has resulted in earning $585,000 to date, to be used toward the purchase price of the old library of $200,000 and renovation costs of $700,000.

They were nominated by Carol Hillestad. In her nomination she stated that the Raczkos approached the project "like a military campaign no detail is too small to be studied and understood, from the best kind of flooring and seating for the safety and comfort of older people, to cost-effective, environmentally friendly heating and cooling. They have attended countless conferences and information sessions and made a concerted effort to network with civic and political leaders right up to the Governor's office. Thanks to their dedication and care, older people of Barrett, Paradise and beyond will have a beautiful, historic center for years to come."

The Raczkos accepted the award humbly.

"We wouldn't have anything if wasn't for a lot of people helping us in their support of seniors," said Bill Raczko.

Beverly Hartje was also nominated by Carol Hillestad because "Her motto seems to be life is service and she lives that sentiment every day."

Hartje is a longtime volunteer at the Barrett Senior Center. She leads seated and standing aerobic exercise classes for clients of the Center and water aerobic classes during winter months at a local swimming pool, a program open to all over 60. In good weather she plans and leads gentle hikes for older adults to interesting natural areas in the community. She is a founding member of the Community Center Without Walls, planning activities for the Senior Center and for intergenerational programs such as Board Game Day, Butterscotch Pudding Day and Apple Dumpling Day. She was involved in the search of finding a permanent home for the Barrett Senior Center and serves on the Board of the Friendly Community Center.

"Beverly is an inspiration to all who know her. Even when health issues try to hold her back, she perseveres and is cheerful, helpful and ready to serve. She is the epitome of the person who deserves to be recognized with the Helen G. Brown Award."

Hartje said she was honored to be recognized.

"We just hit our 16th board meeting. We have a name, a purpose and a mission. We have a program. We have a building and raised money to renovate. This won't be a traditional senior center. It will be a learning center as well with computers," she said.

She added that "We're not called a 'senior center. We're the Friendly Community Center."

Patty Fretz, MCAAA administrator, nominated Support Services for Seniors and Gail Warner accepted on its behalf.

Support Services for Seniors (SSS) was established five years ago with funds from the estate of Dorothy Lee, an MCAAA Advisory Board Member. It was begun with the purpose of improving the quality of life of Monroe County senior citizens. With other fundraising, SSS continues to assist with an unmet need which is home repairs, allowing older residents to remain in their own homes. When the Westgate apartments suffered from a fire and many residents were displaced, they asked for food donations as well as monetary donations. Beds, furniture, kitchen appliances as well as food was purchased for residents. SSS also assists with the distribution of the 'Seniors' Express Times,' a monthly newsletter with an emphasis on aging issues."

Warner thanked MCAAA for the award.

"Support Services for Seniors truly cares for the vision of caring about the lives of older adults in our community," she said.

Helen G. Brown was born in Stroudsburg, in 1915, graduated from East Stroudsburg State College and earned her Master's at Stanford University in Education, with concentration in guidance. She served as a Captain in the Women's Army Corps (WAC), United States Army, during World War II. After the war she pursued a dream and was a driving force in the purchase and development of a 118 acre farm, the present day Stony Acres Recreational Facility, operated by East Stroudsburg University students.

She was the ESU Assistant Dean of Women, Health and Physical Education teacher and later, Director of Recreation and Coordinator of Outdoor Education at ESU. She saw to the development of the Recreation and Leisure Management degree at ESU. She was admitted to ESU's Athletic Hall of Fame and in 1986 was honored by the Alumni Association with the Great Teacher Award. She helped produce the book "Women Who Made History in Monroe County" and authored "My Favorite Backroads in the Poconos" and "The Angels Took Care of Me." Her 1955 flood slides were donated to the MC Historical Society. She served on the MCAAA Advisory Council, was a member of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.

"Helen was very special to our organization and if you receive a Helen G. Brown Award, you should be proud," said Fretz.

As Dan Ferguson, president of MCAAAAC, looked out to the guests, he said, "Thank you folks, for all you do for the Agency on Aging."

MCAAA strives to improve the quality of life of the county's older citizens through the coordination of existing services and development of essential programs. It is located at 724 B Phillips Street, Stroudsburg. You can reach it at 800-498-0330 or 570-420-3735 or email monroeaging@.co.monroe.pa.us.