Twenty-one years of service; 2,000 volunteers; and 220,000 hours of volunteering were recognized at the annual Monroe County RSVP recognition luncheon held at The Galleria at Split Rock recently.

"Your work is priceless," said Bruce Krell, an aide to US Congressman Lou Barletta as he thanked the assembled group of volunteers for "time, knowledge and care."

His thanks were echoed by many of the attending dignitaries, including PA State Representative and RSVP Foundation Member Mario Scavello; the three Monroe County Commissioners; West Ender Grace Marks, an aide to State Senators Browne and Argall; and others, including Patricia Fretz, Area Agency on Aging.

The Monroe County Commissioners presented a certificate of special recognition to Merle Turitz, RSVP Volunteer Resource Coordinator, for all the volunteers and a complimentary copy of the book published in honor of Monroe County's 175th anniversary.

"We value everything you do," said Commissioner Janet Weidensaul, while Commissioner Theresa Merli added her appreciation to the volunteers for helping make this a wonderful community.

Merle Turitz was herself the recipient of many compliments for her leadership during this time of transition, this time of change. She spoke of that transition and change in her opening remarks in which she shared the changes in economics, the fantastic work done by Fiscal Manager Terri Mahurien and others, the closing of three RSVP center doors-in Northampton, Lancaster and Allegheny counties, and the new mandates in service and screening that will be needed by volunteers during the coming year.

"This is not just a celebration of our volunteers," said Turitz, "but also that of the organizations where the volunteers work, some 180 nonprofit entities."

As the recognition luncheon continued, with the hum of conversations and the music of RSVP volunteer Peter Beggs on his Stick, Ray Butler's words in the invocation he offered, based on Deuteronomy 15:11, came to life-- "you shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and to your needy in your land" as the roll call of volunteers included those serving from 250 to over 2,000 hours this year, and those serving from five years to 20 years were recognized.

Whether through the main RSVP office in Stroudsburg, the satellite office in Tobyhanna, or the efforts of two RSVP representatives, Henry Foertsch and Curtis Hargash, in the Pleasant Valley School District, the work of RSVP volunteers continues to "provide essential human services, the kindness, the extra touch, the warmth to the most fragile and needy populations in our county," said Turitz,/.

And all the recognitions, the awards, the applause, that recognized the gifts of time and talent from the volunteers could be summed up in the words about them as might be said by Turitz' Yiddishe Bubbe, "They are real mensches!"