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Sandi Lerner Named LeadingAge Kansas ‘Volunteer of the Year’

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Sandi Lerner is a talker. She’ll be the first to admit it, and anyone who knows her will attest.  But on the afternoon of July 30 – before a room full of witnesses –Sandi Lerner was rendered speechless for the first time she could remember. It was because on this day, at an impromptu presentation during Village Shalom’s weekly happy hour, Village Shalom President and CEO, Matt Lewis, informed the crowd that Lerner had been selected as the LeadingAge Kansas “Volunteer of the Year.”   

Sandi Lerner receives good wishes from Village Shalom staff and fellow volunteers after being notified that she’ll be the recipient of the 2015 LeadingAge Kansas “Volunteer of the Year” Award.

“I was dumbfounded. It didn’t even sink in,” Lerner recalled. “Once it did, I couldn’t decide if I was embarrassed or honored, or both.”

Lerner’s mother, Ruth Davis, first moved to Village Shalom in 2001. That’s when Sandi began spending a great deal of her time at the community – not only visiting her mother, but also building friendships with staff and other residents. When her mother passed in 2010, Sandi couldn’t bring herself to stay away – that’s when she began volunteering.

In the years since, Lerner has become a de facto member of the Village Shalom Programs department. Whether it’s organizing Mah Jongg games, tagging along on outings, dancing with residents at happy hour or just taking the time to chat and brighten someone’s day – Sandi is at Village Shalom so often, most assume she’s on the payroll.  

“I come here [to Village Shalom] to have fun,” Lerner said. “No matter what’s going on in life, when I get home from Village Shalom I always feel better. You lose yourself in their [the residents’] smiles.”   

Sandi Lerner with her friend, Ruth Margolin – one of the many Village Shalom residents benefiting from her numerous volunteer hours. 

LeadingAge Kansas is a statewide association of 160 not-for-profit aging services providers that serve the needs of more than 20,000 Kansas seniors. Each year the organization presents Quality First Awards of Excellence to deserving recipients from member organizations throughout the state. The “Volunteer of the Year” award is presented to a person whose volunteer achievements have made a difference in the lives of the people working and living in a LeadingAge member organization.

“Sandi Lerner’s dedication as a volunteer at Village Shalom is motivated by a commitment to making the world a better place – as inspired by her own Jewish heritage and practice,” said Debra Zehr, CEO and President of LeadingAge Kansas. “She views her volunteer activities as a way to truly make a difference in people’s lives, one individual at a time.”

Lerner and the other Quality First recipients will be presented with their awards at the 2015 LeadingAge Kansas Fall Conference to be held at the Overland Park Doubletree on Sept. 10. This will be the sixth Quality First Award presented to someone from Village Shalom.

“Volunteering is the non-profit side of feeling good about yourself,” Lerner reflected. “It’s very selfish, actually. I come here to see my friends. I have more fun than they do. I found my place in this world through volunteering.”