Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Changing Lives at 95

Post by Pam Foreman, Director of Susquehanna Service Dogs

Every year when we give the Nancy and Robert Fierer Spirit of Volunteerism Award, we know so many are deserving. In fact, that is exactly what this year’s recipient said when I told him he was chosen. He said, “What about all those raisers and other volunteers who do so much more than me and are so much more deserving?” That is the humble nature of this year’s recipient, Melvin Brownold. 

At 95 years old, Mel is Susquehanna Service Dogs’ eldest volunteer, and a true inspiration to other SSD volunteers and staff.

He began volunteering in 2009 when his wife Janie became ill, and he wanted a project to throw his energy into as he embarked on a new stage in his life.

As a retired Air Force Pilot, Mel knows the meaning of service and dedication to a cause, and that is exactly what he has done for SSD. He has dedicated his energy to our mission and championed SSD over the many years he has volunteered.

Most notably Mel has made an impact by being a public volunteer.  Each week he can be seen pulling up to a mall, or a grocery store, or other venue in his baby blue convertible (weather permitting, top down), where he meets the trainers and other public volunteers to help train our AT dogs and prepare them for their future partner.  

Despite his age, and some of the physical challenges that come with it, he is always on time and ready to work his dog, even if the weather isn’t all that agreeable. Three years ago Mel underwent heart surgery. After a short recovery he was back volunteering. He hasn’t skipped a day volunteering for SSD since. He is reliable and engaged, putting his own comfort as secondary to improving someone’s life through the gift of a skilled service dog.

Mel is the proud father to five children, grandfather of seven, and great-grandfather of three. Whenever his family is in town, he stops by for a visit to show them the work we do. His love for SSD is truly apparent during these visits. Actually, Mel takes any opportunity he can to educate anybody about SSD, as well as how they too, can contribute.

Mel donates financially and encourages others to do the same, he shows up at informational meetings and at events with genuine interest, a willingness to serve, and with wise counsel. He is an intelligent, experienced businessman and offers a sharp mind and a lifetime of expertise to SSD.

Mel’s fellow volunteers describe him as a joy to be around and an inspiration, humble in nature, deeply caring about the needs and comfort of the dogs as well as their needs. He is also described as a lot of fun. Like the time he fooled them into thinking he was carrying the 70 pound black lab he had been training earlier that day, only to find as they got closer it was a stuffed animal he bought when they weren’t looking. After they recovered from their shock and concern, the dog (named Neut, for Neutered) was strapped into the front seat of his convertible and off they went.

While his time volunteering in a physical capacity may evolve and as he’s questioned his physical ability, his first and biggest concern is whether he will hinder the needs of the dogs and program, and asks, “When that happens what else can I do for SSD? Where can my efforts best serve the program?”

When we think of Nancy and Robert, and especially Nancy and what she epitomized regarding perseverance in support and love for this program….and doing so as a volunteer, we think of Mel, because he also epitomizes that same spirit. 

He is contributing in a full, robust way, with his main focus being what is good for the dogs, and SSD, and future partner--and doing so at 95 years old.
Please join me in congratulating Mel on this well-deserved recognition.

The Nancy and Robert Fierer Spirit of Volunteerism Award is given out annually to a volunteer who is a champion of SSD and our mission. Recipients of this award not only support our work raising and training service dogs, but they truly embrace the heart of our mission--to support people to live their best lives with their service dog at their side.

No comments:

Post a Comment