Ambrose and Caroline O’Brien, ages 77 and 76 respectively, received the Senior Citizens of the Year award from the Senior Enrichment Services.
The O’Brien have been married for 54 years, during which time they raised two sons and have had four grandsons. Ambrose was an orderly at a Sandusky hospital and later retired from Norwalk Furniture while Caroline worked at Kmart and the Hen House. Both were busy enough, but decided to volunteer their time, efforts and talents to make real differences in the lives of people — especially children.
Between the two of them, the O’Briens volunteered for the Norwalk Parks and Recreation Department and Norwalk United Fund for years, as a guardian with Catholic Charities for 10 years, with Huron County Board of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) for 12 years and with Senior Enrichment Services for more than 15 years.
“It’s quite an honor,” Caroline said. “We’ve enjoyed all the time we’ve been with the community.”
She said her favorite part of her years of service are the friends that she has made in the process. Ambrose agreed, adding he enjoyed “being around the community and friends in the community.”
When asked if there was one form of volunteering that meant the most to them, Ambrose said they felt they made the biggest difference volunteering as a part of the Milan Culinary Vegetable Institute. The volunteer part of the program has since moved its base from Milan to Oberlin.
“When we worked with veggies volunteering in Milan, we would send the veggies to kids so they could learn how to eat proper and have vegetables in school and learn how to live better,” he said. “That was good.”
SES executive director Roxanne Sandles said she “cannot even imagine how many hours they have put into volunteering.”
“Sometimes in our lives it takes a brick up against the head for us to say, ‘Hmm, I need to start living and giving before I can’t,’” she said. “This couple that we are honoring today embodies that spirit of ‘it’s not about me anymore.’ It’s about what we can do for others and for our community to make it better.”
The O’Briens have helped SES with the Age Exchange — an “intergenerational” after-school program linking seniors with school children in kindergarten through the second grade, according to the SES website.
“This pair of volunteers has been very instrumental in supporting and promoting the Age Exchange program,” said Pam Woodruff with SES Age Exchange Program.
“They have provided countless hours of guidance and mentoring to many young children. Their strength comes from the compassion that they show for not only the children, but everyone around them. These individuals are truly inspirational as they demonstrate how caring for our little ones can help to make the lives of our children brighter each day. The smiles that they bring to the children are priceless. The children are drawn to these two by their positive attitudes that they always share.”
“Ambrose has been a true asset to our board,” said Dr. Beth Williams with MHAS. “Ambrose upholds the concept of volunteering to improve the lives of those around him. Ambrose’s life has been a message of inspiration to those who know him.”
The couple was given a gift and flowers to pin to their shirts, along with community recognition.