COLUMBUS - May is Older Americans Month, a time to celebrate the many ways our elders are vital members of society who continue to grow, thrive and contribute.
On Tuesday, May 22, the Ohio Department of Aging will induct 12 older Ohioans into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame during an awards ceremony at the Ohio Statehouse Atrium.
The inductees have lived lives full of accomplishments and service, and exemplify the state's theme for Older Americans Month: "never too old to ..."
"The individuals we are recognizing each have made a significant impact and lasting difference in the lives of their communities," said Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the department. "We honor them for both their civic engagement and the many contributions they have made to promoting quality of life for others thought our great state."
One of the inductees is 77-year-old Bellaire resident Glenn Maxwell.
Maxwell's mother always told him, "Do God's will, not your own." He suffered from severe asthma and nearly died on several occasions. "It made me wonder why God pulled me through," Glenn said. "I was inspired to do good by watching my mother caring for the poor people we knew, knowing that we ourselves were poor."
His volunteerism started with the Boy Scouts of America. After he returned home from the service, he became the scoutmaster for Troop 124 in Bellaire, Ohio, a post he held until 1980.
He coached little league baseball from 1967 to 1975, and served as president of the league for a year. He coordinates volunteers for the United Way of the Ohio Valley's "Day of Caring" projects.
He does the same with "Make a Difference Day" for the State of Ohio. As a member of the Rock Hill Presbyterian Church, he served as Sunday school superintendent, trustee, elder, and volunteered his carpentry skills to help build the new church library.
In 1992, Glenn grabbed his hammer and hopped on a train to help rebuild Louisiana after Hurricane Andrew. This was his introduction to Habitat for Humanity, a cause for which he has been an influential leader. In 1993, he met Habitat's co-founder, Millard Fuller, in Georgia and was inspired by his sermon, "The Theology of the Hammer."
That same year, he was asked to volunteer for the Jimmy Carter Work Project. He took early retirement from Carpenter's Local #3, and traveled to South Dakota with his wife and two oldest children for their first project. Since then, at his own expense, he has traveled to South Korea, Mexico, South Africa and Hungary, as well as to many states in the U.S. He built new homes and renovated old homes to raise awareness of sub-standard housing in the world.
"We could empathize with working families that needed a decent home to call their own," he said. "I built the house I live in, living in the basement with my wife and four children until I was able to get a loan to complete the house."
Glenn and his wife worked to establish Habitat for Humanity of the Bellaire Area in June 1998. He organized a group of retired carpenters, plumbers, painters, electricians and other tradesmen and volunteers. He supervised the construction of the first nineteen houses, and kept them simple, decent and affordable.
"I am grateful for all the good people around the world that God has put a hammer in their hands in order to help those in need of a decent, affordable home," Glenn said. "When the houses are dedicated and the keys are turned over to the new homeowners, all the hard work that you did was worthwhile when you see the joy in their faces and know there is hope for the future."
Medical issues along the way haven't discouraged him. At 77, Glenn's still helping others, perhaps a little slower than before, but he says, "Don't quit! Don't be boastful about what you do and continue doing what you can for yourself, family and others who need help." He added, "I still travel and volunteer. Look for the silver lining and the blessings God has given you."
Glenn has passed the lessons his mother taught him to his four children and two grandsons. All are active volunteers. As Glenn said, "It's not what he can do or what you can do, but what we can do together to make God's world a better place to live in."
Since 1978, more than 350 individuals have been inducted into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame. The hall honors individuals age 60 and older who are native-born Ohioans or who have resided in the state for at least 10 years. Each year, the Ohio Department of Aging solicits nominations from partner organizations, community leaders and the general public. Nominations are evaluated on the impact of current contributions or a continuation of work and accomplishments begun before age 60. Honorees were evaluated by a selection committee using a formal rating system.