Even if you are well into your senior years, it’s not too late to make a tremendous impact in the lives of others.
That was at the core of Harry Porterfield’s message on Thursday, May 22nd, as he served as the keynote speaker at the Celebrating Seniors Coalition Closing Luncheon in River Forest.
Held at the Koehneke Community Center on the campus of Concordia University, the event attracted nearly 150 people, including leaders from the three communities encompassed by Celebrating Seniors Week: Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.
Each of those elected officials—Oak Park Village President Anan Abu-Taleb, River Forest Village President Cathy Adduci and Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone—shared praise for the coalition and its efforts over the past four years to support and recognize seniors in their communities.
Porterfield, the 85-year-old co-anchor of the 11 a.m. newscast for CBS 2 Chicago, is one of the most senior broadcast journalists in the nation. He has been recognizing seniors, among others, since the 1977 inception of his popular award-winning series “Someone You Should Know.”
For his vast body of work, Porterfield became the first to receive the Celebrating Seniors Coalition’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Coalition founder Jim Flanagan unveiled the award during his introduction of Porterfield.
“He’s dedicated his life to the service of others,” Flanagan said, “and he’s done so in an amazing way.”
In his half-hour talk, Porterfield shared some of the stories of those he has profiled over the years, including several who are in their 90s and even a few whose age has exceeded the century mark.
“In preparing for his talk…I noticed that I had more volunteers submitted to me by viewers than any other kind of story,” Porterfield observed. “Just one volunteer after another…I’m never going to run out of volunteers (to feature) and I’m pleased because volunteers make good stories.”
He described volunteerism as “probably the biggest industry in the United States, when you think about it,” and said that the outpouring of story nominations of volunteers that he receives indicates that although volunteers don’t often realize it, “lots of people are watching” and are impressed with their dedication.
Porterfield’s talk capped nearly 50 events held throughout Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park effort from May 15th to May 22nd. Annually, the group holds its weeklong celebration to coincide with Older Americans Month, sponsored by the Administration on Community Living, organized under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Nearly all of the events were free of charge for all comers, and every event was free for anyone 60-plus. The sessions were geared toward education and entertainment, featuring the creative ideas of community organizations such as libraries, park districts, hospitals and senior service agencies.
Previously, a kickoff event was held Thursday, May 8th at The Nineteenth Century Charitable Association, 178 Forest Ave. in Oak Park. On that night, the group honored the 2014 “60 Over 60” Class, a wide-ranging collection of men and women whose efforts have made a profound impact on the three communities.
Also honored during the Closing Luncheon were Robert Stelletello, Roz Byrne and Terry Zachata, named as this year’s Celebrating Seniors Coalition Most Valuable Volunteers, as well as Mary T. Small, a longtime volunteer and public official from River Forest who has played a key role with Celebrating Seniors and is soon moving to Elmhurst.
Four years ago, communicating seniors’ vitality and far-reaching impact inspired Flanagan to create the Celebrating Seniors Coalition, the volunteer corps that organizes events each year. A lifelong resident of Oak Park and River Forest, Flanagan is a financial planning expert who specializes in serving people at or near retirement.
Comprised of individuals, businesses, congregations, government agencies and other individuals and organizations that serve the senior population, the Celebrating Seniors Coalition counts financial support for seniors in need among its four main objectives.
Through its first three years, the Coalition netted $30,000. Those funds are used to support a variety of initiatives to benefit seniors.
Celebrating Seniors’ other three objectives have been to facilitate cooperation between the business community, government agencies and non-profit organizations for the benefit of the senior population; to promote senior groups and organizations that serve persons 60 and older; and to raise public awareness of issues affecting seniors.