More than 100 masked and socially distanced people associated with Village Volunteers, joined by civic leaders and family members, filled the lawn and overflowed into the street at the Lewes home of Jackie Sunderland Finer Oct. 9 in celebration of the Village founder’s 90th birthday later this month.
Lewes Mayor Ted Becker and Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, with current and former Village leaders as well as members and volunteers, joined in a ceremony that paid tribute to Finer’s contributions to older adults in eastern Sussex County and her lifetime of work as a gerontologist to improve the lives of aging Americans nationwide.
Carol Wzorek of Lewes, a former co-president, along with Marty D’Erasmo, called Finer a real mover and shaker who inspired everyone she met with her vision of an organization that would meet the physical and social needs of older adults and enable them to live independently as they age.
The Village Volunteers, formerly known as the Greater Lewes Community Village, started with three people seated at Jackie’s kitchen table, Wzorek said, and Finer’s dream came true when the Village began offering services to older adults in November 2013. “The Village is a wonderful legacy for her and the community and all of us,” she said.
Becker presented a proclamation from the City of Lewes that honored Finer for extraordinary service and leadership.
“Jackie is an old soul,” he said, noting that she has worked on behalf of older Americans throughout her life, beginning in the 1950s when she was part of a research team in the new field of gerontology. “Her achievements over 18 years at the National Council on Aging in Washington, D.C., led her to become the founding director of the National Center on Arts and Older Americans. She traveled the country creating programs for senior citizens at home and at senior centers. Ageism is still an issue our country struggles with today.”
Lopez read a proclamation on behalf of the Delaware Senate recognizing a “remarkable woman and advocate for older adults. Jackie has touched and enriched so many lives. Her dedication to the well-being of others is to be applauded,” he said.
Village Volunteers President Bennett Connelly presented a resolution from the board dedicating the community room in the Village Volunteers office on Kings Highway in Finer’s honor, and a photograph of her by Brook Hedge that will hang there was unveiled.
“This dedication is one way we can thank Jackie for her vision in founding the Village and for her leadership in assembling a founding board and many extraordinary volunteers to be a part of this mission,” said Executive Director Jackie Sullivan. “To this day her spirit is undaunted, and her ideas and energy continue to propel the Village forward.”
With the Village’s recent expansion to support volunteers from Bethany Beach, Ocean View and Millville, through the leadership of the South Coastal Village Volunteers, assistance is being provided to older adults in six ZIP codes in Sussex County.