When Norman Bell, Sr., decided to leave his hometown of Baton Rouge in 1957 and move his young family to Toledo, he got some help along the way.
Help from a cousin who encouraged him to come north. Help from Toledoans he hardly knew but took a chance on him. He’s spent his life paying the community back.
“People are constantly doing things to help you. You don’t make it alone in this world,” Mr. Bell, 79, said. “My feeling was always to try to give something back to the people who helped me, to the people in this community who reached out to me.”
On Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Aging is to induct Mr. Bell and 11 other “older Ohioans” into the Ohio Senior Citizen Hall of Fame.
“The individuals we are recognizing each have made a significant impact and lasting difference in the lives of their communities,” Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the department, said in a news release. “We honor them for both their civic engagement and the many contributions they have made to promoting quality of life for others.”
Mr. Bell, who spent nearly 30 years working for Lucas County and the city of Toledo, has had an active retirement, to say the least.
The father of Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, he said he joined the AARP in 1987 and has been involved with that organization ever since. One day last week he was at the library in Oregon listening to seniors share their views on Medicare and Social Security — information he took to the state office. Another day he was in Sylvania directing traffic in a parking lot for a seniors event.
He spends 12 hours a month as part of the Area Office on Aging’s RSVP program — visiting homebound seniors in their homes, listening to their concerns, helping them address problems.
“I love it. I love interaction. I love people,” Mr. Bell said. “If I can be of help, I help.”
He said he will travel to Columbus for the induction ceremony with representatives of the Area Office on Aging.
“I have no idea who nominated me, but I’m very pleased that I’ve been accepted to be a Hall of Fame recipient,” Mr. Bell said.
“I feel good about it. I like what I do. I still volunteer, and I don’t plan to stop.”
Former Findlay resident Darlene Baney, another inductee, said much the same.
Since moving with her husband, Walter, to Florida in December, she has continued her active involvement with the American Red Cross, with her church, with cancer survivors — with whoever needs her.
“That’s what God expects us to do,” Mrs. Baney, 72, said simply. “I feel as though that’s my mission and that’s quite frankly why I’m here — to help other people in any way I can with the gifts I have.”
A retired registered nurse and former health commissioner in Seneca County, she began volunteering with the American Red Cross as far back as 1961.
She was active with the Red Cross disaster action team in Hancock County and continues to serve as a reservist for the National American Red Cross, which responds to large-scale disasters across the country.
She said she and her husband were motivated to get involved with disaster response after they were evacuated from Florida during Hurricane Charley in 2004. Beginning with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she has been deployed on so many disasters she’s lost count.
“I feel extremely honored and unworthy,” she said of the Hall of Fame. “So many people do things like this.”
Ron Rooker, emergency services director at the Hancock County chapter of the American Red Cross, said Mrs. Baney has been an especially valuable volunteer over the years.
“She’s just got a big heart, and she just really worked very hard to make sure we were giving the care that is needed, particularly in health services,” he said, adding, “The energy level she has is tremendous.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6129.