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Awards Honor Volunteers Across Generations

Mary Bochanis first volunteered at Walter Reed Army Hospital in the 1940s. Credit: U.S. Army/
Mary Bochanis first volunteered at Walter Reed Army Hospital in the 1940s. Credit: U.S. Army/
October 2, 2015

BALTIMORE - A 90-year-old who still volunteers her time and teenaged twins who created a service to help elderly neighbors are being honored today by AARP Maryland.

Mary Bochanis, who has been helping care for wounded soldiers since World War II, is this year's recipient of AARP's statewide award for the top volunteer. Hank Greenberg, AARP Maryland state director, said the recognition of intergenerational role models makes this year's awards special.

"Just as Mary in helping to care for young soldiers, her example is so well reflected in these wonderful teenagers who've taken it upon themselves to assist their neighbors," Greenberg said.

He said he hopes the awards will help focus attention on local efforts that make a real difference in the community.

Bochanis, who also volunteers her time helping sick children, was a Red Cross volunteer in the 1940s when she met her husband who had lost a leg during the invasion of Normandy. That experience still resonates in her work today.

"One reason they like me on the wounded warriors' ward," she said, is "because I have lived the life of living with an amputee, and talking to the spouses is so important."

Bochanis still drives to help out at Walter Reed Hospital and the National Institutes of Health, and plans to continue her volunteer work for as long as she is able.

Addisu and Tirhas Dempsey were inspired to help when they saw an elderly neighbor struggling to carry a heavy trash can to the curb. They started recruiting young people to give assistance to other seniors in their community, forming an organization Addisu Dempsey named NAH, which stands for Nobody's Alone Here.

"There's about 20 to 25 people who have said, 'We want to join,' and so we're kind of rushing, trying to get it all organized so that they can really help," Addisu Dempsey said.

News of the Dempsey twins' efforts reached AARP Maryland and inspired the creation of the Rising Star Award and their selection as its first recipients.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - MD