State to ‘give’ Matthews senior volunteer award

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 4, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Every day at just after noon, Josephine Matthews boards a bus for home after spending almost five hours in volunteer work with her fellow senior citizens.

But today, Matthews has another noontime commitment.

That is when the 81-year-old Adams County resident, at a luncheon at the Crowne Plaza in Jackson, will receive a statewide award for her efforts.

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Specifically, Matthews will receive one of two Outstanding Service to Mississippi’s Senior Citizens Awards from the Governor’s Initiative for Volunteer Excellence.

&uot;I found out Monday, and it was such a surprise,&uot; said Matthews, who has volunteered at the Natchez Senior Citizen Multi-Purpose Center since 1986.

Still, Matthews has a down-to-earth attitude about the honor, instead concentrating on the work at hand. &uot;Around the center,&uot; she said, &uot;there’s always something for hands to do.&uot;

At 7:30 each morning, Matthews arrives at the center’s adult day care to supervise 30 to 40 senior citizens. She helps the seniors with crafts projects and chair exercises and serves snacks and meals for both homebound seniors and center patrons.

She also leads Bible classes and singing sessions, advises seniors on nutrition, prepares for birthday and other celebrations and assists older people who use wheelchairs.

When Edwina Peterson, senior programs coordinator for the center, first arrived on the job a few years ago, Matthews was one of the first people she met.

One of the things that impressed Peterson about Matthews was Matthews’ passion for the work the facility does. That, Peterson said, was evident in the way Matthews spoke to the United Way’s Allocations Committee &045; which distributes funds to nonprofits &045; about the center’s mission.

&uot;She was very vocal about our needs,&uot; Peterson said. &uot;She told them about how the center had filled a void in her life and how, because of that, she wanted to give back in some way.&uot;

And Matthews gives back to the center every day, Peterson said. &uot;It’s so nice to have someone you can depend on to assist you,&uot; Peterson said. &uot;I don’t know what we’d do without our volunteers.&uot;

Outside the center, Matthews also serves on the Stewpot’s Board of Directors and is a spokesperson for the United Way. Perhaps her former full-time prepared her for such busy-ness. &uot;What did I do before this? I raised 12 children,&uot; Matthews said with a laugh.