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Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE) is a community-based, non-profit organization serving Lakeland, Bartow, Mulberry and Ft. Meade. With approximately 4,000 clients and over 1,000 volunteers, VISTE lives up to its name. With a small staff and annual budget, they heavily depend upon volunteers to carry out its mission to enable elderly persons to remain safely and independently in their own homes.

Each year, except for a two-year break due to the pandemic, VISTE holds a Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon to celebrate the many volunteers that support VISTE. This year’s luncheon was held on April 13th at First Presbyterian Church and was sponsored once again by Lakeland Regional Health.

Since 1983, VISTE has helped thousands of our elderly neighbors to remain safely and independently in their own homes. VISTE provides transportation, hot meals, supplemental groceries, and various additional services to clients 70 years of age and above.

“The bond that is formed between VISTE volunteers and the seniors they serve is truly special”, says Patty Johnson, Volunteer and Events Manager for VISTE.   Many times, the volunteers are their family, providing life giving relationships, in addition to the actual services the client receives.  It’s a friendly person that the clients know they can rely on, to share their joys and sometimes troubles with.  This means the world to the elderly clients, and the volunteer is blessed in return.          

Volunteer awards are presented annually at the luncheon and the following were recognized this year:

Laurel Kincart received the Alfried Pennekamp Memorial Award for Extraordinary Volunteer Service – Laurel has worked quietly behind the scenes for more than 10+ years on VISTE’s annual fundraising event, VISTEBall. We are immensely grateful to her for sharing her creative talents with us and for making our online auction a huge success, year after year.

Barbara Ready was recognized with the Dr. Sam Clark Volunteer of the Year Award – Barbara’s compassion toward seniors is evident in every phone call she receives. She has assisted us with scheduling transportation appointments for VISTE clients for over 3 years now. The clients love her so much that they even ask for her by name. Her patience and dedication are outstanding, and for this, we are grateful!

Nathan Calzat was awarded the Jeffrey Perkins Youth Award – Nathan began volunteering for VISTE with his mom at the age of 13, delivering hot meals, and groceries to VISTE clients. 5 years later, Nathan’s contributions include birthday cake deliveries, Thanksgiving deliveries, assistance with the volunteer luncheon, and organizing donation drives through his boy scout troop. Nathan plans to major in Astrophysics in college and work at NASA.

Presidents’ Award – The Presidents’ Award was presented to three different community partners that have been instrumental to VISTE’s hot meal program since its inception in 1999. Over the past 23 years, literally hundreds of thousands of hot meals have been prepared, served, and delivered to seniors in need throughout our community. Maintaining this essential service over that length of time would not have been possible without the unfailing commitment and support of Florida Southern College, Guest Services Catering, and First Presbyterian Church, Lakeland. Their steadfast commitment to meeting this basic human need, especially during the past two years when their facilities and operations were closed to others due to COVID, epitomizes VISTE’s mission to enable elderly persons remain safely and independently in their own homes.

For more information about how to volunteer, call Patty Johnson, Volunteer and Events Manager, at 863.284.0828 or email patty@viste.org

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