Couples find volunteeringis more rewardingthan they expected.
By MARALINE KUBIK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
COLUMBUS -- First Lady Hope Taft will honor three local couples today during the third annual "Joined Hearts in Giving" celebration at the governor's residence.
Sarah and Bill Zavarello of Boardman, Jean and Jack Parke of Niles, and Jean and Robert Watson of North Lima are being honored along with 20 other couples from throughout the state "for long marriages and for sharing their hearts with those in need through volunteerism," Taft said.
"They devote their lives not only to each other, but also to their communities, and our state is a better place because of them."
Retirees: The Zavarellos have been married 60 years and volunteer between eight and 40 hours a week through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
They both retired in 1985. She was a teacher at St. Charles School, Boardman; he was a training director for the Stambaugh Thompson Co., Youngstown.
Volunteering to stuff envelopes, put together information packets for heart patients, sort T-shirts, staff a volunteer information booth at the Canfield Fair or making American flag pins "gives us a good time to socialize with people," Bill Zavarello said. "We learn from these things."
The Zavarellos have three children and five grandchildren.
Since 1980: Jean and Jack Parke have been married 53 years and have been volunteering since 1980.
Jean started volunteering to work in her church office "many years ago," she said; her husband got involved after retiring from the Niles Post Office. Now, Jean said, "we do everything together. If there is something that needs done, we try to help get it done."
The Parkes volunteer at Niles' SCOPE Senior Citizen's Center and St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
"They share not only the bonds of a longtime marriage, but also the steadfast belief in service to others," said Toni Yuhasz, who nominated the couple.
Offering comfort: Jean and Robert Watson have been married 52 years. As Hospice volunteers they comfort families dealing with terminal illnesses, help with housework and provide transportation. They also serve as buddies to children at grief camps, visit shut-ins and deliver meals-on-wheels.
"We are so well blessed with good health we decided to help others," Jean Watson said.
The couple started by delivering meals to the elderly about 15 years ago, after they both retired. Robert retired from Anstrom Cartage Co., Niles, where he worked as a dispatcher; Jean retired from Peter J. Schmidt Co., North Jackson, where she worked as a merchandising specialist.
With time on their hands, Jean said, she and her husband decided to do something to help others. In turn, she said, "We get a lot out of it. You always get back more than you give."
The Watsons volunteer an average of 10 hours a week.
An Ashtabula couple, Audrey and Hubert Wheeler, who've been married 65 years and are volunteer caregivers through an interfaith health partnership, are also being recognized. In addition to serving as caregivers, the Wheelers are active in their church and Lions Club.