Kent senior center lauds top volunteers

Kent Senior Center volunteers of the year from left, Darlene Masseth, Gretchen Stangle and Sister Janet Benish. - Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter
Kent Senior Center volunteers of the year from left, Darlene Masseth, Gretchen Stangle and Sister Janet Benish.
— image credit: Charles Cortes, Kent Reporter

It was an afternoon of surprises for the winners of the annual Kent Senior Activity Center volunteers and senior citizen of the year awards.

"You probably will not believe this, but I'm at a loss for words," said Gretchen Stangle, co-winner of the 2009 Volunteer of the Year, as she stepped up to receive her plaque at the Volunteer Appreciation Tea April 30 at the senior center.

Darlene Masseth had a similar reaction as the other winner of the Volunteer of the Year award.

"This is very special; I cannot believe it," Masseth said. "I do love all of you guys."

Sister Janet Benish, who has been a Catholic nun for 54 years, received the Kent Lions Club Senior Citizen of the Year award for 2009.

"I thought I came here to pick up an award for someone else who was sick and could not make it," Benish said after receiving her honor. "It makes me feel embarrassed. It's just a matter of the years add up."

Benish did pick up an award for Anne Goodfellow, who could not make the reception. Goodfellow won the senior center Longevity award for 20-plus years of service. Goodfellow has volunteered for 29 years with the Retired Senior and Volunteer Program (RSVP) of King County.

Fellow volunteers nominated the four for the awards. Senior center staff picked the winners based on their involvement and commitment to the community. There are nearly 300 volunteers at the senior center.

Stangle, 81, of Covington, has volunteered for 17 years at the senior center. She often helps with the lunch program.

"I was taken aback," said Stangle, after the program about her reaction to getting the award.

A chance to mingle and talk with others keeps Stangle coming to the senior center.

"I like the people you meet and there's always something going on," Stangle said. "It gets you out of the house. And you always meet someone."

Masseth, 64, who has lived in Kent for 30 years, is in her fourth year as a volunteer at the senior center. She helps with special events as well as the lunch program.

"A lot of people said they were going to vote for me," said Masseth, still surprised she came away a winner.

The nomination forms about Masseth had numerous positive reviews about her work, including one who wrote, "She is always happy and helpful and a joy to be around."

Benish, 89, of Kent, is no stranger to winning awards. She received the Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Service award in 2008 for all of the work she does.

Benish has crocheted hats and scarves for the homeless for decades. She helps with numerous projects at the Kent Chamber of Commerce, the Kent Downtown Partnership and the Pediatric Interim Care Center in Kent, where she cuddles drug-exposed babies.

"She has a quiet, selfless nature yet has made an irreplaceable impact in the community because of a servant's heart," said a coordinator with the King County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in nominating Benish for the award.

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