MAY 2019 - THE PRIZE


Last Wednesday afternoon I had my one minute of fame. I was given 60 seconds to tell one of the most influential, and powerful group of Lake County citizens, ‘One Hundred Women Strong’, why the Silver Foundation, deserved their support. That’s because, a year ago I was lucky enough to be asked to be on the Board of the non-profit Silver Foundation. What the Silver Foundation is doing, and will do, when you pull up their website, will make you gasp in amazement and grow faint with wonder. Started by Supervisor Jim Steele, the Silver Foundation is a pretty good outfit. Jim Steele is the Founder, and he is a true visionary. Jim, as one of our County Supervisors, saw first-hand the needs of Seniors, and how many gaps there are between what government does, and what Seniors need. I will bet my bottom dollar what Jim started, in his efforts to help others, will, one day, become a flood tide of people helping people everywhere, working to find ways to make sure our older citizens have the best possible quality of life; one of the most important things we shall ever do. Olga Martin Steele, our Secretary, is a driving force in all our meetings. Nothing stands in Olga’s way to good. Shawn, Rae, and Claudine, are the other Board members all cut of the same cloth. I, also, have the honor to be a part of that high-powered group of service individuals. We all share the knowledge that, sooner or later, every Mother’s son and daughter will grow older and may need help. As time passes, as it must for all of us, circumstances may bring many older people to a place when they are alone, isolated and fearful. One in five of our older neighbors live in poverty. Far too many of them are living in the darkness of isolation, alone and forgotten. They desperately need our help. When we are young such thoughts hardly cross our minds. As we age, and should it happen to us, those dark feelings can be the bitterest of medicine. No man or woman deserves such an existence and that is precisely what the Silver Foundation will fight with tooth and nail to eliminate. One good answer for such feelings can be a pet. That’s why the Silver Foundation’s project; “Help a Senior, Save a Pet” was born. A dog, or a cat, can become an important part of our Family, receiving your love and giving unconditional love in return. A cat, like my Cleo, or a dog, can be a wonderful source of comfort for an older person. Dogs, and cats, give more than love. Without effort, they may give their owners a better heart rate, lower blood pressure, and even help fight their heart disease. A pet, that you can love and that loves you in return, can be a help mentally and physically for its owner, a light shining in the darkness. Something more, that I think of often, is that you and I can help so many animals escape the early death of being euthanized… and instead of having a good life all animals deserve. What happened to me on Wednesday afternoon, during the ‘One Hundred Women Strong’ Meeting, in Kelseyville last Wednesday, was something wonderful. ‘One Hundred Women Strong’ is a peach of an organization. More people should know these ladies want to give back to their community and help those that need help. I walked into the big meeting rooms decked out in style with tables and chairs. The minute I saw the crowd of women, I knew I stood with one of Lake County’s Seats of Power. The Women there, were all ages and, to me, they were, everyone, beautiful. Olga, Rae, and Claudine, are all power house ladies in their own right. They have all worked for years to make Lake County a better place. I felt out of place; one man in the company of a hundred women. Not that I was complaining. I was honored to be in their company. Olga laid out our plan to speak for the Silver Foundation. “Rae and Claudine will speak for five minutes to tell the audience about the Silver Foundation, and in particular, our project; “Help a Senior, Save a Pet” and that we wanted to be considered for their money donation. Each of the ladies will talk for five minutes.” “How long is my speech?” I asked. “I am ready to speak for an hour, at least, so I will need a few days to prepare,” I said happily. “I need a week, but I can do it in less time.” Her reply let me know I had no need for concern. “You will be the last speaker.” I was told. “You will have one minute to speak.” I said I would try my best to think of something to say. When I got there, after some food was served, and I had a glass of good wine, three organizations had their chance to ask the ‘One Hundred Women Strong’ group for a donation. The Volunteer Fire Department needed money for their important work. The Veterans had just started a fine museum and they wanted help. The Silver Foundation asked for help because it knows about the incredible advantages to Seniors that there are to give lonely seniors a pet to keep them company. Each group had their say. When the Silver Foundation speakers, Claudine and Rae, were through, I had my sixty seconds. I watched the clock. When any speaker went a second over the time allowed, a lady sounded a Fire Siren to let them know their time was up and they had to stop speaking. The Siren was loud, so, I made sure my talk was no more than one minute long. When I got home, a phone call waited on my answering machine. It was from our president, Jim Steele. “Congratulations, “He said. Then he added a few more words that surprised me. “I didn’t know you were an Orator,” he said. I didn’t know I was one either. I hoped that my 60-second finish, helped, and didn’t hurt or ruin, our chance for the big Money Donation. What surprised me about Jim’s phone call was that until now, I have never considered myself to be an Orator, a fancy thing to be. I must admit, as much as I would like to take credit for helping Rae and Claudine win the ‘One Hundred Women Strong’ donation to our Silver Foundation, the real credit, for any help my sixty seconds might have been, should go to Cleo. In case you are wondering what I said, I spoke about losing Jeannette, after fifty years of marriage, and my shock for weeks after. I told the ladies how someone drove me to the SPCA, where I found Cleo. The only scraggly cat left, halfway between kitten-hood and a teenager, was poor Cleo. When I put my hand in her cage, she gave the back of my hand a kitty-kiss. So, I made her my cat. Now, Cleo is more famous than I ever hoped to be. When People meet me on the street they say, ‘How is Cleo?’ They never ask me, ‘How is Gene?’. That’s okay. Cleo deserves the credit. I’m just glad I didn’t tell Cleo ahead of time about the affair and I sure won’t tell Cleo we won the prize. It would go to her head.

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