By Thomas Franz
MACOMB COUNTY — For Albert Jagenow, volunteering with Macomb County’s Meals on Wheels program once a week, every other week, just wasn’t enough.
Jagenow, 59, of Fraser, wanted more routes and deliveries to keep busy in his early stages of retirement, and he got them.
“I just don’t like to sit on the couch watching television. I don’t do that, so I found some available openings, and I volunteered for those when someone couldn’t make it, and I’ve been trying to pick up as many as I can to keep busy,” Jagenow said.
Jagenow’s efforts were recognized on March 28, when he was awarded with the 2016 Meals on Wheels Volunteer of the Year Award at the organization’s volunteer appreciation luncheon.
“I had never done volunteering before, and it’s a whole new feeling. To me, it’s like it’s more worthwhile than the 30 years I worked before I retried,” Jagenow said. “It just seems more worthwhile. You’re helping people who actually need your help, and it’s just a remarkable feeling.”
Jagenow admitted that he originally lost his invitation to the luncheon, but after picking up his meals to deliver about a week or two prior to the event, his colleagues hinted that he may want to be in attendance.
More than 450 individuals attended the event at Zuccaro’s Banquets and Catering in Chesterfield Township. The crowd included other volunteers and county officials.
Jagenow, a former employee of 31 years for a district court in Detroit, was recognized especially for his efficiency in making deliveries often more than once per week throughout Fraser and Clinton Township.
“I feel pretty good about it — better than going off to work, because everyone has to work to support their family — but I’ve been afforded the opportunity to retire early, and this gives me an opportunity to give back a little bit,” Jagenow said.
Macomb Community Action, the county organization that hosted the event, also recognized John Gianfermi, 78, of Warren, with the inaugural Kurt Strevel Award.
The award was created to honor Strevel, a Meals on Wheels volunteer who recently died. Strevel’s most noted accomplishment for Meals on Wheels was delivering meals to clients on foot after his vehicle broke down during a snowstorm.
“It felt good, but also a little humbling. I’m honored,” Gianfermi said. “I feel good about doing what I do.”
Gianfermi was recognized for going beyond delivering meals while visiting clients. He said that he’s helped residents along his route in Sterling Heights with landscape work and household repairs.
“I just do whatever they need me to,” Gianfermi said.
Gianfermi spent 42 years working for Chrysler, primarily in the IT field. Gianfermi, who said he wanted to work with his hands throughout retirement, typically delivers his routes on Mondays and every other Wednesday out of a site near Warren Mott High School.
“They offered me to do this full time with a truck, but I didn’t want to leave my route or site. It would feel like I’d be leaving them, my clients who I do have,” Gianfermi said. “It feels good to be a part of this organization, because you’re contributing, and it feels like I’m contributing in a small way. You see these people, it’s so gratifying.”
More than 50 other volunteers were also recognized with the 2016 Filling in the Gap Award.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel opened the event with a speech to thank the volunteers.
Dr. Herman Gray, the president and CEO of United Way of Southeast Michigan, was the keynote speaker for the event.