Beyond the Card: Inspired to Serve

Denise Hubbard cares deeply for senior citizens in her community, tirelessly volunteering and advocating on their behalf.

“I have never met anyone who works and volunteers as much as Denise,” said Becky Ridky, Michigan Senior Olympics executive director. “She truly has devoted her life to caring for seniors and improving the quality of their lives.”

It’s fitting then that the men and women Hubbard serves would end up providing the inspiration she needed to make a major life change.

Watching 80-year-old athletes compete at the Michigan Senior Olympics, of which she recently served as sponsorship committee chair, opened her eyes to a different way of life. For years she’d battled her weight, reaching 305 pounds. Since her “aha” moment at the finish line a few years ago, she’s lost more than 100 pounds and is committed to reaching her goal weight. The determination of those older athletes inspire her to keep going every day.

“If they can do it and not quit, I’m not going to be a quitter either,” she said.

Denise Hubbard, third from left, receiving her award. Photo credit: Gretchen Maurer

Denise Hubbard, third from left, receiving her award.
Photo credit: Gretchen Maurer

Hubbard is one of two Michigan residents to receive the 2016 Claude Pepper Award, which is annually awarded by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to two outstanding senior citizen advocates whose work or volunteer activities have a positive effect on the lives of older adults.

Hubbard accepted her award at a special ceremony on Friday, Aug. 12 at Rochester Municipal Park, before the 37th annual Senior Olympics kickoff. As part of the award, Hubbard received a $1,000 grant to award to the non-profit of her choice. She elected to give the money to the Michigan Senior Olympics, the same organization that so inspired her.

Raymond Mills of Bellaire also received a Claude Pepper award and Community Social Services of Wayne County received the Senior Advocate Award.

A registered nurse by profession, Hubbard travels to senior centers and provides free education classes about nutrition, Alzheimer’s care, prevention (falls, injuries and scams), dementia care and caregiver resources. She also facilitates exercise and health classes and has served as chair on many committees including co-chair, St. John Hospital’s Taste Fest, and chair of Henry Ford Hospital’s Knock Your Socks Off event, and the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

While her work with seniors may not provide a paycheck, Hubbard said the time she’s able to give is worth everything to her.

“(The seniors) are so grateful, they are so knowledgeable and I have just learned and grown from every experience I’ve had with them,” she said. “When you see that you’ve improved somebody else’s life and their health, that’s a tremendous gift as a nurse.”

She’s humbled and grateful for the award, and hopes that it might inspire others to volunteer their time with older individuals. In her experience, people often have misconceptions about working with seniors, but she’s seen firsthand that a strong mental state and good physical health contribute much more to a person’s age than their birthdate.

“What’s old? That’s a very subjective word,” she said. “We need more people out there helping seniors.”


This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state.

We invite you to follow Beyond the Card stories here at MIBluesPerspectives.com and through the hashtag, #BeyondtheCard on our social channels. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact us at stories@bcbsm.com.

Main image photo credit: Dean Hochman

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