Tom Appel calls the volunteer work he’s done on behalf of senior issues a “labor of relevance.” Based on the seemingly endless list of organizations he’s championed and worked for, Appel is very relevant. The Rockford, Mich., resident was recently awarded the Claude D. Pepper award, a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan recognition given to two outstanding senior citizen advocates whose work or volunteer activities have a positive effect on the lives of older adults. Appel spent his entire life giving back to the community through his roles in the Peace Corps, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and a stint as an equal employment officer. He’s played pivotal roles with Senior Leadership of Grand Rapids and served as past president of the State Employee Retiree Association. He was campaign chair on the public relations committee for the Kent County Senior Millage – that role enabled more than 23,000 older adults to receive services in their own homes and communities every year. Appel’s leadership roles with Advocates for Senior Issues has directly impacted 380 individuals. Despite his impressive work and volunteer history, Appel is modest about receiving the award. He said nothing he’s accomplished was done alone. “Nobody gets these awards in isolation,” he said. “There are many deserving seniors all over the place.” Appel said seniors have significant skill sets and volunteering is a way to stay engaged and productive throughout retirement. “I think, frankly, now they don’t retire as much as they redirect and I think they’re fitter and I think they’re more mentally engaged,” Appel said. Flint resident and retired nurse Earnest Stean Pearson was the other recipient of this year’s Claude D. Pepper award for her work supporting Hurley Medical Center’s community-focused mission.
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