Honoring a tireless Windham volunteer
WINDHAM - For Barbara Coish, volunteering her time in the service of others is like having several full-time jobs.
But the longtime Windham resident, who is being honored in Concord next month, said she wouldn't have it any other way.
Coish, the manager of Windham's senior lunch program, will be presented with the Joseph D. Vaughn Award during a ceremony at the governor's office May 16.
Each year, the State Committee on Aging and EngAGING NH honors one senior citizen from each of the state's 10 counties, with honorees chosen for their outstanding leadership and volunteer contributions on behalf of older citizens.
"She's served over 35,000 meals to our local seniors," Windham Recreation Director Cheryl Haas said of Coish. "And that's just the half of it."
Haas and about a dozen other Windham friends plan on attending next month's ceremony. She said they'll all pile into the town van so they can be there to cheer on Coish.
"We wouldn't miss it," Haas said.
A resident of Windham for more than 50 years, Coish celebrated her 75th birthday earlier this week.
She began coming to the Windham Senior Center many years ago when she'd drive her mother and mother-in-law to various events. Soon, she found herself staying at the center longer and longer, and about 14 years ago, she began managing the local Rockingham Nutrition Meals on Wheels (RNMOW) program - an unpaid position.
"Barbara's dedication and passion for her position has allowed the site to flourish over time, and reflects a philanthropic spirit that represents what the RNMOW program is all about," said Helen Kostrzynski, RNMOW field supervisor.
Each Tuesday and Thursday, Coish arrives early at the senior center, where she brews a fresh pot of coffee, slices up some of her fresh, homemade baked goods and begins preparing for the day's many activities.
Mornings are filled with line dancing, bingo and games until the lunch hour nears, when Coish begins greeting the 30 or so local seniors arriving for a hot meal.
There's paperwork to be filled out, orders to be taken and light food preparation to be done. Though the food is delivered piping hot to the facility from Sodexo in Maine, Coish and her fellow volunteers still need to make sure the food is at a safe temperature before plating and serving each meal.
After lunch is over, there's cleanup work to do and donations to collect followed by more paperwork.
"She's a staunch advocate for the senior population in Windham - she's like their ambassador," Town Administrator David Sullivan said. "I wish there were more people like her."
As president of the Windham Seniors Inc., Coish said she's formed many close relationships with the center's clients over the years.
"I guess you could say I'm a 100 percent professional volunteer," she said, shrugging her shoulders.
When she's not at the local senior center, Coish can be found running the camera at Windham's Board of Selectmen and School Board meetings. She's been a volunteer camerawoman for the local cable access center since 1988.
Coish also volunteers in the local school district, helping out in a second-grade classroom and serves with the town's international exchange program.