Murray resident receives service award for volunteerismOct 31, 2016 12:04PM ● By Tyler Warren
Sanford Rosenthal stands with his award alongside his wife, Tonya, Donna Russel, AARP Utah Volunteer State president and Alan Ormsby, AARP Utah State director. (Don Wilhelmsen)
By Tyler Warren | [email protected]
Murray, Utah - Sanford Rosenthal sat at his table at the 2016 AARP Awards Ceremony, a smile on his face. The Murray resident had just been presented with the lifetime achievement award for 40 years of volunteer service. A photographer whisked him away for group photos in front of the AARP screen in the corner of the room.
Sanford’s wife, Tonya watched him go. There were tears in her eyes as she explained the dedication her husband has for serving others. “He loves it. It makes him happy. He was just telling me today it makes him feel great when he goes to bed at night.”
Rosenthal has logged more than 32,000 volunteer hours working for organizations such as the VA Hospital, VFW, Disabled American Veterans and American Legion. Even in the midst of a battle with cancer, he never stopped donating his time to serve others.
Today, he continues to volunteer anywhere from 20 to 50 hours a week. Most of this is spent driving patients to and from their appointments at the VA Hospital. But this is far more than a simple shuttle service.
“So many seniors rely on taxis to do errands, and taxis aren’t cheap,” Rosenthal said. Whether it’s picking up prescriptions or taking them grocery shopping, he is always willing to make a few detours on the way to the hospital.
When he’s not providing a ride to patients of the VA Hospital, Rosenthal can be found working a booth at any number of events around the Wasatch Front. He goes to gun shows, auto shows, festivals, anywhere where he might find disabled seniors and veterans that need help.
“So many veterans out there need help, but don’t ever ask for it. Some might be ashamed to admit that they need it, some aren’t aware they are eligible and some don’t trust the VA. A lot of them I can tell they need help by looking at them,” Rosenthal said.
In these shows Rosenthal sees an opportunity to connect vets and disabled seniors with the care they need. He also sees an opportunity to find new volunteers. Much of the work Rosenthal does is coordinated through the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. RSVP works to match volunteers’ interests and the time they have to give with the needs of the community.
“He’s been a wonderful advocate for recruiting volunteers,” said Vicki Jo Hansen, volunteer programs coordinator for RSVP. Hansen nominated Rosenthal for the Lifetime Achievement Award. “Sanford is a very altruistic person who continually gives himself for the benefit of others and I think it’s important to thank people like him.”
For Rosenthal, volunteerism is a responsibility. More than that, it’s an essential part of the human experience.
“I feel very uncomfortable with the way veterans are treated. I try to help them and their families because I think they deserve it. They’re the innocent ones. We’re all brothers, and, as individuals, we need to support each other. Everybody cares. Even the worst of us have some kind of an understanding about helping people. That’s why we do it, we do it because there’s a need and we care.”
Rosenthal said that being a good volunteer takes a special person, but he was quick to shift the focus off of himself. He credited those who run programs like RSVP, and the volunteer services office of the VA Hospital, which coordinates around 600 volunteers, as the real winners. If it weren’t for these programs that organize and train volunteers—many of them senior volunteers—none of this would be possible.
“I think they should be honored with us,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal is over 80 years old, a retired veteran of the Armed Forces. For well over 20 years, he served his country throughout multiple tours of duty in Vietnam and Korea. Nobody would fault him with taking it easy from here on out. But he said he has “no plans” to retire from volunteering.
“I’m going to do it until I die,” Rosenthal said. “Volunteerism is good for your health. It makes you younger, and you feel better about yourself.”