Choctaw resident Hazel Gooding is a true champion. If you observed her active lifestyle and deep involvement in her community, you’d probably be surprised to learn that Hazel recently celebrated her 82nd birthday. Hazel has been a member of RSVP of Central Oklahoma, Inc. for more than 21 years, and has contributed over 7,600 hours of volunteer time. Hazel could easily be a candidate for all three categories of this award. She inspires others with her unwavering commitment to her projects, and it is safe to say that the community of Choctaw would not be the same without her.
Hazel was instrumental in reviving activities at the Choctaw Senior Center. She organized and promoted new activities at the center, increasing attendance and providing socialization opportunities for the aging. She also successfully initiated a congregate and mobile meal program in the Senior Center. As a result, volunteers prepare and deliver meals to lower income and homebound elderly individuals five days a week. As a member of RSVP of Central OK, Inc. Hazel participates in many activities, including the TRIAD program in Choctaw, a cooperative effort with the Sheriff’s Department and local law enforcement agencies to address to address crime prevention strategies for seniors.
Hazel continues to provide leadership for the citizens of Choctaw. Over the past 20 years, Hazel has brought 24 new members to RSVP, and countless others to different volunteer opportunities. Recently, Hazel saw a new need in her community and took it upon herself to address that need. Children are often found at homes where “meth labs” are present, and taken into protective custody by police officers. Before the kids can leave the home, they must remove all of their clothing and be washed to insure they are not contaminated by any of the dangerous substances from the meth lab. Hazel has recruited several volunteers, including the mayor of Choctaw, to make over 200 cloth bags to be filled with supplies and given to these children by the police. Hazel’s group is also making blankets to put in the bags, as well as securing donated toys and clothes.
Hazel is constantly looking for different ways to give back to her community, and her energy level is envied by people half her age. When she tore a knee ligament in January, she called the RSVP office to request extra projects that could be done in her home to “keep her busy during the down time.” Hazel sees her work as an opportunity to help those in her community who are less fortunate. Her days are filled with tasks that are geared towards helping others, and she shows no signs of slowing down. Hazel’s enthusiasm is infectious, and her persistence unwavering. She has made a tremendous difference in the quality of the lives of Choctaw’s senior population, and is an inspiration to all.