For generations, the energy, skills and commitment brought to the United States from other countries around the world have helped to make our nation great. Those skills are worth even more when you add to them the sensitivity, patience and wisdom of older adults such as Lorgio Diaz. Though Diaz is 79 years old, he finds time to volunteer and help people with mental and physical disabilities. He has made a big difference in the lives of people who need help the most.
Diaz is a Senior Companion and has been involved in service with since 1998. Since that time, he has contributed in excess of 1,000 hours of volunteer time at the Magic Muffin Bakery, a restaurant run by the Ventura County Association for Retarded Citizens on Pacific Avenue in Oxnard.
His responsibilities include mentoring and tutoring the clients on a one-on-one basis on a variety of topics, including landscaping, housekeeping, personal hygiene, cooking and baking. Diaz assists a 41-year-old adult who had a stroke three years ago. He assists him with riding the bus, performing physical fitness exercises and going to the store. Another client Diaz serves is a 39-year-old, physically handicapped adult. For a period of one year, Diaz was her mentor and tutor in housekeeping and employment skills. Despite her disability, she is now gainfully employed at a commissary. In addition, Diaz works with a 40-year-old and a 22-year-old, both of whom are mentally retarded adults. He assists them with physical hygiene, arts, employment skills and custodial skills. The latter is currently employed full-time at a fast food franchise in Oxnard.
Senior Companions like Diaz are part of a federally funded program that provides small stipends and daily lunches for low-income seniors who give at least 20 hours of time a week at community-based residential and day programs for adults with developmental disabilities. A former high school teacher from the Philippines – who once taught agricultural subjects including animal husbandry – Diaz now teaches adults with developmental disabilities how to prepare sandwiches, cookies, muffins and scones served everyday at the restaurant. He also teaches landscaping. Diaz’s dedication to assist people with physical and mental disabilities is a life-long commitment for him dating back to his years as a pastor, school teacher and farmer in the Philippines.