Unsung Heroes named
Each year, Lehigh County Offices of Aging and Adult Services celebrates and recognizes residents aged 60 and older who give back and help improve the lives of others through the Unsung Heroes program.
“Unsung Heroes are people who live quietly among us, inspiring all those who are privileged to know them,” according to the Lehigh County summer 2021 newsletter.
The theme for this year is “Communities of Strength” and features particular emphasis on building powerful connections and engagements in communities.
To be considered for the award, a person must be a Lehigh County resident who is at least 60 years old. The person must have performed volunteer contributions or services that promoted, enhanced and enriched the quality of life for others. Each person is nominated by someone in their lives who sends a description of their work and accomplishments.
There were more than 20 recipients of the award for this year. Among those recipients are a Whitehall Township man and a Coplay Borough woman.
Jim Henderschedt, of Whitehall, is an independent living resident at Fellowship Community. The person who nominated him described his sense of humor and constant smile as features that draw others to him.
Henderschedt was a Lutheran pastor for more than 61 years and used his experience to offer encouragement and support to his neighbors and friends. He still serves as a guest speaker to different congregations.
From 1972 to 1975, Henderschedt volunteered as a chaplain in Lehigh County juvenile court to counsel troubled youth.
“His warm personality and unwavering acceptance of those he counseled made a lasting positive impact on their lives,” the nominator said.
After moving to Fellowship Community in August 2015 with his wife, Betty, Henderschedt began volunteering with the Young at Heart residents. He utilized his artistic skills to teach art classes and encourage his fellow residents.
He chaired the Friends of Fellowship art show and invited residents from every level of care, as well as staff members, to display their artwork. A lovely afternoon of relaxing music, snacks and a variety of art from landscape paintings to pencil drawings, handcrafted cards and intricate quilting projects has since become an annual tradition.
Henderschedt hosts an hourlong monthly show on Fellowship’s internal television station titled “It Reminds Me of a Story” where he reads and discusses a short story, poem or other anecdote.
Henderschedt served as president of the Residents’ Advisory Council from 2018 to 2021, where he assisted in directing activities, handled concerns and implemented suggestions.
According to the nominator, Henderschedt stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic to plan events to support the staff and share appreciation for their efforts. One such event involved the independent living residents stepping out front of their town homes and giving a round of applause for the front-line workers 7 p.m. each evening.
He also organized the Corridor of Thanks, where residents would line Fellowship Drive during shift changes to cheer, ring bells and hold posters declaring their thanks and appreciation to the staff for their work during the pandemic.
To have a permanent display of their appreciation, Henderschedt collected funds from residents to purchase pavers in Fellowship Park to thank the staff members for everything they did.
The nominator shared the four words to describe Henderschedt - kind, patient, understanding and thoughtful.
Suzanne Ricketts, of Coplay, was nominated by her neighbor, who asserted she knew Ricketts was a good person from the first moment they met.
Her neighbor said she is on disability and doesn’t own a car, so Ricketts will take her to doctor appointments, therapy and the grocery store.
“She is very giving to others, never asking for anything in return, even when she may need a little help,” the nominator said of Ricketts. “She is always ready to listen and lend an ear, helping me through so many of life’s difficulties and everyday problems.”
When her neighbor had knee surgery and could not be home alone, Ricketts opened her door and let the neighbor stay there for more than a month while she recovered. Ricketts assisted with cooking, dressing, therapy and more.
“I felt so loved and cared for, and every time I think of all that she did for me, I start to cry,” Ricketts’ neighbor said. “I wouldn’t have recovered well if I was home alone.”
Her nominator continued to mention Ricketts is currently housing her daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, three cats, a dog and two lizards because they lost their home in a fire in January.
Her neighbor noted there are no words to explain how much Ricketts means to her and those around her.
“The world needs many more like her,” Ricketts’ nominator said. “She is very deserving to be an Unsung Hero.”