Even before becoming a volunteer with the American Association of Retired People (AARP) and advocating for Maryland’s seniors, Mitchellville resident Gene Gary Williams dedicated her life to helping people.
Williams spent many years working as a physical therapist in hospitals in before settling into a career in academia at Howard University, and now she spends her free time advocating for Maryland's seniors.
Although she’s been a member of AARP since she was eligible, it wasn’t until 2003 that she became an active volunteer as a member of the AARP National Policy Council.
She served there for six years and was elected in 2009 to serve on the Maryland Executive Council, and on Oct. 19, AARP honored Williams with their Andrus Award for Community Service, the highest honor offered by the state chapter of the organization.
Williams was flattered to receive the award, which she said rarely goes to executive council members, and is proud to be a member and volunteer with AARP.
“I’ve been highly involved with what was going on,” said Williams, “Developing volunteers, answering the needs of seniors and developing partnerships with organizations that answer the needs of seniors.”
She has also spent time working on AARP’s campaign to empower seniors to tell Congress what they would like to see happen with Social Security and Medicare. Her work on this campaign, “You’ve Earned a Say,” leading community discussions and lobbying trips to DC and Annapolis are cited by AARP as reasons why she is deserving of this award.
“This award acts as a symbol to the public that we can all work together for positive social change,” Hank Greenberg, AARP Maryland state director said in an announcement. “AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism and the important contributions volunteers make to their communities, neighbors, and the programs they serve.”
Williams restricted her food budget to $30 a week to raise awareness about hungry seniors as part of the Maryland Hunger Solutions’ Food Stamp Challenge, said the announcement.
Williams has lived in Mitchellville for 13 years and in Prince George’s County for most of her life. She’s widowed now and lives with three generations of her family including her daughter, son-in-law and her 14-year-old twin grandchildren.
Although her term on the Maryland Executive Council comes to an end next year, Williams plans to keep volunteering with AARP.
“There is something invigorating about belonging to an organization with so many members,” said Williams. “It’s a powerhouse.”