Friend to the elderly wins hero award
The Grand Junction Lions Club honored a woman Tuesday afternoon for her simple acts of kindness and generosity toward the elderly who might otherwise have gone quietly unnoticed.
Cathy Abercrombie-Tate, a sergeant with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, was surprised with the 2016 HomeTown Hero award at a luncheon at Two Rivers Convention Center Tuesday afternoon.
Under the ruse of giving a presentation about crisis intervention training to the club, Abercrombie-Tate instead found herself amid a standing ovation from family and friends who came to recognize her humanitarian efforts in the community.
For the past nine years, Abercrombie-Tate has collected small gift items and delivered them to people in assisted living facilities and the VA Medical Center’s nursing home during the holiday season.
Throughout the year, she asks her co-workers and friends to save unopened hotel toiletry items from their travels. She purchases other items for the goody bags such as candy canes, warm socks, pencils and lip balm.
She usually collects enough to fill 100 gift bags each year, she said.
But the real gift is in the delivery, explained Capt. Art Smith in a video tribute at the ceremony for Abercrombie-Tate.
The elderly are a portion of the population who are often overlooked, he said. Many do not have visitors during the holiday season and are extremely grateful for the small gift of time Abercrombie-Tate gives to each one.
“You can’t put a price on a smile,” Smith said.
Making that personal connection with people is the reason Abercrombie-Tate started what she simply calls her “nursing home project.”
She loves listening to the stories of people’s lives, she said.
One of her favorite memories from delivering gifts has been looking at a wall of dated pictures and listening to the nursing home residents tell her about their younger years — their children and their memories, she said.
“They are full of stories and love and wisdom. I just love doing it,” she said.
Abercrombie-Tate recruits her co-workers and members of a local 4-H club to help stuff the bags each year. She thanked them for their help and for the support of her project from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
Along with the award, Abercrombie-Tate was given $1,000 to give to a charity of her choice. She said she’d like to split the funds and make a donation to all eight of the local nursing homes.
As the 2016 HomeTown Hero, she will also be the grand marshal in the Lions Club Parade in February.