Last updated: February 19. 2013 5:37PM - 857 Views

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VALLEY FORGE ?? At an age when you might expect her to be receiving assistance and companionship from others, Aldona Smith instead is the first recipient of a Volunteer of the Year award created by the Pennsylvania Health Care Association.

Smith, 95, of Wilkes-Barre, traveled to Valley Forge on Thursday to accept the award before more than 650 conference attendees. She also got to sing ??You Are My Sunshine? with a ??wise guy? ?? Dominick Chianese, who played Corrado ??Junior? Soprano in the long-running HBO series ??The Sopranos.?

??She shows us every day how important it is to care for our elders ?? to improve their quality of life,? said Ron Patti, executive director at the Golden Living Center on Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre, where Smith volunteers.

??We chose Aldona for our Volunteer of the Year award not only because of her unwavering commitment to the staff and residents at Golden Living Center-Summit, but because of her advocacy for all of Pennsylvania??s seniors,? said PHCA president and CEO Stuart Shapiro in presenting the award.

In May, Smith went to Harrisburg to join 600 caregivers from across the state at PHCA??s advocacy day at the state capitol.

??She visited with her state legislators and spoke at our press conference, talking about the potentially devastating impact that Medicaid cuts would have on elderly and disabled individuals who live in skilled nursing centers,? Shapiro said.

Alison Delsite Everett, PHCA director of communications, noted the Medicaid cuts were later returned to the state budget.

??We??d like to think Aldona played major role in that,? Everett said.

Chianese, 81, began his career working as an activities aide in a nursing home, and now runs a charity, Joy through Art, that seeks to improve the lives of nursing home residents, Everett said.

Smith, who lives on Gilligan Street, said she enjoys her volunteer work at Golden Living Center.

??I enjoy interacting with the residents,? she said. ??We play cards and bingo and we have fun. Sometimes we play trivia. I just try to fit in with them.?

And Patti said the residents enjoy Smith just as much.

??We are very fortunate to have her here,? he said. ??She has taught us all how to treat our residents.?

Smith has been volunteering at the center for six years. Her oldest daughter, Marie Elena, died at the age of 62. After her daughter passed away, Smith decided she wanted to help out.

??I??m glad to do it,? she said of her volunteer work. ??I love what I do. I look forward to it, and I think the residents look forward to me coming there.?

Smith??s daughter Barbara Deitrick accompanied her mother to the convention.

??She is an amazing woman; she inspires us all,? Deitrick said. ??We are very proud of her and what she does for so many.?

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