95-year-old Major Melvin McLaughlin warmly celebrated
Randolph’s Maj. Melvin McLaughlin has spent more than 40 years selflessly volunteering at his local medical center, Gifford. On Wednesday that volunteerism was recognized – big time.
The 95-year-old retired U.S. Marine, fondly known as “Major,” was named the country’s 2013 Outstanding Senior Volunteer by Home Instead Senior Care.
Home Instead is the world’s largest provider of non-medical, in-home care services for seniors. Last year it launched the Salute to Senior Service Contest to recognize senior volunteerism.
Nominated by the staff at Gifford for his daily visits to the hospital, McLaughlin was named the Vermont winner of the contest last month and on Wednesday at noon at Gifford in Randolph was recognized as the national winner.
“Home Instead wants to encourage a positive outlook on aging,” Vermont franchise owner Patrice Thabault noted in presenting the award. “The Major and other (senior) volunteers are really changing the face of aging in the United States.”
With the recognition came a $5,500 check ($500 as the state winner and $5,000 as the national winner) from Home Instead to Gifford, the charity that McLaughlin chose to recognize with his award.
The gifts didn’t stop at the national recognition, however.
Hearing about McLaughlin’s honor, VA Medical Center Chief of Voluntary Service Karen Campbell attended Wednesday’s presentation to honor McLaughlin, a long-time VA patient, with its Courage of Valor award.
“They don’t necessarily have the time, but they always have the heart,” Campbell said of volunteers, “and, boy, do you have that.”
Fran Keeler of Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) read a letter of commendation from DAIL Commissioner Susan Wehry. “Your more than 40 years of dedicated service … is appreciated. You’re an inspiration to us,” Wehry wrote.
Sen. Bernie Sanders sent his own letter of congratulations, thanking McLaughlin “for demonstrating such generosity and goodwill over the past four decades.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy sent McLaughlin a flag that had flown over U.S. Capitol.
And Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin unveiled a granite plaque anonymously donated and featuring the words McLaughlin says to each patient, nursing home resident, and staff member he visits at Gifford: “Has anyone today told you that they love you?” McLaughlin then answers, “God does and I do too.”
The plaque of Barre granite now sits in the hospital’s visitors’ entrance as a permanent fixture for all to see.
McLaughlin first moved to Randolph in 1967 after retiring from 25 years with the U.S. Marines, serving in World War II, Korea, and the infancy of Vietnam. He built a home and a second for one of his daughters, Sally, and then found himself with free time. He started volunteering at Gifford on Thursdays, delivering the local newspaper to patients.
Later, he took patient meal orders on a clipboard and then several years ago began making general rounds seven days a week, visiting with patients and staff alike, offering his telltale phrase of love, plenty of hugs, a positive attitude, and plenty of gratitude.
Woodin called that gift of love an intangible, but a powerful gift that anyone can afford. The fact that that gift and lesson on experiencing love comes from a tough Marine makes it all the more powerful.
Woodin sought to return the favor by asking the large crowd in attendance at Wednesday award announcement to honor McLaughlin with a warmly and loudly delivered, “We love you, Major.”
“My cup runneth over,” Major said in response, encouraging all in attendance to live each day with only gladness, no shame. “Thank you, Lord, for your blessings. I am a rich man.”
Read much more about McLaughlin on the Salute to Senior Service Web site, www.salutetoseniorservice.com, and look for him in Thursday’s Randolph Fourth of July Parade. He is the grand marshal.