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A habit of volunteerism

Marcy and Larry Olson stand outside their home in Solon. (photo by Nora Heaton)

SOLON– For Marcy and Larry Olson community service is just the right thing to do – whether it takes the form of Marcy’s food deliveries to seniors in Solon or Larry’s route transporting children with special needs to and from school.
If you ask them why they do it, they’ll reply: just because.
“I don’t really think about it, I guess,” Larry said. “It’s just something I do.”
The Olsons, who have lived in Solon since 1974, are the recipients of the Solon Senior Advocates’ 2016 Senior of the Year award. The award honors “someone (over the age of 60) who has given of themselves in service to the community through volunteerism, enhancing the well-being of others, or someone always ready to assist or provide help when needed.” There have now been 16 honorees since the award was established in 2006. The award is presented at a Solon City Council meeting and followed by an open house gathering each May, since May is nationally designated as Older Americans Month.
Marcy has delivered Old Gold Diner meals four times per week for over four years since she retired from her career at the University of Iowa. She has no plans of stopping anytime soon.
“Not only does she deliver nutrition, but friendship and a listening ear,” said Sandra Hanson of the Solon Senior Advocates. “Many who she delivers to came to the open house to wish her well, as she is such a good soul.”
But listening is no trouble at all for Marcy, who appreciates the chance to chat with people who she considers to be good friends.
“If I don’t have ice cream in the trunk, I can chat with people,” she said. “They’re all so gracious. I think people feel good about having a good meal delivered and someone to talk to.”
Larry drove the Senior Advocates bus as a volunteer for many years, taking seniors to places of interest for the Advocates, Hanson said. Now, for the past three years, Larry has driven a van on a small school route, transporting a few children with special needs to and from school.
Larry worked for Johnson County SEATS (Special needs and Elderly Assisted Transportation System), a paratransit service, for 16 years. When he saw an ad for a driver needed, he knew he would be particularly well-suited to driving children with special needs. As luck would have it, that was exactly the route available at the time.
“I think I can relate well to the kids,” he said. “I guess I have kind of a calm personality. I can take a lot of things in stride.”
Larry is also the caretaker of many purple martin houses in the Solon area.
Both Marcy and Larry volunteered at the Solon Public Library. They are the kind of community members that make themselves available when needed.
“If something comes up where help is needed, I’m willing to help out,” Larry said.
Despite all they do for Solon, both Olsons are modest, Hanson said.
“Both the Olsons give back quietly to our community,” she said. “It was an overwhelming majority to select these two honorees.”
Both Larry and Marcy said they felt very surprised by the award, noting the community is fortunate to be full of people who care and work hard to show it.
“There are so many people that do so much,” Marcy said. “It’s really a plus for Solon.”