In the past year, Besa engaged more than 500 volunteers to give more than 1,000 service hours and $85,000 in goods and services to local seniors. This week, we’re humbled to receive the Outstanding Service to Seniors award from the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging.

Thank you to COAAA for such an honor—and to the hundreds of Besa volunteers dedicated to this work.

We’d like to pay the recognition forward by honoring Besa Volunteer Leader Lauren Restivo for her work with seniors. Since first volunteering with Besa in 2013, Lauren has focused on seniors, giving 101 hours to 52 senior projects. Here, meet the 29-year-old JPMorgan Chase & Co. business operations analyst who lives in Grandview Heights and says that through Besa, she gets as much as she gives.

Q: Why are you so passionate about helping seniors?

A: Human interaction is essential at any age. A smile, a friendly conversation—both of those go a long way in most people's lives. If I am fortunate enough to live as long as a senior, I would hope that someday someone would come to visit and talk with me. 

Q: What is your favorite Besa volunteer opportunity with seniors?

A: My favorite Besa volunteer opportunity is "Lift the Spirits of Seniors at a Nursing Home." This event takes place the first Wednesday of every month at National Church Residences in Upper Arlington with seniors impacted by Alzheimer's.

Q: What kind of impact can you see there?

A: The impact is almost instantaneous. When we go into the community room, often times the seniors are very quiet, keeping to themselves or watching TV. However, as soon as the conversations start, the room is lit up with energy! The seniors are smiling, chatty and enjoying themselves while conversing with all the volunteers. 

Q: What is the most impactful Besa moment you've experienced?

A: When spending time with memory care seniors, you don't always get their full history. However, I have gotten snippets of great advice. And who better to listen to than someone who has had years of living experience? My favorite piece of advice came from Helen who turned 100 years old this past spring. When I sat down to start a conversation, before I could even say hello, she looked me right in the eye, took my hand, and without hesitating, she said, "Be happy, and don't worry. Life is good." To this day I often remind myself of Helen's simple words of wisdom. 

Q: How has Besa impacted you?

A: Besa has changed the trajectory of my life for the better. The memories made, the people met, and experiences had are all in the name of giving back to the community I love. My journey with Besa has been and continues to be an incredible journey. It's opened both my eyes and heart to appreciate others in a way I hadn't before. At any point I could decide to stop volunteering, but then something so important would be missing in my life. Three and a half years later, I'm still here and excited for what the future holds! 

Interested in supporting seniors with Besa? Visit givebesa.org to get started!