MANCHESTER >> Rev. Jim Gray paid another visit to Equinox Terrace Assisted Living the other day, just like he has hundreds of other times in the past 18 years.
But this time it was different.
Residents and staff gathered to honor him with the annual Equinox Terrace Assisted Living Senior Service Award for the endless time he has spent presiding over church services or making pastoral visits to residents.
Several dozen residents and staff members gathered in the lounge on Aug. 26 in support of the award presentation. And Gray was clearly right at home with all his friends.
According to Ann Bouza, executive director of the assisted living facility, Equinox staff currently serves 72 residents, with the help of about 20 volunteers, including Gray.
Rev. Gray is the pastor at United Church of Dorset and East Rupert.
For the past 18 years, Bouza noted, Gray has paid bi-weekly visits to Equinox Terrace to perform religious services and spend time with the residents at the assisted living community.
She said he is well-known for his "affable nature. And his ability to craft words into sentences is inspiring."
Gray "embodies a strong dedication to serving others, especially seniors, through his volunteer efforts and personal life," Bouza told the gathering. "Because of his dedication to giving back and his willingness to serve others, Equinox Terrace Assisted Living is presenting Rev. Gray with the annual Senior Service Award."
The senior service award is presented annually to a senior volunteer who dedicates their time to the benefit of other local seniors, and acknowledges the important work seniors do to give back to their community.
Gray thanked the group, but acknowledged that "there are a lot of people in this room who live in the spirit of this award, so this is really a team award."
Every other Wednesday, Gray presides over a worship service, complete with piano accompaniment provided by a variety of local volunteer pianists.
After the presentation, Gray told the Journal, "It's very easy to do for these folks because they are such generous people with their love. It is a loving appreciative place."
In a written statement, Gray reacted to the announcement of the award.
"I'm incredibly stunned and touched to receive this award," he said. "When I first began my visits to Equinox Terrace, it was to ensure that my parishioners who lived there remained connected to the church and still felt valued within our community. Since then, it's become so much more, and I find it difficult to believe it's been 18 years since my first trip. In addition to my pastoral visits and leading worship, I've also established a yearly book study and prayer group which many residents dearly appreciate. Equinox Terrace is a wonderful place – I've really fallen in love with it and the people who live there. I know that for many, moving into an assisted living community can be quite the adjustment, and I want to do what I can to make that change an extension of their lives."
Equinox Terrace also recognized Community Food Cupboard for the organization's commitment to providing nutritious food to people in need.
Community Food Cupboard and Rev. Gray each received a $500 to help in their efforts in the community.
Community Food Cupboard, a non-profit organization, is dedicated to provide food to those in need in the nearby area. They provide hundreds of low-income families with assistance and distribute 20,000 pounds of food each month. Community Food Cupboard is a member agency of the Vermont Foodbank, and is sustained through the generous donations of food and funds from individuals, organizations, businesses and foundations in the local community.
"We are honored and thrilled to receive the Equinox Terrace Assisted Living Senior Service Award," said Martha Carey, executive director of the Community Food Cupboard. "It takes a great deal of effort and support to make what we do possible. We're pleased to be recognized, and excited to know there are people in our community who are behind us and appreciate what Community Food Cupboard has achieved for our community."