Volunteer of the Month
Michael Leiderman is the kind of volunteer every service-oriented organization wants on the team but can be difficult to find. He has relevant professional experience, youthful ideas and energy, and most importantly, a personal drive for the cause. Michael started as a volunteer driver for DMCC transportation programs, then followed up by creating a monthly chair exercise class that is both fun and vital for the seniors in the community called Move with Michael. DMCC board member Marilyn Carpenter nominated him for this honor because “Michael provides such a valuable service for our seniors. Having the availability of structured movement and stretching routines is a real treat for them because they value the exertion as well as the group camaraderie.”
Michael is a local; having grown up in Poway, he now shares a home in Solana Beach with his wife Shannon and their Maine coon Nacho. During his childhood, Michael’s dad worked as an administrator at a nursing home, which led to Michael appreciating older generations even from a young age. As it turns out, it was also good professional training for him; not only is Michael a professionally certified physical therapist who has enjoyed treating patients of all ages, but he became a partner in a local business focused on senior services called Partner in Aging with a mission “to enable seniors to age with dignity, purpose, and joy.” In that role, Michael and his colleagues do everything from connecting their clients to independent caregivers or social companions, to providing house calls for medical and physical therapy services, to helping them search for appropriate communities, to home accessibility modifications, and more. “It’s important to me to empower families with information, support, and resources to navigate the many complexities of senior care.”
DMCC is able to offer so many great activities because of our volunteer program leaders, who use their unique skills and interests to create opportunities for engagement and socialization. They report satisfaction over having control over their corner of the DMCC activity calendar. Michael says that for his part, “I really enjoy meeting interesting people with wisdom. I also work from home most of the day, so it gives me a great excuse to get out of the house for a couple hours and be near the ocean.” To learn more about Michael or volunteering as a program leader for DMCC, visit www.partnerinaging.com or www.dmcc.cc/volunteerofthemonth.
Thank You Michael!
Linda Otchis will make herself useful however she can, but the best quality she has as a volunteer is that she will make you her friend the instant you meet her. In her volunteer work for DMCC, she serves as a volunteer driver, helps with mailings, serves on the Outreach committee, and really, just helps out wherever she can. DMCC board member Judy Schuckit nominated her for this honor because “Linda is just so friendly and easy to work with, and really contributes to a shared sense of community.”
Linda’s roots are in Rochester, NY, but she moved to Los Angeles at the age of four. She grew up there, eventually meeting her husband Wayne. Together they raised three boys (Linda even took a turn as a Cub Scout leader) and she worked in Wayne’s tax accounting practice for over 40 years. When their sons became adults, the family spread out; Linda and Wayne have lived in Del Mar for 20 years now, and their sons and four grandkids live in Colorado and Texas.
Linda and Wayne do a lot of traveling. Those fortunate enough to be friends with the Otchises received daily travelog emails this summer as they treated two of their grandkids to individualized European sightseeing trips, documenting everything from Pisa to Normandy. But Linda also likes to give back. In addition to her volunteer activities with DMCC, she helps seniors to “keep their lives active and interesting” at Seacrest Village in Encinitas.
DMCC volunteer drivers use their own vehicles to help individual seniors who no longer drive to get to medical appointments, grocery shopping, and other essential errands. They report gratification with the flexible schedule and the friendly relationships they develop with the clients. Linda also credits the company of fellow DMCC volunteers, stating “I have met many very friendly and dedicated volunteers who have encouraged me to become more active and take on additional responsibilities. This community involvement is one of the things that makes Del Mar such a special place to live.” To learn more about Linda or volunteering as a volunteer driver for DMCC, visit www.dmcc.cc/volunteerofthemonth.
Thank You Linda!
Stephen Groban, MD is one of those volunteers who instantly makes an impact when he joins the team. A recently-retired psychiatrist, Steve joined DMCC’s Health and Wellness team, contributing his expertise and professional connections to help produce the Premiere Speaker Series and serve as moderator when needed. His willingness to jump right in and be part of the team is why Health and Wellness co-chair Nicole Holliday nominated Steve for volunteer of the month.
Steve grew up in New York City and spent his adolescence in the Midwest. A resident of Del Mar for almost five decades now, Steve spent three of those decades in in private practice. He spent the final twenty years of his professional career balancing work as a clinical professor at UCSD and as medical director of the Residential Drug and Alcohol Treatment Unit at the VA hospital. Meanwhile, he and his wife Deborah raised an impressive family; their son Zachary is well-known in Del Mar for being the owner of Rusty’s Surf Shop, while their son Joshua serves as a justice on the California Supreme Court.
Steve isn’t the only member of the family to get involved in the Del Mar community. Deborah served on the Planning Commission and Council and brother-in-law Lou Terrell served as mayor. Zachary was on the Business Support Advisory Council and is on the board of the Del Mar Village Association. Steve cites inspiration from their examples, looking forward to doing more for his community in retirement, “now that I have the time.”
DMCC has a variety of committees to serve on that promote a variety of interests. The Health and Wellness Team meets regularly to contribute ideas and plan the Premiere Speaker Series programs, which introduces engaging experts to discuss the latest medical issues. Steve says he likes being part of the Health and Wellness team because “DMCC is a truly remarkable organization with the services it provides for the seniors of Del Mar.”
Thank You Steve!
Emily Gilmore, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, has contributed her professional expertise to DMCC for three years by co-leading (along with Katie Militello) our support group for challenges related to aging, Adapting to Life Transitions (ALT). If you meet Emily, you immediately learn how kind and calming she is. Throughout the pandemic, ALT has continued to meet over Zoom or on DMCC’s patio, however they can provide support to the older adults who need it. That spirit of determination is why DMCC president Terry Kopanski nominated Emily for volunteer of the month.
Originally from Newport Beach then Palm Desert, Emily began her professional career in office administration and later as a bookseller. As a practicing psychotherapist, Emily has worked in hospice settings, elementary education, higher education, and in private practice. Most recently, Emily has made her skills available to clients through a life coaching business, because her goal is to “help people make peace with change, plan their next steps, and move forward in their lives.” Emily has been married to her husband Jim for over 30 years. They have a son who lives in the area and a daughter who resides in Oregon.
Emily gives back to the community by volunteering for a variety of organizations. “I feel strongly that we need to help one another in this world, and I am grateful to have been able to volunteer over the years—in my kids’ schools when they were young, and for Planned Parenthood and Mama’s Kitchen in the past. I recently started volunteering for Feeding San Diego, which I am enjoying and plan to continue. To me volunteering is part of being a well-rounded person and having a fulfilling life.”
DMCC program leaders and instructors use their unique expertise to help seniors to learn something new or participate in an activity that enriches their quality of life and the feeling of community. Program leaders enjoy overseeing their corner of the DMCC calendar of activities and meeting Del Mar’s remarkable seniors. Emily says, “I love interacting with the people DMCC serves, and getting to know more about them and their fascinating lives! I also appreciate that the organization is providing a truly beneficial service to the senior population in our community.”
Thank You Emily!
Dan DeNike has only volunteered for DMCC for the last couple of years, but when he makes a contribution, he does it with his full heart. Dan can be counted on to work hard at special events, and at last year’s holiday party, he even put on a red suit and pretended to be a jolly old friend. That is why Social and Good Times committee chair Linda Chisari nominated him for volunteer of the month.
Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Dan has a business degree from Missouri University and a degree in International Relations from Naval War College in Rhode Island. Dan started his record of public service by serving his country for 28 years; he had a full career as a Navy pilot, amassing 7,000 hours in the PC3 Orion, taking on test pilot and instructor pilot roles, and retiring with the rank of Captain in 1987. In his civilian career, he worked for Mesa Distributing. Dan was blessed with four sons who are now spread across the West coast and have given him five grandchildren. Dan has now lived in the area for 17 years and he and his partner, fellow DMCC volunteer Marilyn Carpenter, frequently care for his two grandkids who live in San Diego.
Dan is that rare volunteer at the special event who lifts the heavy box or stays late to clean up. Or he’s asked to do something he’s never done, gives it a try, and does a great job of it (like playing Santa Claus!) Dan says, “I have been very blessed in my life. Helping and reaching out to others in need is my way of paying back.”
DMCC event volunteers attend our high-profile community activities like the holiday party, ice cream social, or flu vaccine clinic, and do whatever needs to be done behind the scenes to help pull it off. Event volunteers find it fun and rewarding to see so many seniors come together. Dan says, “DMCC is an amazing organization. Quite frankly, I have never witnessed such a dynamic program to help their community. Everyone that I have met appears to contribute 100%+ towards providing services and assisting the people of Del Mar.”
Thank You Dan!
Del Mar Garden Club
The Del Mar Garden Club is well known for its many projects that have beautified the Del Mar
community over the last few decades. Starting in 2020 and continuing into 2021, DMGC
branched out during the holiday season to assist Del Mar Community Connections with bringing
some love to senior citizens in the community. They have done such an incredible job with the
partnership, now called “Project Joy,” that DMCC board member Nicole Holliday nominated
them for Volunteer of the Month – the first time a group or organization has been awarded
with the designation.
The Del Mar Garden Club was founded in 1989 by Marnie Mahoney along with a group of
friends residing in 92014 who loved gardening. Marnie’s idea was to have meetings and field
trips, keeping it "simple, informative and fun.” The club has done many community projects
over the years, and today you may see members maintaining five gardens around Del Mar: the
library, the Post Office, Crest Rim, the Del Mar Community Building (DMCC’s headquarters), and
the 15th Street medians. The club has 45 members. According to DMGC president Mara Bickett,
“Being outside in nature, touching plants, touching soil, feeling the sunshine and breeze and
smelling the earth, flowers, foliage… there is a big endorphin surge! Also, we socialize, get some
exercise and vitamin D, and make the world a more beautiful place.”
In December 2020, when Covid cases were suddenly spiking again, DMCC had to quickly pivot
from a planned drive-through holiday party to a safer way to spread holiday cheer. The Del Mar
Garden Club stepped in at the last minute to make gift deliveries. The act of helping DMCC
cheered up the DMGC members during a rough time, and they came forward again in 2021 to
formally begin Project Joy as a Del Mar holiday tradition. “We felt Project Joy would be fun not
only for the recipients but also the Garden Club members. Turns out we were correct!” says
Project Joy leader Jill Gartman. Project Joy volunteers brought great ideas to the table,
designed a beautiful gift that included a wax amaryllis bulb and a small box of chocolates, and
provided the volunteers to assemble and deliver the gifts. Their efforts resulted in some very
DMCC partner organizations supplement DMCC’s efforts in the community by rallying their
organization’s talents and interests to benefit senior citizens. Jill Gartman says of working with
DMCC, “Everyone we interact with is gracious, and DMCC provides a vital service to senior
members of the Del Mar community.” To learn more about the Del Mar Garden Club, visit
delmargardenclub.org. To learn more about volunteer or partner opportunities with DMCC and
past volunteers of the month, visit dmcc.cc/volunteerofthemonth.
Thank You Del Mar Garden Club!