The many people who know Dorothy "Dot" Calimer describe her as a "volunteer-a-holic." But the 82-year-old Cologne resident says she has never known any other way to live.
"It's just a part of my life," she said of her volunteerism, which she said was instilled in her at a very early age by her parents, who were also volunteers.
As a lifetime volunteer, Calimer has affected countless lives through the decades. Now, her dedication has led her to being named the New Jersey winner of the Home Instead Senior Care network's Salute to Senior Service contest, a national award program that recognizes volunteers ages 65 and older for their outstanding services to others each year.
Calimer, who still lives on the same piece of ground where she was born in this section of Galloway Township, has been involved for more than 45 years with the Atlantic County 4-H Youth Development Program. She served as the first female president of the 4-H Fair Association, a position she held from 1979 to 1989, before becoming association secretary, the position she holds today.
Even longer than her association with 4-H is Calimer's 70 years of service at St. John's United Church of Christ in Egg Harbor City, where she was baptized and has been a lifelong member. She continues to serve on the consistory, is an elder and financial secretary, participates in the Women's Guild and plays piano on the music committee.
Her volunteering credentials to just these two organizations alone were enough to earn her a nomination for the award. But it was the support of Atlantic County residents through online voting that helped her win the title, according to Home Instead spokeswoman Jen Elston.
As one of 50 state winners, Calimer earned $500 for her charity of choice - the Atlantic County 4-H Fair Association Building Fund - and has a spot on the Salute to Senior Service Wall of Fame website.
"We desperately need a new kitchen at the fairgrounds site, so I'm very happy to be able to give them this money," said Calimer, who proudly boasts that she is among a core group of long-time volunteers whose blood runs "4-H green."
The always-on-the-go octogenarian was nominated for the volunteer title by her friend, Cologne resident Tammy Schaab, who is also a dedicated 4-H member and volunteer. Calimer said she didn't even know about the contest or that she was even nominated.
"It was a total surprise. My daughter showed it to me on her Facebook site, and I couldn't believe it," she said. "I was very flattered."
In her nomination letter, Schaab described her friend as someone who "brings an upbeat attitude to everything she is involved in."
The daughter and wife of former firemen, Calimer has also volunteered at the Germania Volunteer Fire Company for more than 70 years and still bakes cakes and desserts for the semi-annual turkey suppers.
And because of Calimer, her parent's original church, the tiny Pomona Union Protestant Church, which closed its doors to weekly services more than 50 years ago, is still able to hold services three times a year. Her nomination letter notes that Calimer still serves as a board member of the church, where she helps organize services and plays piano.
When her children were younger, the former school bus driver was an active member of every organization that her children belonged to. She served as a member of the executive committee of the Galloway Township Athletic Association (GTAA) and the Cologne School Parent Teacher's Association (PTA). During her children's high school years, she actively volunteered as a band parent, chaperoning each and every event.
She still stays involved in her children's activities. Her youngest daughter is an assistant softball coach at Richard Stockton College, and Calimer said she often volunteers at the refreshment stand during the games, supporting the team.
Calimer also helps with the Atlantic County flu shot program by volunteering her time as a receptionist at clinics in surrounding towns, something she has done for the past 10 years.
"I don't think what I do is so amazing. There's a lot of people out there like me," the active senior citizen said recently. "What I can't understand is why everyone doesn't want to get involved in their community."
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