Black History Month: Bainbridge volunteer Joseph Sanders

8:03 PM, Feb 10, 2011   |    comments
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"God has been good to me," says the humble Sanders. "He has been blessing me over and over and over again."

Now 74, Sanders is a daily volunteer at the Chagrin Falls Park Community Center where everyone from the neighborhood's children to senior citizens come daily for everything from meals, to recreation, to classes.

His cheerful disposition, sense of humor, and deep faith have made him a favorite among the Center's clients, young and old.

"I've been searching," Sanders reflects, "for 74 years I've been searching, learning how to love people. Regardless what race they are, what color they are. Learning how to love people, and when you find that key to love, you got it. You got it."

In September, 2010, Geauga County named Joseph Sanders its Senior Citizen of the Year. Awards poured in from all over and, at a public ceremony, he accept each with his usual gratitude.

"I had an armful," he says, of the plaques and proclamations he received, "Everybody was there, and each one I'd greet, I hugged, and said thank you. It don't hurt to say thank you."

Joe Sanders' roots run deep in Chagrin Falls Park, a predominantly African-American neighborhood which dates back to the 1920's.

Sanders' parents lived there. In fact, his father was Geauga County Sheriff Deputy Lummie Sanders, who was killed in the line of duty in 1965.

"He had the responsibility of keeping watch over this entire neighborhood," Joe says, of his father. "In a way, I now do the same."

The senior citizens who frequent the Community Center take quickly to Joe, who moves from guest to guest about as quickly as he talks.

"He's basically a naturally gregarious man who's very nice and can basically respond to just about anything," says Jean Campbell, a retired public relations executive who has been coming to the center for a few weeks.

"You never get bored when he's around," agrees Carol Johnson Borders. "On the days he's not here, we say, 'where's Joe?' It's awfully lonely here today."

Joe Sanders tries to return the love and respect people who come to the Community Center give to him. He says his health is good, and intends to continue his community service and volunteering for his neighbors as long as he's able.

"Every day when they leave and I help them with their walkers, or getting up on the bus I say, 'I'll see y'all tomorrow,' and they say 'OK, we'll see you, Joe.' And there we go."

"You've got to be able to help people," Sanders says. "and when you do that you did God's will. Because He cares about us.  We've got to be ambassadors for Him."


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