Janice Ayres, executive director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, has received Nevada's Outstanding Older Worker award from Experienceworks, a leading nonprofit program to promote employment for older Americans.
The award is given to one person in each of the 50 states. Ayres, 81, has been executive director for RSVP since 1979. RSVP covers Northern Nevada's 15 rural counties. When she joined the program in 1979, it served five counties.
Since then Ayres has been responsible for increasing the coverage to 96,000 square miles, with more than 16 programs that use volunteers and staff.
"My proudest achievement has been the Home Companion program," said Ayres.
"Back in 1984 I came up with the Home Companion program. I could see there was never going to be money to build facilities for people in these rural areas. These people who needed services would then be shipped off someplace they didn't want to live.
"And why build brick-and-mortar places people didn't want to be in prematurely. So I got the program going and it is done through volunteers. I went to the Legislature and got $64,000 to fund the program and built it from there."
Ayres was notified of the award by Shannon Coday, community ombudsman for Nevada's Division of Aging Services. Nominations are made to a committee with the Division of Aging Services, from which a winner is selected. Ayres will be presented formally with the award in Washington, D.C., the week of Sept. 17. She and the other 49 recipients will be honored at that time.
The trip to Washington is paid for through Experienceworks, which will allow Ayres to bring a guest. She is taking longtime friend Sandra Borrelli.
"I'm looking forward to the trip," said Ayres. "I've already received a call from Sen. Harry Reid's office. We will have breakfast with him and I'll have some one-on-one time with him to talk about programs.
"Then we'll go to the Senate, House of Representatives while in session, a lot of banquets and hoopla, tours and stuff. It'll be fun."
Ayres' office walls and desk are adorned from one end to the other with awards she has received for her work with seniors and community involvement.
"I think they gave me the award because I'm wonderful, crazy or both," she said with a laugh.
Past winners include: Helen Collier, a psychologist with HCA Associates in Reno, 2001; Betty Hood, curator with Bowers Mansion Regional Park, Washoe Valley, 2000, and Julian Larrouy, a porter for the Depot Casino and Diner in Fallon, 1999.