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Praras: Volunteers for 25 years

by Nancy Hamlett

For Lee and Harold Prara, what started out as a way to help seniors in our community has mushroomed into 25 years of volunteering, building, and now enjoying the Senior Citizen Center in Gardnerville. This month’s featured seniors, the Praras first moved to Gardnerville in 1973 after Harold retired as a deputy with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. Lena was a former optician who had exchanged a paying career for a much more rewarding job, raising their children.

“We were all stay-at-home moms back then,” said Lee with a laugh. “But it was also a necessity with Harold’s job, the shift work and hours.”

The Praras soon discovered that the seniors in our community didn’t have a home to call their own. There was a need for a senior organization in the town, and Harold and Lee became charter members of the Young at Heart Club. The organizers held meetings at the post office, the Methodist Church and then the fire station, but there wasn’t a place for them to interact together, to have fun, share gossip, or just get away from the house.

They dreamed of a center for Seniors. Lee helped to organize the first Walk-A-Thon to benefit the new center.

“We raised $2,000,” said Lee. “That was a lot of money over 20 years ago.”

By 1976 the organization had raised enough money, and ground breaking for the new center was on May 6 of that year. Harold and Lee were there everyday that they could, but they were also building their own home at the same time.

“Between the two projects it was kind of hectic,” said Lena. “But Harold worked with Hap Haight and other volunteers for many months to build the center. Harold wasn’t even entitled to the $1 per day they paid volunteers. He wasn’t 60 years old yet.”

The Grand Opening for the Senior Center was on June 5, 1997, but Harold’s and Lee’s volunteering days weren’t over yet.

“I worked for six years as a volunteer wherever I was needed,” said Lena. “And also as a cook to fill-in when the head cook was on vacation.”

Hap continued with finishing touches to the center, and performed some of the maintenance. “He built all the shelves in the gift shop,” said Lee. “And he did any type of repair work until the County took over the facility. Now they have to follow governmental guidelines and put out bids for the kind of work Harold did.”

Harold is also the recipient of a special recognition award from then Governor Mike O’Callahan. “It was called the Curmudgeon Award,” said Lena. “All the senior centers from around the state nominated one person they wanted recognized for their volunteer work. All of the others that worked on the center were paid, not volunteers. Harold got the award.”

It’s typical for Lee to downplay the contributions she and Harold have made to the Senior Center. “We’re regular people,” said Lee when she was asked for more details. “We’re quiet people. We don’t like to brag.”

When Lee and Harold aren’t at the Senior Citizens Center they are pursuing many of the other activities they have enjoyed over the years; for Harold that means puttering around the house and doing honey-do chores. Lee paints, works in the garden, and plays pinochle.

“We like to get out and visit our two daughters in California,” said Lee. “But we also like to go to the Center. We don’t know a lot of the faces, only two or three are still there from the beginning. But we are very proud to have been involved in the building of the center, and we enjoy seeing the happy faces on those seniors who now enjoy the lunches and activities offered there.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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