COLUMBUS, Ohio — Eleven honorees, including Delaware County’s Donna and Walter Morton, were recognized for their accomplishments and volunteerism at the 46th Central Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame Recognition Ceremony held May 25 at The Gallery at Champions venue in Columbus.
Organized by the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging (COAAA), the Central Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame honors older adults who share their dedication, talent, and vitality in ways that significantly improve their communities and the lives of others. The COAAA hosts the Hall of Fame in May during Older Americans Month, a month that celebrates the contributions of senior citizens.
The Mortons were nominated for the HOF by SourcePoint. Below is a biography on the Mortons provided by the COAAA.
Since Donna and Walter Morton turned 60, both 28 and 26 years ago respectively, they have focused their energy on two areas of service: youth development and senior food insecurity, in particular, volunteering for 4-H (an organization focused on instilling youth leadership) and delivering food to homebound residents in Ashley through SourcePoint’s Meals on Wheels program.
The Mortons’ extensive leadership roles in 4-H can be traced back 55 years to when each began volunteering as club advisors, volunteer positions that allowed them to nurture leadership skills and personal growth for hundreds of Delaware County youth. Through 4-H, Walter’s leadership in the Galena Livewires provided generations of students with practical knowledge in electrical work. Donna uses her sewing mastery to provide hundreds of 4-H club members with the satisfaction of making their own clothes. “Donna is one of the most involved 4-H volunteers I have known,” said Laryssa Hook, 4-H youth development educator.
The Mortons became hosts for the 4-H International Exchange Program, a program that started in 1981 to help youth and families gain a global perspective and experience new cultures. Their role expanded from hosts to recruiters, a position that requires locating and vetting families to host international students during the summer. As hosts, Donna and Walter welcomed several Japanese students to their home for 1-2 years each, as well as their chaperones for a month at a time. After the midpoint meeting for the 15-year-long Japanese Labo Kids, an overnight was planned for the Morton home. Hiroe, the student who stayed with the Mortons for a year, made Japanese food for everyone to eat. They served as International County Coordinators from 1990-2017 and still participate in the program today.
Helping residents secure needed food is another shared passion for the Mortons. They took on a weekly meals route in Ashely 14 years ago. During this time, they delivered an estimated 17,000 hot lunches to seniors in an underserved area, miles from the nearest grocery store. To date, they have volunteered approximately 4,000 hours and have driven more than 22,000 miles for their route. The couple is so dedicated that one spouse will deliver solo if the other is not available. Delivering meals to their clients also serves as vital wellness checks where the Mortons can detect changes in health and living conditions, which are reported back to the clients’ social workers.
Walter and Donna grew up together in a farming community near Mt. Gilead, Ohio. They attended the Edison school district with approximately 200 students in first through 12th grade. Donna asked Walter to the prom, but he said no because he was leaving to join the Navy. Donna went to nursing school while Walter was serving in the Navy, and when he returned four years later, the two reconnected. They have two daughters, one son, three granddaughters, six living grandsons, one grandson who passed away, and one great granddaughter, Violet. The Mortons celebrated 63 years of marriage last September.
The Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging (COAAA) plans, funds, and delivers services that help older adults and individuals with disabilities remain safe and independent in their homes. With the assistance of area providers, COAAA arranges and coordinates services to help individuals with daily living such as homemaking, transportation, home delivered meals and personal care. COAAA offers education and resources to caregivers, professionals, and the public and advocates for programs and policies that benefit older adults and individuals with disabilities. COAAA manages services for 12,500 people and funds services for another 25,000 older adults in eight counties: Delaware, Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Licking, Madison, Pickaway and Union.