Annabelle Saylor named volunteer of the year

Longtime Frey Village volunteer honored for sharing musical talent

Middletown, Pennsylvania    Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Annabelle Saylor has spent so much time at Frey Village, the Diakon Senior Living Community in Middletown, Pennsylvania, that many residents and even some visitors think she lives there. The fact the 91-year-old has volunteered more than 2,000 hours spanning 19 years at the village has a lot to do with that.

Pre-pandemic, Saylor played piano for a morning hymn sing in the chapel for all residents and afternoon tea and music activities in different areas of the village. For the afternoon event, she selects songs residents know from their younger days; many sing along as she plays. Often, she also spends time visiting with residents.

LeadingAge PA recently honored Saylor with a 2020 Distinguished Service Award, naming her a Volunteer of the Year. She will be recognized along with other honorees at a virtual conference in August.

Saylor recalls how she first became involved with Frey Village.

“My daughter saw an ad that the activities department was looking for a piano player,” she says. “I took piano lessons as a child and I read music easily. I had retired from my various careers, so I applied. That’s how it started.”

“She puts joy in all of our hearts!”

Saylor’s “various careers” include high school English teacher, head of Christian education for her church, refugee sponsorship coordinator for Refugee Services of Tressler Lutheran Services—one of the two organizations that founded Diakon—and instructor of English as a Second Language classes for Catholic Charities. In retirement, she has found a calling that inspires and entertains.

Tracy Klein, Frey Village director of community life, has worked with Saylor for 12 years.

“I’ve found Annabelle’s desire to help our seniors through music to be inspiring and uplifting,” Klein says. “She has showed extraordinary commitment and dedication to our residents by sharing not only her musical talent but also by being their friend and confidant. Whether she is playing hymns or oldies tunes, the residents are singing along with smiles on their faces!”

Resident Ethel Brookin agrees. “It gives me great pleasure to listen to Annabelle tickle the ivories, especially during hymn sing.”

Saylor has not been able to “tickle the ivories” for anyone while Frey Village limits activities and visitations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I miss it so much,” Saylor says. “The music is [among] their favorite things!”

The Rev. Wayne Muthler, village chaplain, believes Saylor has had a distinct impact on many people because of her music.

“Annabelle has truly touched and enriched the lives of our residents, family members and staff with her presence and through the sharing of her unique gifts and talents,” he says. “She puts joy in all of our hearts!”

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