Alzheimer's / Dementia

2/23/2024 | By John Levan

Volunteers devote their time and efforts to helping others for various reasons. Many are attracted to this noble endeavor because it benefits recipients and volunteers. Others individuals are naturally inclined toward this selfless act, having been raised in families that valued altruism and set a remarkable example through volunteer work. Sherry Jones Peterson falls firmly into this latter category, with a mother dedicated to teaching and a father who worked as a hospital administrator.

Peterson fondly remembers her father’s active involvement in Rotary International, a worldwide service organization, and her mother’s participation in Women of Rotary, sometimes called “Rotary Anns,” when clubs did not welcome female members as they do today.

She witnessed her father leave their home on Christmas Eve for the hospital, to greet employees, thank them for working on the holiday, and wish them a Merry Christmas. These and other acts of kindness and thoughtfulness from her parents helped to imbue the young woman with a sense of responsibility that guided her throughout her life, personally and professionally.

CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Great Richmond Chapter

For 17 years, before retiring in 2015, Sherry Jones Peterson was CEO of the Richmond Alzheimer’s Association, a leading health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. As its leader, she played an integral role in combating this formidable health condition. The organization’s work spans various areas, from providing and enhancing care for those affected to advocating for public policy changes and offering critical research funding. Through its efforts, the organization has been addressing the complete spectrum of Alzheimer’s, a disease that currently affects millions of people globally, with support and resources.

Senior and volunteer working on a jigsaw puzzle

The awareness surrounding Alzheimer’s has significantly increased in recent years, says Peterson, mainly due to the efforts of organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association. Education and awareness campaigns have facilitated a broader understanding of the disease, its symptoms, and its impact on patients, families, and caregivers. Increased attention to the disease has led to early diagnosis and treatment, crucial for managing the disease and improving quality of life.

Following in her parents’ footsteps

After retirement, Sherry Peterson continues to dedicate much of her time to volunteering. She helps organize the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The event assists in raising funds while bringing the community together in the fight against this cruel disease.

Peterson follows in her parent’s footsteps through other volunteer work, too. She’s a member of the local Rotary Club. As a Meals on Wheels committee chair, she delivers meals to clients every Thursday, checking their well-being and engaging in conversation. These short visits bring her immense fulfillment amid her busy schedule. Alongside this volunteer work, Ms. Peterson serves on the board of the local YMCA and enjoys traveling with her husband.

As someone who deeply understands the value of volunteering, Ms. Peterson’s parting words hold incredible significance: “If you don’t volunteer, you’re missing out on the countless rewards of selflessly helping and serving others.”

Related: Make It Simple to Help: Volunteer Bob Schnapp

John Levan

Freelance writer John Levan focuses on insurance, finance, and manufacturing as well as senior living topics. Based in Pennsylvania, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Alvernia University and Master of Arts in humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills.