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THOUSAND OAKS : For Top Senior, a Good Deed Is Its Own Reward

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Connie Kraszewski cheerfully admits that when she starts talking, no one else can get a word in edgewise. But when she does pipe down, just for a minute, she tends to hear a lot of praise.

Recently, for example, she was named Thousand Oaks’ senior of the year. Her fellow senior citizens honored Kraszewski, 72, for a decade of dedicated volunteer work.

She didn’t understand all the fuss.

After all, she hadn’t wanted to volunteer in the first place. “It was my daughter’s fault,” Kraszewski said, remembering her initial foray to the Goebel Senior Center back in 1984.

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Her daughter, Newbury Park resident Carol Sharp, had prodded Kraszewski to make some friends at the senior center. Kraszewski preferred a more passive approach: staring out the window and hoping potential soul mates would wander by. But Sharp told her, “Mother, people don’t go window shopping for friends,” Kraszewski recalled.

So, reluctantly, she visited the senior center. She ate a hot lunch. She talked to some folks. And then she volunteered to dry the dishes.

She’s been at it ever since.

Serving meals on wheels, translating for Polish patients at Los Robles Medical Center, answering phones at the Fitzgerald House, leading senior citizen trips to Las Vegas and New Orleans--Kraszewski can’t remember all her volunteer work.

But she knows it’s all been immensely satisfying.

“You wake up early (to work at the senior center), and you think, ‘I should be in bed.’ ” Kraszewski said. “But then you see all the frail women and men coming in, all smiles and hugs, so glad to see you, and you think, ‘Why am I complaining?’ You know, I think I do it for myself more than anything else.”

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