By Dan Hust
FALLSBURG October 29, 2004 For Gladys Walker, life has come full circle.
I tell people, in many ways, Im a product of community action, she said on Tuesday, the day after her 56th birthday.
And now the Monticello native is the head of, appropriately enough, the Community Action Commission to Help the Economy, better known as CACHE.
Based in Liberty, the nonprofit organization provides emergency assistance to households in distress.
And for the past 13 years, Walker has been its executive director.
Yet, as always, shes modest about her role.
Gladys Walker could never do anything alone. . . . It is a team effort that makes it possible to serve so many people in need, she said. We have a great team of committed, caring folks.
That team was present Tuesday as were about 60 other friends, relatives and supporters when Walker received the SYDA Foundations annual Community Service Award.
Held at the old Brickman Hotel now the SYDA Annex in Fallsburg, the ceremony was attended by area legislators, school officials and community leaders, all of whom have in some way been involved in Walkers work and touched by her passionate dedication.
Shes somebody who gets things done, remarked Sullivan County Legislature Chair Chris Cunningham. Shes a leader . . . and she deserves every accolade and award.
Walker got quite a few that evening, not only from SYDA and the Legislature but from Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, NYS Senator John Bonacic and Congressman Maurice Hinchey.
At one point, she was even presented with a shawl chosen for her by Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the spiritual head of Siddha Yoga, which is headquartered at SYDAs facilities in Fallsburg and promotes peace, meditation and humanitarianism through ancient and modern Hindu techniques.
Were here because of our commitment to Sullivan County, said longtime SYDA member Bernie Klein. The plan for the ashram is to be here for many more years to come. This is our home.
Thats why the Community Service Award came into being in 1986, and thats also why Walker was chosen by a portion of the 20 former winners.
Where others see problems, she sees solutions, said Ed Field, a Monticello resident and a former award winner. There are very few people who go to a lot of meetings and contribute the way Gladys does.
Carrying on in the tradition of her well-known family, the Finns of Monticello, she has not only been involved with CACHE full-time since 1974, shes also on the boards of Partners in Community, Literacy Volunteers of America, Sullivan County Head Start, Sullivan County Community College Dormitory Corporation and Sullivan County Rural Health Network.
But she made time Tuesday to let SYDA and those who know her give her standing ovation after standing ovation in appreciation of her tireless efforts (and a $2,500 check, which she plans to donate to various charities).
After a moment of uncharacteristic speechlessness, Walker pushed aside her prepared comments and spoke from the heart.
I am so grateful for this award, she said with her signature smile. I am touched by your kindness and patience . . . your spirit radiates.
But, she reminded the admiring crowd, it is so important for us to remember our work is not done.
Amidst the exotic surroundings and Walkers inspiring effervescence, it was an admonishment guaranteed not to be forgotten.