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Suffolk County Honorees


Sonya "Sunny" Bates was born and raised in Queens, NY. She and her family moved out to the East End of Long Island in the early 60's. She was married and has one daughter and three sons, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Sonya (Sunny) Bates Pic

Sunny has done fund raising activities at the Riverhead Moose Lodge and the Hampton Bays Senior Center including Bingo calling, 50/50 raffles, Chinese auctions, yard sales and more. She has worked on the Seniors4Kids Program, Pen Pal Program, Reading, Writing, and Reminiscing Programs from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. She does Sunday Greetings, visiting homebound folks in their home and in the hospital, knitting beautiful prayer shawls to comfort people.

She is a person who lives up to her name and lights up a room with her smile. She keeps a positive attitude in all things and all of Sunny's volunteer work is a huge asset to the staff in the Senior Center. Her motto is "you are only as old as you behave." Giving of herself, her time and talents to others is what keeps her forever "young at heart."

Sunny has been volunteering for the past 35 years, helping in various capacities.

"So many people are carrying heavy loads and feel alone. I use my gift of faith, laughter and hospitality to brighten peoples' lives," she said.

Her greatest reward has been "knowing that my life has touched others in a meaningful way. In giving of myself, I have always received so much."


Virginia "Gini" Pawluk is a resident of Suffolk County, married, and has three children and six grandchildren. She retired from the banking industry and started volunteering shortly after.

Virginia (Gini) Pawluk  Pic

Gini started volunteering for the Health Insurance Information, Counseling, and Assistance Program (HIICAP) 13 years ago though she admits that she hasn't kept track of the time that has passed because she considers what she does fun. She helps individuals understand Medicare by patiently presenting information to seniors and their families on the phone two to three days each week at the Suffolk County Office for Aging, or at local libraries as needed. She is a baritone vocalist with a local chapter of Sweet Adelines, and recently accepted the role of treasurer. She feels most fulfilled when she sings for senior Veterans and seniors struggling with cognitive impairments. She has been able to apply what she has learned to her own personal matters.

Gini is a natural helper and has been a volunteer for sixteen years.

Gini hoped that her strengths and knowledge would enrich the lives of others; what she found is that it enriched her own life ten-fold.

The greatest reward from volunteering for Gini is when a senior takes the time to call her back and say thank you.