Beyond her incredible service for over 18 years as a AmeriCorps Senior Foster Grandparent, Fran Seeley has continued to step up for her community in ways no others have.
When a busload of asylum seekers landed in Portland, Maine local social services sprang into action helping the families. One local program was Women, Infants and Children (WIC). Within days, after experiencing waiting rooms filled with exhausted parents and their children, WIC asked for volunteers to come and play with the children while the parents completed paperwork. The first person to respond was Fran Seeley. She spent many days entertaining children made easy because of the universal language of play. The staff at WIC were incredibly appreciative but none more so then the parents who thanked her endlessly for giving them a few minutes of respite.
More recently, when a fellow volunteer began experiencing some health problems leaving her unable to drive, isolated and lonely in her apartment during COVID-19, Fran took it upon herself despite her very busy schedule to drive this volunteer to health care appointments, get her groceries, take her out to lunch and down to the ocean because she knew this volunteer would enjoy it.
This volunteer was very private about her health issues and did not want others to know, but Fran’s intuition, as a friend to many of her peers, knew this volunteer needed help, caring for her in subtle and unobtrusive ways which honor her privacy.
Fran has an endless, “Mary Poppins carpet bag” of time and energy to give to others. Even when her days seemed to be filled with other engagements, she has time to stop by our office to hand deliver thank you notes and donated items, always accompanied by a warm hug. During this pandemic, I’ve felt those hugs in her regular emails that keep us in touch, always signed, “Love, Fran.”
The following testimony is contributed by University of New England staff including
Fran Seeley’s reach and impact as a volunteer is remarkable. She is truly a point of light for young and old alike. She supports research and education on aging through the University of New England’s Center for Excellence in Aging & Health and in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. During the COVID crisis, she’s attended dozens of online sessions in support of student learning and intergenerational exchange, always expressing something insightful and uplifting. She served as a panelist for a special program on isolation in aging in July. She has served as a Geriatrics Education Mentor (GEM) at the UNE College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Maine Geriatrics Conference these past 5 years and in 2019 she was the Attendee Forum keynote speaker providing valuable insights on aging.
It is clear why Fran was awarded Maine Council on Aging’s Trailblazing Advocate Award recognizing sustained contributions of older people whose passion, actions, and advocacy have made Maine a better place for us all. She was honored for giving voice to the challenges of living a purposeful life on a low fixed income and for her effective state house advocacy for increased benefits and property tax fairness for low-income older Mainers. Through Fran’s spirited dialogue and sharing her passionate self, she is changing aging in Maine!
- Tom Meuser, PhD, Professor and Director, Center for Excellence in Aging & Health and Marilyn Gugliucci, MA, PhD Professor and Director of Geriatrics Research
I was introduced to Fran through a mutual friend aware of my Irish background and interest in all things Irish. As the Executive Director of the Maine Irish Heritage Center we were beginning to plan events celebrating the 100 Anniversary of the Easter Day Rising in Ireland which in turn would lead to the independence of and formation of the Republic of Ireland. Fran’s family had direct involvement in those momentous times. She shared freely of her memories and allowed us to use her personal memorabilia to promote our events.
She became an active member of the planning committee for the events and spoke at Portland’s City Hall on Easter Sunday. It was at this time that I began to see what an amazingly generous and kind person that Fran is. She has become a friend of mine and a wonderful volunteer for the Maine Irish Heritage Center.
Last spring Fran shared her Irish heritage stories with the 4th graders at Reiche School in Portland, Maine, many of them recent immigrants themselves. I was aware of Fran’s long-time involvement with the Foster Grandparent Program. It was a joy to watch her interact with the Reiche School students. Her generosity of spirit and goodwill are a model for me and a wonderful example of a genuine caring community member who continues to make significant impacts in the growth and development of our fair city.
- P. Vincent O’Malley, Founding Executive Director, Maine Irish Heritage Center