The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) recently honored over 90 older adults for their volunteerism as part of NYSOFA’s annual Older New Yorkers’ Day celebration presented during a November 3 livestream. Three Rockland County volunteers, Chris Hughes, Bert Hughes, and Art Manion, were included in the broadcast, each of them celebrated for their work to better their community.
Chris and Bert Hughes were recognized for their work with the Rockland County Interfaith Breakfast Program and Helping Hands of Rockland (HHR).
As founding organizers of HHR, an organization dedicated to supporting the homeless, their days of volunteerism would start as early as 4:30 a.m., diligently preparing hot breakfasts and bagged lunches for Rock-
land County’s less fortunate.
One of their recent triumphs was the establishment of a custom-made mobile kitchen for Helping Hands of Rockland, ensuring that fresh, hot meals reach those who need them most. While already serving 400 breakfasts and bagged lunches daily from the Church at the Nazarene in Spring Valley, Chris and Bert recognized the growing need and expanded their efforts.
Together, Chris and Bert have dedicated over 40 years to their community. Their love story spanned more than 53 years until Bert’s passing on August 16, 2023. Bert Hughes was a model of community leadership, leaving an indelible mark on Rockland County.
His passion for music and the arts brought joy to thousands and enriched the community. As integral members
of the Nyack Parks Commission, they initiated and coordinated the Mostly Music summer concerts in Memorial Park, offering families a musical experience by the Hudson River. A gazebo in the park proudly bears Bert and Chris’s names.
Bert’s influence extended to the arts, where he played a pivotal role in launching the Edward Hopper House
Museum’s summer music series in the garden, a tradition now spanning over four decades. He also served on
the organization’s board of trustees and received the County Executive Arts Award in 1999.
Art Manion was highlighted for his support of Meals on Wheels Rockland .Manion embodies the essence of a “good neighbor,” both within his work providing home-delivered meal and throughout his lifelong residency in Rockland County. Manion’s legacy of service began over six decades ago as a volunteer firefighter with the Columbian Fire Company in Spring Valley, where he held multiple leadership roles. Even after an astounding 62 years of service to his community, Manion’s commitment did not waver. At the age of 80, he transitioned into a volunteer role with Meals on Wheels Rockland, serving as a dedicated driver.
During the pandemic, his impact was immeasurable. Manion assisted in sorting and packing groceries for older adults, ensuring food safety, and brightening the spirits of exhausted staff with his infectious optimism. His role as the ultimate “Greeter” not only fostered volunteer retention but also set the stage for positive interactions with home-bound meal recipients.
A Spring Valley High School graduate in 1957, Manion was not only a devoted firefighter but also an avid bowler, hunter, fisherman, and exceptional dancer. He and his beloved late wife, Rosemarie Dell’Olio, owned the local business Manion’s Complete Maintenance until the mid-1990s. After a brief stint in New Jersey, they returned to Rockland County in 2016. Manion’s remarkable journey continues with recent accolades as the “best dancer” at local dances, as well as his enthusiastic attendance at Clarkstown Summer Concerts, unwavering support for the New York Boulders baseball team, invigorating swims at Lake Nanuet, and cherished moments with friends and family. Manion’s life story is an ode to service, joy, and the enduring impact one person can have on a community.