Woman honored for helping others | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Woman honored for helping others

Jeff Munson, Tribune city editor

Jim Grant/Tahoe Daily TribuneBillie Bridges is the county's volunteer of the year.

Tireless and trusted, Billie Bridges is not your typical volunteer.

The 75-year-old South Shore woman is considered the Wonder Woman of volunteering in El Dorado County.

And for that reason, the former Hewlett-Packard accountant who retired to the South Shore 12 years ago, will be recognized Tuesday in Placerville as El Dorado County’s Volunteer of the Year.

“I’m somewhat uncomfortable with the award since there are so many volunteers in the area,” Bridges said. “But it is an honor to be recognized.”

Nominated by Supervisor David Solaro, Bridges joins four other volunteers from the county in receiving the honor.

The choice for Solaro wasn’t a surprise. He has known Bridges for years. Most recently he appointed her to a second four-year term as the representative for his Tahoe district to the county’s agency on aging.

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“Billie is a very warm, energetic, person who cares about her community and is involved in many worthy projects,” Solaro said. “She is one of many who are worthy of the award and certainly stands out as one of the best.”

Her list of volunteer work is impressive. As the district representative for El Dorado County Commission on Aging, Bridges meets once a month with other representatives to discuss issues that affect older people in the county, reporting to Solaro regularly.

Her concentration is on South Shore. The issues that she reports on are elder abuse cases, the local food bank, the senior nutrition program, housing and transportation needs.

She also regularly attends City Council meetings and various committee meetings on the South Shore.

“I try to make as many community meetings I can,” she said. “The reason is so that the seniors here have a voice in the community.”

Her other challenge is recruiting seniors to become more active in the community. She helped organize a debate among City Council candidates at the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center.

As a board member of Senior Inc., a South Shore seniors group, Bridges coordinates activities, seminars and fund-raisers. The group was successful in convincing the Kiwanis Club of Lake Tahoe to donate a van that provides transportation services around the lake, free of charge, to seniors three days a week. Last year, the van provided transportation to 1,197 people.

“Right now we are working on getting two more vans in a partnership with the county, the city of South Lake Tahoe and Senior Inc.,” she said.

Bridges is also a board member and screener of the group Ordinary People with Extraordinary Needs, an organization that attempts to meet the medical needs for people who can’t afford medical services.

The group provides resources to acquire prescription drugs to arranging sponsors to help pay the costs of getting people who are in need of organ transplants, transportation to and from the hospital.

One of the latest projects Bridges has undertaken involves the South Shore’s ice skating facility. Last year, while watching Para-Olympics, a growing competition for paraplegics nationwide, she became intrigued by the hockey event.

“I was watching it, and the players were using sled skates to move around the ice. A few days later I thought, we could use something like that here,” she said.

She called the facility’s director, Gary Moore, and asked what it would take to get the sled skates for the South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena. The sleds cost $400 each. Through fund-raising efforts, $7,000 has been raised from various civic groups.

She points out that $2,000 of that came from Club Live — children had solicited pledges from the community and then skated for hours. On March 21-22, Bridges and Moore have arranged to get some of the 2002 Para-Olympics gold medal winners to host a clinic on the sleds at the arena.

And when she runs out of things to do, Bridges is active with her husband, Ray, on veterans’ issues. The couple just celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary. They have six children and nine grandchildren.

At 75, the question begs to be asked: What keeps Bridges going? She said keeping active is essential to her staying happy.

“If you keep busy, you don’t have those aches and pains of life,” she said.

The presentation begins at 9 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors meeting room, 330 Fair Lane, Building A in Placerville.

— Jeff Munson can be reached at jmunson@tahoedailytribune.com

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