By Bill O’Gurek
Times News Staff
For nearly a quarter of a century, says Marlene Basiago, the Panther Valley community has been kind to her as she successfully ran the former Helping Hand clinic in Summit Hill.
In retirement, she wants to give back by volunteering.
“Volunteering is a duty,” said Basiago, who provided occupational and physical therapy to thousands of clients at his Summit Hill business before retiring in 2014 at the age of 59.
“I want to give back to my community, because the community has been so good to me. Volunteering is one way for me to do that,” she said.
The Summit Hill resident, who graduated in 1973 from Panther Valley High School, returned to her roots after graduation because, she said, ‘I felt there was a need for the therapies’ .
Basiago earned an associate’s degree in occupational therapy from Lehigh Carbon Community College and a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy and physical therapy from Temple University and Thomas Jefferson University, both in Philadelphia, before returning to his beloved community in top of a hill.
Operating the clinic since 1990, she said, “I have dedicated my life to helping people, helping them improve their health and get back to their daily lives.
Gaining a reputation as a tough but effective therapist, she said, “I may have been tough on people, but my goal has always been to make them better.”
Known as a caring businesswoman, Basiago was an avid supporter of community efforts, including the Summit Hill Girls’ Softball Association, which she founded; Little League and Babe Ruth baseball programs, church and school events, and most notably, the Panther Valley Public Library, Lansford.
At PVHS, she volunteered as a coach for sports teams before sports training programs came to fruition.
During her professional career, she has volunteered and donated to the library because, she said, “it was very exciting for me to start a library in this community. »
When she retired, a friend convinced her to become even more active in the library and she eventually became chair of its board of trustees, a position she still holds today after many years. “The community needed a library,” she said, “I’ve never known a library in this area and I felt the community needed a place to go to read, work on a computer, looking for jobs. … It’s a huge asset to the community.
“Marlene is directly responsible for the success of the library as she plays a vital role in its day-to-day operations,” said Siobhan O’Gurek, Treasurer of the Library’s Board of Trustees. “She is very determined to make it a success. She and the other volunteers we have at the library continue to provide excellent service to people in the Panther Valley communities.
Recruited by a friend to help the Carbon County Area Agency on Aging, Basiago jumped in with both feet. She explained: “With my company, I had some experience with insurance, so I agreed to take courses to become a health insurance consultant for the agency.”
For the past eight years, she has helped seniors during the open enrollment period from October 15 to December 7, helping them find drug plans and Medicare benefit plans that best meet their needs. their needs.
Throughout the year, she helps seniors enroll in Medicare and assists them with supplemental plans and drug plans.
According to Donna Shelly, PA MEDI Advisor with the County Regional Agency on Aging, Basiago’s services are invaluable. “(Marlene) is my left arm and I’m left-handed,” Shelly said. “There are no words to explain Marlene because without her I could not do open registration and have the necessary reports filed.”
Over the past period, Shelly said, she and Basiago met with 336 seniors in eight weeks for open enrollment.
“I really appreciate it a lot,” Basiago said. “I have always enjoyed working with older people. If there’s a way to help people with Medicare, which can be confusing, or maybe get them a cheaper drug or a Medicare benefits plan, I get great satisfaction out of that.
She meets seniors in Palmerton, at the library, or even at home, offering assistance with Medicare benefits, and, during open enrollment, through the Office of Aging, she has hours in Lehighton, Nesquehoning, Lansford and Summit Hill.
“I really enjoyed meeting a lot of people who needed Medicare help, and they’re so grateful for the county and what I can do for them,” Basiago said.
“People are very grateful…they are happy to see us for help if available. A lot of people are on low incomes and it’s important for us to see if we can help them further,” she said.
The program, she says, is “extremely important because we give people the time they need to understand the programs, and we walk them through the details. For some, we are able to solve the problems they have… I get great satisfaction from helping them.
Basiago is a member of St. Joseph of Panther Valley Catholic Church, Summit Hill, where his volunteerism has no limits.
A member of the church’s financial board, she is often seen volunteering at fundraisers, funeral dinners, breakfasts and block parties. Behind the scenes, she does cemetery clean-up work and cuts grass on church property.
Reverend Bob George, pastor, called Basiago a “volunteer powerhouse,” saying, “She is always ready to help with any parish project. She takes care of the bingo, the summer festival, the lottery tickets after mass, the funeral dinners and even cuts the grass around the church.
“She is truly dedicated to the parish community and always in a very humble way. Most of the time you don’t even know she’s there, but she works and accomplishes a lot. The parish community of Saint-Joseph is truly grateful for all that it does.
“I like to be busy and I don’t just want to sit down,” she said. “If I can help anyone in any way, I will.”