SOAR awards Canton, Madrid residents for volunteer efforts
Tuesday, June 29, 2010 - 10:53 am

POTSDAM – The lifelong learning group SOAR recognized course presenters and other members at their spring luncheon recently.

The annual “Super-SOARer” award for service went to Claire Begeal of Madrid, a longtime active member of SOAR and a director since 2002.

As chairman of the Ambassadors Committee, Begeal crafted the procedures for recruiting and training “ambassadors,” so that now all the volunteer presenters have their own SOAR contact people and classroom aides.

Begeal attends many classes, participates often in SOAR events and trips, and has served on a number of committees.

Master of Ceremonies Betty Graham of Massena said, “Claire has always exceeded every expectation of what it is to be a committed member of SOAR.”

Two people - Sharon Regan (Potsdam) and Elsie Dominy (Nicholville) - are now taking on the job of being Chair of the Ambassadors Committee, and, as one of the new co-chairs remarked, “We have some pretty big shoes to fill; it will take two of us to do what Claire did by herself.”

The other award presented at the luncheon, the “Outstanding Contribution to SOAR” award, to a member who has “made an exceptional and long lasting impact on SOAR,” went to Barbara Trerise of Canton.

The Master of Ceremonies quoted some of the praise heaped on Trerise: she dealt with “some stormy seas” when she was Chair of the Board of Directors, “she kept us on an even keel, shoring up the structure of the organization, steering us safely into the computer age, logging SOAR history in accessible form, and presenting each Board member with a notebook of by-laws and procedures.”

It is only the second time that this award has been given out. The first time it was awarded to Neil Johnson of Potsdam, a “founding father” of SOAR and a former chairman of the board who continues to work on keeping a strong bond between SOAR and SUNY Potsdam, SOAR's sponsoring institution.

SOAR, a member-run lifelong learning group in the North Country, is sponsored by SUNY Potsdam’s Center for Lifelong Education and Recreation.

SOAR's goal is to create stimulating opportunities to keep the mind, body and spirit vital as we age. The energetic and creative group of over 300 has only one part-time staff person; everyone else – course presenters, board or committee members, ambassadors, and office helpers – is a volunteer.

The SOAR yearly membership fee is $65 a year, entitling members to register for as many courses as they like. New members are always welcome, and they may join at any time. All membership renewals are due at the time of fall registration.

The 10-week SOAR semester begins this fall on Sept. 13. About 50 courses are being offered, ranging from one to 10 weekly daytime class sessions.

Class meetings are on weekdays, and usually run an hour and a half to two hours each. About half the courses are taught on the SUNY Potsdam campus; the rest are offered at a number of public places in the Potsdam-Canton area.

At an additional cost, SOAR also offers several events and often a day trip each semester.

To find out more about SOAR, its courses, trips and events, visit

Request more information online or by contacting the SOAR office directly: e-mail or call (315) 267-2690.