June 23-July 6,2005
VOL 124 NO. 23
Faith in Action
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) Tom Picciano
Binghamton — Connie Lorden spends a lot of time behind the wheel traveling around Broome County. In the past five or six years, he’s logged hundreds of hours taking people to appointments, shopping or on errands. He’s not a taxi driver. The St. Patrick’s parishioner assists with the Broome County Council of Churches “Faith In Action Volunteers” program. The program has honored Lorden with the “Lives Of Commitment” award.
“I don’t think what I do is that great. I think a lot of people should be doing it. I don’t think you should be patted on the back for something you should be doing in the first place,” he said. “I think it’s nice, but I think a lot of people should be doing this, helping out. There’s a lot of volunteer work to do and there’s obviously a lot of people who could volunteer. And I’m doing it really by accident.”
Lorden explained that his wife was working with the program when she was overwhelmed with requests for transportation with not enough volunteers to help. He started by driving two women and hasn’t stopped yet. The time commitment is a couple hours a day or week. “Anytime I can do it, I do it. And that’s my philosophy. If you can do it, do it,” he said. “I have the time because I am retired and it doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day.”
Those who Lorden helps are grateful. “You can see that the people welcome it, you know, they really do. They really appreciate the lift and someone to talk to, and I have no problem talking, because I’m Irish.”
Lorden is a native of Elmira who attended Catholic grade school and high schools there. He’s a veteran of the Korean War, having served as a hospital corpsman with the Marines. When he returned home from the military, he worked for about a year as a reporter for the Elmira Star-Gazette newspaper. After realizing he wanted to do something different, Lorden went to the University of Scranton, utilizing the G.I. bill. He graduated cum laude.
Then for the first time in his life, Lorden set foot in a public school, in the Binghamton City School District. He taught math, then chemistry over a period of 12 years. In 1972, he was named assistant principal of Binghamton Central, and a year later began 16 years as principal of the school. That’s where he concentrated on helping the students who “need extra help or a little push or kick in the pants.”
His career with the Binghamton schools concluded as he supervised the construction and renovation of North High School into what is now East Middle School. After retirement, he worked for a time at the Hillel Academy in Vestal as a secular administrator.
Lorden is very active at St. Patrick’s. He served on the first parish council years ago. He’s a lector at Sunday Mass, and serves as a extraordinary minister of the Eucharist “in a pinch.” Daily Mass continues to be on his schedule, although not the 6:30 a.m. liturgy he used to attend when principal.
Community service isn’t new to Lorden. He served on the Board of the Broome County Red Cross and was president of the Broome County Youth Bureau in the 1980s. A few years ago he started putting in several hours a week with the Faith in Action volunteer program.
“We recruit and train volunteers to be caregivers for the non-hands on, non-medical types of tasks, such as transportation, grocery shopping, friendly visits to people who can’t get out, chores and gardening and those types of things,” said Faith In Action Volunteers Director Joanne Kays.
About 450 people are registered to receive care. Nearly 325 volunteers assist the frail elderly, chronically ill and disabled for more than 5,500 hours annually. Each year, two volunteers are honored for their service.
“I review the hours and or the tasks that our volunteers have done throughout the year or two or maybe even three.” Kays said. “I came across Connie having hundreds of hours that he has put in and always willing and always able to help.”
The “Lives of Commitment” Awards breakfast came as quite a surprise for Connie Lorden.
“I didn’t realize it was a big deal. You know you walk in there. My son came in from White Plains, because my wife had called him and my other son was in Dallas,” he remembered. When asked a month after the breakfast what he’ll do next, Lorden said, “Same thing. Keep going, help as much as I can. You know there might be something else come up that the council needs help with that I can be of assistance. You just try to do what’s good to help people out a bit, regardless of who they are.”