LAVA Director Sarah Chandler Leaves Magical Mark

Sarah Chandler, 3rd from right, with her children from left, Ethan, Dean, Celeste, Alec, Olivia and Olivia’s husband Lee. Courtesy photo

Sarah Chandler with volunteers Thursday including Janet Montoya and Florence Riebe. Photo by Bernadette Lauritzen

Executive Director

The lyrics from the old Mary Tyler Moore Show suddenly came to mind last Thursday, “She can turn the world on with her smile. She can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile”.

You see Thursday was the last official day for Sarah Chandler of the Los Alamos Retired and Senior Organization (LARSO). LARSO oversees the two local senior centers, and Chandler oversees the Los Alamos Volunteer Association (LAVA) and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP).

Chandler began her relationship with LARSO as the LAVA assistant, under former LAVA Director Linda Boncella. When Boncella was elevated to LARSO director, LAVA was a magical fit for Chandler.

What has she enjoyed most about the job?

“The absolute best part of this job has always been my association with the volunteers,” Chandler said. “I am regularly moved by the compassion they have for those they serve and for each other.”

She said she loves the volunteer quilters thoughtfulness of what families at the Ronald MacDonald House need, how the receptionists there really knew and loved the members, and how the meal helpers remembered what the members like, and assisted people in ways that really protected their dignity.

She always made sure the volunteers themselves were properly treated and respected for the thousands of hours that they give to the community year after year. It was a highlight of her year to revel in the annual volunteer appreciation event made magical by Chandler.

She was instrumental in creating an awesome new program called HELP Drivers. The Help Driver program takes residents of any age to doctor’s appointments at offices off the hill. There’s no payment made by those requesting a ride, and so much more. The volunteers are vetted with background checks, insured for the trips and the gas is paid for, too. Chandler even made a presentation to the LARSO Board, to pay for the software that allows the behind the scenes work to take place with the simplicity of a cell phone.

Chandler said she feels the work with those in the medical area has been a privilege.

“HELP Drivers might be the first person a rider tells when they get bad medical news and their calm, kind presence is such a support,” she said. “The careful way the volunteers watch over the donors at the blood drives, quickly responding when someone feels unwell, is true compassion. I love these people, they are exceptional.”

She has made such a significant contribution to the volunteer program, as well as to LARSO in general,” Boncella said. “Her exceptional kindness, deep compassion and complete professionalism set her apart. I have no doubt she will be incredibly successful at the lab – they are truly fortunate to have her and I was truly fortunate to have the opportunity to work with her!”