Every so often you meet a person who is instantly likable and willing to go the extra mile for everyone she meets.
Betsy Diachun, who was selected Niagara County Senior of the Year, is one of those people.
Retirement has not slowed her down one bit.
At age 77, Diachun credits good genes, good health and good fortune, but her list of activities would put the most active person to shame.
Presently she is co-chairwoman of the Niagara Area Foundation, a division of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo that is committed to countywide philanthropic efforts. She and her second husband, Peter, give platelets to Roswell Park in Buffalo each month, which requires them to be hooked up to a machine for two hours to provide platelets for cancer patients. They also deliver meals once a week for the Office for the Aging at the Lewiston Senior Center.
Diachun is a longtime member of Niagara Area Habitat for Humanity. She is an outspoken member of the Niagara Falls division of Planned Parenthood. She was also on the board for the Niagara Beautification Commission, where she served as treasurer and has helped clean up the city with its Clean Sweep initiative. She has been a yearly spotter for Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center’s fundraiser golf tournament and is president-elect of First Unitarian Church of Niagara Falls, where she has been a member for 50 years.
She served two terms, a total of seven years, on the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education and ran twice for the Town Board in Porter. In addition, she has worked at election polls in Ransomville and then in Youngstown; served on the Niagara Leadership Board; has volunteered as an usher at Artpark; and is a volunteer at area libraries in Youngstown and Lewiston. She also volunteers one day a week at the Niagara County Historical Society.
Diachun also helped to found the first Red Hat Society in the Niagara Falls area, an organization that encourages women over 50 to pursue fun, freedom and socialization.
Before retiring, Diachun was the assistant director at Old Fort Niagara, where she helped to begin the Niagara Area Attractions Association to help bring area attractions together to promote the Niagara area. She moved here with her first husband 50 years ago to open the Book Corner on Main Street in Niagara Falls. She is the mother of three grown children, and the Book Corner is now owned and operated by her son, Jeffrey Morrow.
How have you stayed so involved in your community?
I’ve been very fortunate in my life; therefore, if I am able and healthy, then I should help. It’s my religion to give back to people. To make this world the best it can be. As much as I am able.
Your husband seems to be active in volunteering too.
I say if you get me, you get Peter.
Why is it important to give back?
I feel that we are put on this earth, and if we can improve it in any way, we should. Especially if we are able.
You don’t do this for recognition.
No. In fact this is all a bit embarrassing. I’ve decided since winning this award I am afraid to say no to anybody. (Laughs.)
What’s your favorite volunteer activity?
I do like delivering meals. Such a nice concept to have people remain in their homes. When I was younger I never thought I would work with the elderly because I thought the next step is death. I thought it would be too depressing. But now when I’ve gotten to know people. It’s really fun, and you are keeping them in their environment. I think that is so important.
What else do you like to do?
I do a lot with Habitat for Humanity. I’ve been with them since 1992 – since they started as a grass-roots effort. We had buildable lots, we had money, but we needed volunteers.
Nowadays everyone seems so busy. Is it hard to get volunteers?
I think one of the problems is that people have to work more. We’d love to see the people we provide homes for come back and work with us, but most don’t have Saturdays off. They are probably working a second job on a Saturday just so they can pay the bills. We do get volunteers from Niagara University and Horizon Village, a halfway house for people with addictions.
Are there fun things you do besides volunteering?
I love to read, but I listen to books on tape if I am driving around. I play computer games with the best of them.
You are active in outdoors too. I heard you kayak and cross-country ski.
Yes, and I love to play tennis. I try to play at least three or four times a week with a friend.
Are there new things you are looking to get involved with?
No, no. Some things don’t interest me, but if I have friends who I think might be suited, I will tell them about it. I feel compelled to help agencies that I am not even involved with.
What should people do to get more involved?
You have to know what your interests are. Besides, what’s two hours out of your week, and what else do you have to do?
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