The Aileen Osofosky Goodwill Committee held its spring meeting Monday, honoring three players with special awards: Goodwill Member of the Year Mark Sorenson, Nadine Wood Volunteer of the Year Shawn Stringer, and Chuck Wilkinson, the honoree of the host district. About 150 attended the reception, open to those who have been appointed to the committee.
Players in the area of San Mateo Unit 498 know Sorenson as someone who’s always willing to help. He started out doing things for his club and unit, such as setting up and tearing down for games. Then he got into mentoring newer players, taking it to the next level by creating memory aids for them.
They found out how far he was willing to go to help someone when one of their members was incapacitated by a long-term illness. Sorenson knew Nancy Gordon from their time together on the unit board, when she trained him on food planning for sectionals and unit games. Gordon, who was living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lived by herself and didn’t have any family. As her condition worsened, Sorenson began taking her to appointments and running errands for her during the summer of 2016. Soon she had live-in hospice, but she was unhappy with the food they supplied.
For 10 months, Sorenson drove a half hour each way from San Bruno to Foster City to take Gordon meals at least three times a week. He continued to do chores and other errands for her until she died in June 2017.
“I just did it,” Sorenson says. “I enjoy cooking for my family. When Nancy could use my help, I started bringing things and found out what she enjoyed.”
An amateur chef, he kept a list of her favorite dishes, which ran more than 40 items long.
“I just built it into my daily routine,” he says. “A lot of the time, I would make something for my family and bring her the leftovers the next day.”
Since Gordon’s death, Sorenson has remained active in mentoring. About 12 times a month he plays with either a mentee or someone who doesn’t have a partner. After their games, Sorenson emails his partners analyses of particular hands or one of a dozen “cheat sheets” he’s created to help them learn various conventions.
“I try to be the kind of mentor my mentees would like to have,” he said.
District 6 Director Margot Hennings describes Stringer as the hardest-working person she knows. “In the tradition of Nadine Wood, she does everything, including the jobs no one else wants to do.”
Among those jobs was refurbishing the metal boards District 6 uses at its regionals: removing the old felt, boiling the boards, scraping off the residual glue, attaching new custom-made strips of self-sticking felt and repainting the vulnerability indicators. She also washed all of the district’s bidding boxes in her dishwasher during the summer of 2016.
“I’m a little OCD when it comes to equipment,” Stringer said. “I hate dirty bid boxes, or boards where you can’t read the number. District 6’s metal boards are about the same age as most of our members. But they’re looking pretty good.”
As the district’s regional manager since 2015, Stringer is responsible for making sure all of the necessary equipment is on site for district events. She was also district president for three years until September 2018, chaired several regionals during that time and is president of the Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference. She has been tournament chair for the Chesapeake Regional since 2012 and also previously ran the Bethesda Regional, a job she got corralled into doing upon the 2011 death of Wood, the person her award is named for.
“Nature abhors a vacuum,” Stringer says. “When I see something that needs to be done, I think, ‘I can do this.’ It’s pride. I started a job and I don’t want to quit.”
Another factor that earned Stringer the award is her efforts to recruit and train other volunteers, especially those who have taken over as tournament chairs for District 6 regionals. “She not only is a volunteer, but she takes it upon herself to mentor and train volunteers,” Hennings said. “There are a lot of people volunteering who are attributable to her.”
In order to train more volunteers in maintenance of metal boards, Stringer joked she plans to offer a seminar called “Learn Glue in a Day.”
As representative of the district where the Spring NABC is being held, ACBL President Russ Jones presented a special award to Chuck Wilkinson of Jackson MS, who could not be present.
Wilkinson served many years as a unit president, district president and on the ACBL board of directors. An actuary, he is a trustee of the ACBL’s employee pension fund. He is on District 10’s tournament oversight committee, which runs the regionals. He still works at the club and runs sectionals, Jones said.
Jones said it did not take him long to think of who he should select for the local Goodwill award. “When I entered the ACBL in 1997, this person did everything for bridge,” he said.
The reception opened with entertainment. Richard Maybin performed “Playing in Memphis,” a parody of Marc Cohn’s “Walking in Memphis” written by Richard Brown. As chair of the Goodwill Committee, Sandy DeMartino introduced the honorees and presenters.
Joe Jones, the ACBL’s executive director, emphasized the importance of goodwill in attracting – and keeping – new members. “Goodwill is fundamental to growing the game,” he said. “As goodwill ambassadors, you set the example that everyone should follow in order to ensure the future of the game we love so much.”