Gordon Welsh: Longtime leader of AIM/CASP/MOW retires

January 23, 2013
Santa Paula News

Gordon Welsh

Gordon Welsh has a strong appetite for helping others, but after decades of ensuring that others don’t go hungry he has retired as president of the organization that oversees two area food and meal programs.

For a quarter of a century Welsh was president of AIM: Assistance, Interest & Meals Council Inc., which operates two independent divisions, CASP (Community Assistance Santa Paula) and Meals on Wheels (MOW). Both organizations are centered on feeding those who need it most, with CASP operating a food pantry for 31 years, and for the past 36 years MOW making sure homebound seniors get a home delivered hot meal or sack lunch.

Welsh, 87, handed over the keys of the pantry to Duane Ashby, the new AIM president, whose wife Kathy Ashby manages MOW. Ruth Colbath is the manager of CASP. 

Welsh started as an AIM volunteer, but that only lasted about six months before he became the president of the organization. A Santa Paula resident since 1981, Welsh was widowed when his wife June passed in May 2009. June was how Gordon became involved in the charity.

“When I retired from the petroleum industry,” Welsh, who had been a geologist, said June was already a volunteer for AIM and he decided to also help out. “Jim Garfield was the president when I started to volunteer, and then I became president... it just became an avocation,” an avocation that over the years has provided groceries to thousands of local low-income households through CASP and thousands of prepared meals through MOW. 

Welsh credited “the many selfless volunteers, both past and present, who make the operations work are the finest of generous individuals. Think of the MOW drivers who daily use their own time and vehicles” to not only deliver a MOW meal to a homebound senior, but also to provide a bit of company and good cheer. Welsh also praised those who volunteer for CASP on a weekly basis “to unload food into our facility, store it, monitor it and distribute it to needy families.” 

And there are the board members for each organization who serve in all capacities - from handling the finances to corresponding and reporting. “One cannot thank them enough,” said Welsh, “although I’m sure each feels the satisfaction and joy in helping someone other than themselves.”

Welsh said his advancing years, failing eyesight and bouts of illness, as well as his “complete illiteracy on the computer in this ‘Star Wars’ age,” have slowed him down. “I just sense the time is right to make a change. I’m fortunate that Duane, a younger person, has shown the interest, ability and drive to assume the leadership role.”

And perhaps create some memories of helping that Welsh has: “I remember a client of Meals on Wheels, she was also one of our church members,” who told Welsh taking care of her prized orchids was becoming a challenge. “I took a whole summer taking care of them... then she wanted me to come back and do it again!” These efforts not only gave Welsh an education in orchid growing, but also resulted in gifts of the delicate flowering plants that he still has.

Although MOW clients are asked to pay the low cost of the meal, the added value is the personal touch: “They not only get lunch, but a chance for a quick visit.... I made some friends that way.”

What he most enjoyed about CASP was “seeing the people, families you can help, people that show their appreciation when they get a load of food that they badly needed... you could tell they’re taking it home to feed their family.” Overall Welsh believes the strongest attraction for helping is “doing something for someone else voluntarily, not thinking of self.”

At the time of the December 14 interview Welsh had been retired for only “about a week and a half.... I’ve already turned over about three big boxes to Duane,” whom he will work with as needed. 

Not that he expects Ashby will need help: “Duane has been a chair of the Citizens Economic Advisory Commission on business opportunity for Santa Paula, and recently made a run for City Council. His business acumen should be of great help in securing both new volunteers and additional funds for the operation of the charity.”

And what’s in Welsh’s future? “What am I going to do now? Oh, I’m going to take it easy, sit at the kitchen table with my feet up” and, said Welsh, “stare out at the scenery.”

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