Good Neighbors: Delfina Pelayo

Each year, our Good Neighbor Awards honor some of the dedicated neighbors who volunteer their time to help seniors and people with disabilities get the resources and support they need to age and thrive in their own homes and neighborhoods. We are delighted to honor Delfina as our 2017 Good Neighbor Honoree for the Cayuga Community Connectors Neighborhood Network.

Delphina brings in one of her cakes to celebrate a neighbor's birthday.

“Defina’s joie de vivre overflows into enthusiasm for the work and events of Cayuga Community Connectors, warm hugs and fabulous baked goods…She infuses our growing community with excitement about being alive, learning new things and caring about each other.”

Delfina Pelayo’s cakes are often the centerpiece of conversations and coffee after Monday morning exercise classes at Bethel Church. A photo album shows the various cakes she’s made for family birthday parties or on-the-job special events.

But it wasn’t only her cakes that earned Del the Good Neighbor award, an honor bestowed by the Community Living Campaign. The CLC sponsors programs to improve the lives of senior and disabled neighbors. One of them is Community Connectors, which brings neighborhood people together to determine what kind of services and activities they want and tries to make them happen.

Del keeps the key to the community hall at Bethel Church where the Cayuga Community Connectors meet. She opens the building before class so people can mingle and socialize, while she sweeps and helps set up chairs. Del drives members to doctor’s appointments, visits the sick, and delivers groceries to shut-ins. Celebrants proudly wear crowns and necklaces she forms from origami-folded dollar bills.

And she doesn’t just make cakes to share; her Filipino dishes are a favorite at community events.

“It makes me happy to see people happy,” Del said.

Del’s involvement extends beyond appreciating the happiness of others. She’s always there, ready to help” – even the neediest of people, said Patti Spaniak, CLC’s Neighborhood Network Development Manager. 

Finding Community

The Connectors added a lot to her life, too. Del has lived in Cayuga for almost 50 years, raising four children and caring for her ‘miracle baby’ grandson, now a strapping 14-year-old who visits often. But when she first moved in, it didn’t feel much like a neighborhood.

Delfina and Joe dancing at a Cayuga Connectors potluck

“Before, when I’d walk down the street, I would see people and never say hello. Now we’re all happy to see each other.”

“Before, when I’d walk down the street, I would see people and never say hello. Now we’re all happy to see each other.”

The Connectors has also filled a life once taken up with work and raising family.

She’s excited about a new class on memoir writing. That’s on top of classes on health and disaster preparedness as well as special events, intergenerational program and field trips. Then there are the visits to homebound neighbors and escort service when needed. Still, she’s not so busy that she didn’t find time to start another program – a prayer group at her house with her new friends from the program.

 “Defina’s joie de vivre overflows into enthusiasm for the work and events of Cayuga Community Connectors, warm hugs and fabulous baked good,” said Glenda Hope, whose desire to know her neighbors led her to found Cayuga Community Connectors. “She is one of those people I am always happy to see and I know everyone else feels the same way. She infuses our growing community with excitement about being alive, learning new things and caring about each other.”

Del was one of Hope’s first recruits, joining the Connector’s first program, an exercise class.

“Glenda welcomed me. Maybe 10 people were attending the Always Active exercise class when I started,” she said. “Now all my friends are here.”

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