She Chops Onions and Assembles Condom Kits

At Lifelong AIDS Alliance, you might see Dotti Lydon preparing meals or assembling condom kits, and providing inspiration to all.

Meet Dotti Lydon, the recipient of the 2013 Inspire Positive Aging Award

On May 9, Dotti Lydon received the Senior Services Inspire Positive Aging Award. The award is given out each year to senior individuals whose lives are marked by engagement and service.      

A retired nurse, Dotti started volunteering in the Chicken Soup Brigade kitchen at Lifelong AIDS Alliance in 2011 at age 76. She works three to six hours a week, usually on Fridays. On any given day, you might see Dotti peeling and dicing 100 pounds of potatoes, slicing 75 pounds of carrots, or helping package 250 to 400 meals.

"Dotti has the energy and stamina of a 25 year old," says Lifelong's executive chef, Wendy Northcutt.

The kitchen isn't the only place where Dotti donates her time. She volunteers in the Prevention Department and makes condom kits. At a barbeque last summer, Dotti told her friends that they couldn't have anything to drink until the kits were made. According to Dotti, "You've never seen anyone work so fast." Last year, Dotti estimates that she assembled 3,500 condom kits.

"At home, I either iron or make condom kits while watching TV," she says.

Dotti chose to volunteer at Lifelong because the organization's work hits close to home. A few members of her family currently live with HIV. She sees firsthand the support Lifelong has given the community, and knows Lifelong’s services save lives.

One of the only individuals in her senior housing community who volunteers, Dotti wants to serve as a role model to older Americans and ignite interest in volunteerism. She speculates that seniors are challenged by transportation and lack of awareness of opportunities available to them. She hopes that more organizations like Lifelong will target seniors in volunteer recruitment efforts.  

"I want to inspire adults like me to volunteer and encourage organizations to notice the talents and abilities of older people," Dotti says. "To me, this is not a job. It's an opportunity. I cannot wait until Friday gets here."

When she's not volunteering at Lifelong, Dotti enjoys surfing the Web and spending time with friends.

You can inspire positive aging, too. Lifelong's volunteer program welcomes volunteers of all ages, age 14 and up. Volunteers work in the kitchen, deliver meals and groceries, help out at special events, and work at the front desk. To apply, complete the application form available at or call 206-957-1776.

Author Kelly Bray is communications manager at Lifelong AIDS Alliance, a nonprofit organization that empowers residents of the Pacific Northwest who live with or at risk of HIV/AIDS and other chronic conditions to lead healthier lives.