By Sharon Chin

SUNNYVALE (KPIX 5) — A century-old Sunnyvale woman says volunteerism helps keep her young.

At age 100, Mary Hidalgo has seen many changes in Sunnyvale’s landscape. She’s lived the last 95 years of her life in Sunnyvale. She’s volunteered as a docent for the last 39 years.

“It’s better than sitting at home worrying about your pains and aches,” she said. “And you meet a lot of beautiful, beautiful people here.”

Hidalgo leads tours at the Sunnyvale Historical Society Heritage Park Museum.

In one exhibit, she’s photographed as a teenager picking and canning fruit for Libby’s in the Depression years, before marrying at age 18.

Museum volunteer director Laura Babcock calls Hidalgo “living history.”

“She’s lived it from childhood on. She doesn’t just tell you about the orchard days, she tells you about her experiences,” Babcock said.

At the museum, friends and relatives recently celebrated her 100th birthday and her giving spirit in the community.

She also logged 20,000 hours over 16 years as a volunteer at the VA Hospital. But she stopped when she quit driving at age 98.

Hidalgo still volunteers at the American Legion Auxiliary as she has for 74 years.

She serves on the city’s senior citizens advisory board and donates time at the Senior Center’s computer lab.

An inspiration to museum volunteer Johan Koning.

“Most people who are my age or older don’t have the time nor the oomph to do it anymore,” Koning said.

So what’s her secret to longevity?

“I think it’s just genes because I don’t know what else could do it,” Hidalgo chuckled.

Friends say her curiosity, thankful heart, and humor also keep her young.

Her sense of humor was evident when she was asked whether she donated any items to the museum’s collection.

“That’s old?” she asked. She paused for a moment, then smiled, “Me!”

Hidalgo and her husband were married for 42 years before he passed away.

Today, Hidalgo enjoys the company of their five kids, 12 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and one great, great grandchild.

So for her decades of volunteer service in Sunnyvale, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Mary Hidalgo.

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