Volunteers honored at annual banquet

The West Central Missouri Veterans Assistance League hosted its annual community support banquet to honor volunteers and donors of the Missouri Veterans Home-Warrensburg on April 22 at American Legion Post 131. Around 200 people attended the banquet.

Robin Amick, of Warrensburg, and Michial Hutchko, of Leeton, were named the Volunteers of the Year. Amick began volunteering as part of an incentive program that Walmart was offering. She has remained a faithful and reliable volunteer since 2009 popping popcorn every Friday night at the Veterans Home. She recently learned one of her faithful Friday night popcorn veterans had become very ill. As he was nearing the end of his life, she went to see him at the hospital and came to the Veterans Home to sit at his bedside when his family was unable to be there.

“The gift of time is priceless. We thank you, Robin, for your time, your love and your dedication to the veterans you serve. Please know that you make a difference,” said Melissa Terry, Recreation Therapist II.

Hutchko has also been a volunteer for seven years and serves as an ombudsman. In 2015, he volunteered 181.5 hours at the Missouri Veterans Home.

“He devotes countless hours listening to our veterans on a variety of levels. First, he listens to their concerns and needs and serves as their voice to make improvements. Second, he listens to their stories and documents them in a way that they may be preserved for generations,” said Latisha Koetting, supervisor of volunteer services.

He serves as the Johnson County Missouri Veterans History Project site coordinator. He discovered one of the veterans at the Home had served in the D-Day Invasion in France during World War II and was eligible for the French Legion of Honor, the highest decoration bestowed in France.

Hutchko filed the appropriate paperwork and worked with the Consul General of France in Chicago to make sure this veteran received this award. A ceremony took place in front of a standing room only crowd on Jan. 29. This would have never happened without Hutchko.

Norman Cornwell, of Holden, received the First-year Volunteer of the Year award. He started volunteering in December and donated 41 hours of his time in that month alone.

“He has a talent that is different from most. He has the power to touch the lives of others, not through his words or actions, but through his hands. He is well aware of life’s struggles and stresses and has found a way to bring relief. It’s through the art of massage,” said Koetting.

He donates his time to the restorative therapy department, where he massages the shoulders and hands of the veterans.

“Our veterans have grown to love it so much that they miss him when he’s gone. The power of touch is a magical thing and this volunteer has proven that,” Koetting said.

The Delta Zeta’s from the University of Central Missouri and 40 & 8, Voiture 333, received the Group Volunteers of the Year awards.

“The Delta Zeta’s have led by example and their energy is contagious. When they come into our building, our veterans light up and feel special in their presence,” said Koetting. “They were the first group to step up and serve as route monitors for our Run for Freedom. They have cheered the runners on in torrential rains, frigid temperatures and sunny skies. They don’t let any kind of weather stop them.”

Because of their example, two more sororities, some fraternities and an entire residence hall came to support the 2015 run. These women didn’t stop with just one event. In 2015, they came in with their curling irons, hairspray and fingernail polish to help make the wives of our veterans and our women veterans feel beautiful by helping with our very first Runway Show. They also took over the recreation room and baked birthday cupcakes for our veterans and helped with our Home for the Holidays reception.

“I am so proud of these women. I don’t know what we would do without them,” Koetting said.

40 & 8, Voiture 333, in Sedalia answered the call of a veteran who wanted volunteers to come from his hometown.

“I see all of these groups coming from Lee’s Summit, Garden City, Sunrise Beach, Warrensburg, Kansas City and Laurie, but I don’t see Sedalia here. Where is Sedalia? They should be here,” he said.

Koetting contacted the 40 & 8 to see if they would come up for a visit in 2013. Not long after that first visit, they voted to host a monthly bingo game and have been active ever since.

“They love making it fun for our veterans and are constantly switching things up. Once they brought in $2 bills and another time Susan B. Anthony dollars. You never know what their next idea might be,” said Koetting.

This group has been devoted in supporting the Run for Freedom, Scramble for Freedom and Tree of Stars.

Five volunteers donated more than 500 hours of their time to the Home. They included Allen Cline at 529.5 hours, Elaine Powers at 627 hours, Derald Albertson at 757 hours, Toni Jones at 764.25 hours, and Violet Schonberner at 956.25 hours.

Schonberner, Doris Grisby and David Street were recognized for being 15-year volunteers. They have served at the Home since it opened in 2000.

Donors were thanked for all of their support for the Scramble for Freedom Golf Tournament, Run for Freedom, Tree of Stars and other programs they supported in 2015.