Dennis Linnenbringer, Diane Ransom and Helen Shultz of Wentzville all recently received the Senior Service Award from the Lt. Governor’s office for time they invested in their community. Donald Hendrich of New Melle, Mildred Groeper of Wright City and Shelley Brubaker of Foristell also received the award.
The award is a way for the Lt. Governor’s office to acknowledge and congratulate community members over the age of 60 who volunteer for at least 25 hours a year. Nominations for the awards were due in late March, and on May 6 there was an awards ceremony for the recipients at the state capitol building. Each recipient who was able to attend were presented the award by Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe.
This year, 74 senior citizens in Missouri were nominated by different state representatives and the organizations they volunteer with; everyone nominated was able to receive the honor and recognition for the hard work they put into their communities.
The Senior Service Award was established during former Lt. Governor Peter Kinder’s time in office. The current Lt. Governor’s office staff want to expand the prestige of the award, and Halie Damps, the strategic communications coordinator for the Lt. Governor’s office, shared that next year, it was possible not everyone nominated would receive the award as the office strives to bring greater recognition and achievement to those who do win it.
“It’s a great way to shed light on all the great work these people do, cause a lot of these people have hundreds of hours of community service every year,” Damps said.
Dennis Linnenbringer, 66, spends part of his free time volunteering at the Wentzville VFW, St. Peters AMVETS, and the American Legion. Linnenbringer said that because there are so many old veterans passing on, not enough people want to participate in these organizations to keep them going. While he himself never served in the military, different relatives and friends have served, some even paying the ultimate sacrifice.
“I need to do something now, because I never had the opportunity to serve,” Linnenbringer said. Some of his favorite memories of volunteering come from listening to old war vets tell stories of their military adventures.
“I love hearing old vets tell stories about Korea, Germany...Yes, I enjoy listening to stories, and being around the old fellows,” Linnenbringer said.
Diane Ransom, 75, helped start the Crossroads Arts Council, a group that has been in Wentzville for five years now, which sponsors the annual “Spanning the Generations” art show. She has also been heavily involved with the Wentzville Community Club (WCC), which organizes the weekly flea market and biweekly bingo nights, as well as WASCI (Wentzville Area Senior Citizens Incorporated) and the historical society.
“I do (stay busy) and that’s a big surprise to me, because when I retired, I looked forward to my retirement, but I wasn’t sure what was going to fill that time. So, I just allowed things to come to me,” Ransom said, going on to explain that when she retired, she was the president of the WCC and that kept her busy. The WCC pours most of what they earn back into local businesses and organizations, as well as award scholarships to local high school students who can keep the scholarships throughout college if they keep a good grade point.
“It’s a very creative outlet for me…I am a craftsperson – I am not an artist but I am a craftsman,” Ransom said. “And the different events allow me to express that creativity in pulling those events together. And then through those events I have this wonderful network of new friends who enjoy the same things that I do and who bring their element of creativity to each of those organizations and it’s very exciting – it feels very organic in its growth.”
Ransom’s youngest daughter who currently resides in Texas was able to come up and surprise her mother at the ceremony at the capitol, something that Ransom shared really touched her.
“It’s just a very fulfilling time as a retired person,” Ransom said, before sharing a story, “A friend of mine retired just a few weeks ago, and she looked at me and said, ‘what do you do when you retire,’ and I said ‘oh, you stick with me. We’re going to fill your time.”
Helen Shultz was unable to be contacted, but she received the award for volunteering with the Wentzville Green Lantern Center.
Mildred Groeper, 86, has lived in Warren County her entire life, and has a long history of volunteer work as she has been the volunteer organist at Immanuel United Church of Christ in Wright City for 62 years. She does a lot with her church in general, from quilting blankets to running the church’s own clothing drive room. She has also been volunteering at Agape, a local thrift store that donates proceeds to local charities. Lastly, she works with the local historical society, portraying different former Warren county residents at the annual cemetery tour and other events they put on.
“Everybody needs somebody, and everybody needs to be needed. I can’t sit still when there’s something that needs to be done,” Groeper said on why she volunteers.
One of her favorite memories from volunteer work was – when her church was bigger – she led the children and youth choirs. She fondly remembered that they had a lot of fun times, and her favorite thing to see is when someone who she taught in those choirs comes back to visit her church after growing up and they share they are now part of the choir at their new church.
Donald Hendrich, 78, volunteers with the Wentzville Meals on Wheels program, delivering meals to homebound seniors in the area. He also works in the New Melle city leadership, currently as an alderman, but in previous years as the mayor, as well as the treasurer for the St. John’s United Church of Christ in Foristell area. Both areas of work come with no monetary payment.
“Somebody had to do it,” Hendrich said, “Our aldermen and mayor get paid zippo, it’s all volunteer. So, it’s hard to get people to serve.”
Donald and his wife have lived in New Melle for 21 years, and have both been active members in the community as it was his wife who originally got them started volunteering with Meals on Wheels. Hendrich stays busy, but wants to start taking things a bit slower so he has time to be a caregiver to his wife. However, Donald shared that volunteering definitely has its rewards:
“It’s that face that says, ‘hey thank you for this meal, and I really appreciate it you have a good day.’ And well, I respond with, ‘you too!’ Cause you’re the one who’s not as mobile as I am, and you know these are the memories you carry out. And that’s the most rewarding thing of volunteer work, is the people that you enter into conversations with or interact with on a daily basis with.”
Shelley Brubaker, 73, volunteers as a teacher assistant at Liberty Christian Academy in Wright City, working half days this year in the fourth-grade classroom. She used to be a teacher in St. Louis, and she has over 30 years of experience in teaching, so she said she felt qualified to help out. By being there, the teacher can split kids into smaller groups to learn material, or Brubaker can work with individuals.
“I enjoy working with the kids there,” Brubaker said, emphasizing that she appreciated that the school was connected through her church, “I don’t have any favorites, but I enjoy working with kids who struggle or have difficulty because I like helping them.”