TOPEKA – Oakley resident Josie West began volunteering in 1964 when she started out as a beauty operator styling hair for residents, and today, at age 92, hasn’t slowed down. Josie spends three days each week volunteering at the long-term care facility at Gove County Medical Center (GCMC) in Quinter, driving 80 miles round trip each of those days. She drives herself in the summer and good weather days and in winter months her neighbor, Wendy Schmidt, a nurse at GCMC, gives her a ride.
That sounds like a full schedule for many people, but Josie also volunteers one day at a nursing home in Colby and delivers Meals on Wheels in Oakley every Saturday and Sunday. According to the staff she also volunteers on weekends that GCMC hosts their family potluck dinners and is faithfully volunteering on holidays.
Add all this up and you have a few of the reasons three Social Service Designees/Activity Directors from GCMC nominated Josie for the Volunteer of the Month program. Michelle Hafliger, Denise Wittman and Shaun Vrana all agree that Josie “works circles around the rest of us.”
Yesterday Josie was honored as the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services’ (KDADS) Volunteer of the Month for March. KDADS Commissioner on Aging Craig Kaberline presented Josie with the award in a reception held at GCMC. Her nominators, several residents, fellow volunteers and her niece, Nancy Niermeier, were present.
The award presentation was a surprise to the nearly 50-year volunteer who said, “I have always liked older people, ever since I was a little kid. I’d just as soon work or volunteer as go on vacation, it keeps me young.”
Hafliger was very excited KDADS chose Josie for the award and said many of the residents don’t realize Josie is older than they are. “You hear our residents tell Josie ‘wait until you’re my age’ and Josie just laughs and says ‘I’ll never be that young again!’ She is a real spitfire and we just don’t know what we’ll do without her if that day ever comes,” she said.
In addition to her volunteer work, Josie has been the President of the Daughters of Isabella at her church for 70 years and she bowls three times a week, often traveling to state bowling tournaments to compete.
“It was very gratifying to travel to Quinter on behalf of Secretary (Shawn) Sullivan to thank and recognize Josie for all her hard work and to meet such an inspiration who does so much for her community,” said Kaberline. “Josie is an excellent example of the caring approach to volunteerism that this KDADS program was designed to honor.”
Kaberline presented West with a certificate of appreciation, a $20 Walgreens gift card and a $50 check from KDADS. KanCare Managed Care Organizations Amerigroup, Sunflower State Health Plan and United Healthcare are proud sponsors of the Volunteer of the Month program.