AARP to host volunteer recognition dinner tonight in Casper

AARP Wyoming's 2018 Andrus Award Winner is Kay Bjorklund of Thermopolis. At 94 years old there is no stopping her from volunteering with Meals on Wheels, her church, The Pioneer Home, Kiwanis, The PEO and more. The Andrus Award is AARP Wyoming's highest volunteer honor. (Screen shot courtesy AARP)

The following news release is from AARP Wyoming:

AARP Volunteer Recognition Dinner Honors Bjorklund, and other Volunteers

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AARP Wyoming hosts its volunteer recognition dinner at the Hilton Garden Inn of Casper, starting at 6 p.m., November 8. The event is open to the media. The Volunteer Recognition Dinner will honor nine state volunteers, including AARP Wyoming’s Andrus Award Winner, Kay Bjorklund. US Senator John Barrasso will present the award to Bjorklund.

To learn more about Bjorklund, click here.

The Andrus Award named after AARP founder, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, recognizes individuals who are sharing their experience, talent, and skills to enrich their communities in ways that are consistent with AARP’s mission, vision, and commitment to volunteer service.

When the rules committee was making up those rules, it almost seems they had Kay Bjorklund of Thermopolis in mind. Kay will turn 95 years old this month and remains a Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, welcoming news businesses to Thermopolis, as well as program director for her Kiwanis Club, lining up speakers for the club’s twice-monthly meetings.

One week a month you can find Kay delivering Meals on Wheels to Thermopolis residents. Each weekend she is acting activities director for The Pioneer Home, where she lines up Wii Bowling tournaments and shuffleboard. Kay would also mention she carries a 231 average on Wii bowling.

Kay has long been known for her candy-selling prowess, as she sold $2,500 in See’s Candy this year for her Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) chapter, more than double the next highest seller. If that isn’t enough, she also volunteers one day a week in the gift shop of the hospital in Thermopolis, and works with the doorstep ministry of her church.

Other award winners honored tonight include:

Eddie Wadda Community Service Award
The AARP Community Contact Award was renamed the Eddie Wadda Community Service Award in 2012 in honor of former AARP Wyoming volunteer Eddie Wadda, a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and an outstanding AARP Community Volunteer. Wadda was a great example of the power of volunteers who are willing to work for those in their community.

In 2018, AARP Wyoming honors two women whose community is better for the work they are doing.

Jody Powell is well-known in the Laramie Community as one if its most active volunteers. Powell’s work with Feeding Laramie Valley is nothing short of inspiring. This summer, she volunteered with the “Kids Out To Lunch,” program, encouraging kids to try new foods. She also volunteered with Feeding Laramie Valley in Laramie, taking part in a project called, “Growing Resilience,” which studied the effects of gardening on the health and well-being of those with two or more chronic illnesses. In addition to planting two raised garden beds, she also helped collect blood pressure, weight and strength data for the study.

Jody is also a member of the Foster Grandparents of the Wyoming Rocky Mountains, working 20 hours a week with kindergarteners. She even learned new ways to do math in order to help tutor students.

Our second Eddie Wadda Award Winner is Cheyenne’s Judy Weickum. Weickum is one of the driving forces behind the Friday Foodbag Foundation, which provides approximately 900 food bags weekly to kids who get free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school in Laramie County School District 1 and 2. The work is done entirely through volunteer efforts and donations. Last year the Friday Food Bag took in over $150,000 in donations.

Chapter/Community Group
Casper has one of the state’s largest and most impactful Community Action Teams in Wyoming, though that wasn’t always the case. The Casper Community Action Team has put together a group of volunteers, which meets monthly, and has put together such events as an evening with Frank Abagnale, a Shred Fest, and several Movies for Grownups events.

At the helm of the Casper Community Group is Barb Summers. Summers took over as team leader this year, adding to a litany of other volunteer efforts. If the old saying, “if you want something done right, find a busy person,” is true, then AARP Wyoming has found a great one in Summers. She is currently on the Golden K Kiwanis Board of Directors and the Advisory Board for Casper College’s Nursing Program. She delivers Meals on Wheels, while coordinating and delivering food to the Food for Thought program. Summers cleans up litter in downtown Casper on a weekly basis and attend the Kiwanis meetings every Tuesday.

Community Partner Award
Maxine Yeager is the 2018 AARP Wyoming Community Partner Award winner. While at Young at Heart Senior Center in Rock Springs, Yeager ran programming for AARP Wyoming, offering community center clients information on everything from brain health, to fraud through AARP’s volunteer portal.

Among the more interesting projects Yeager championed in Rock Springs was the Care for Critters program which helps seniors pay for food, vaccines and other items for their pets through donations, as well as funding from AARP Wyoming, and PETCO. Senior Centers in Rock Springs and Green River have placed a tree of sharing in their facilities. Seniors who need assistance with veterinary fees, pet accessories, or pet food fill out a request shaped like a bone for dogs and a paw for cats. Community members willing to donate to the cause can pick up paws or bones and fulfill the request. Last year the community fulfilled 88 requests in Rock Springs and another 53 in Green River.

Retired Educator Award
Sheridan’s Wayne Schatz is well known in AARP Wyoming circles as a long-time member of the organization’s Executive Council. Tonight, he is being honored for his work on behalf of educators during his retirement. Schatz retired in 2008 after 39 years of working in the Sheridan schools,

An advocate in and out of the classroom, Schatz was a leader and officer of the Sheridan Central Education Association for 35 years. He also acted as the state treasurer for the Wyoming Education Association, and was a school board trustee for Sheridan County School District 2. Outside of school, Schatz was a boy scout leader and scoutmaster for 20 years, performed in the Sheridan Civic Theatre Guild.

Advocacy Award
AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that empowers people to choose how they live as they age. A big part of that work comes through its advocacy at the national, state, and local level.

Few in Wyoming are more connected with AARP Wyoming’s advocacy efforts in the statehouse than Cheyenne’s Lindi Kirkbride. Kirkbride has done her work through the AARP Wyoming GRIT or Government Relations Team, which follows bills of interest to AARP members, and lobbies members of the state Legislature.

Kirkbride has lobbied with AARP in Wyoming since 2011 on such issues as Home and Community-Based Services, Medicaid proposals, and Senior Center Funding. Prior to her time lobbying for AARP, Kirkbride lobbied for The Community Service Providers from 2008-11 and the League of Women Voters. Professionally, Kirkbride also worked with the Court Appointed Special Advocates.

Driver’s Safety
It is very possible that no one has trained as many drivers on Wyoming roadways as has Richard Macht. Our Driver’s Safety Award winner taught driver’s education during his nine years teaching in Lusk and 26 years in Big Horn before volunteering to teach driver safety classes for AARP Wyoming, starting in 2003. He has also continued to teach driver’s education to high school students in Sheridan.

Since then, Macht, who is also a member of the Wyoming Coaches Hall of Fame for his work on the gridiron and girls basketball court, has taught the AARP driver safety course to around 1,800 people over 15 years.

The AARP Smart Driver course, offered by AARP Driver Safety, is the nation’s first and largest refresher course designed specifically for drivers age 50 and older. For more than 35 years, the course has taught over 16 million drivers proven safety strategies so they can continue driving safely for as long as possible.

Tax Aide
In 2018, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, celebrated its 50th year, and is the nation’s largest free tax assistance and preparation service. Since its inception, the program has served more than 50 million taxpayers. There’s no fee, and AARP membership is not required to take part in the service.

In Wyoming, IRS-certified, AARP Wyoming volunteers are available at 13 sites around the state, ready to help citizens with their income tax returns. Each year AARP Wyoming honors one of its Tax Aide volunteers. This year, we honor Sara Narramore of Rock Springs.

Narramore started her work with AARP’s Tax Aide program preparing returns, before becoming a district coordinator, looking after sites at the Young At Heart Senior Center in Rock Springs, The Bridger Valley Senior Center in Mountain View, and Green River.

Currently, Narramore is the State of Wyoming Tax Aide Administrative Specialist. She has also taken over as the regional administrator advisor over the Northwest Region. These states include Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii.