Holly Buxton wishes she could thank her 83 volunteers every day, but the Park Hills Senior Center administrator has to settle for one appreciation dinner each year.
This year’s celebration took place Friday in the newly opened All Occasions Banquet Center in Park Hills. Volunteers of all ages filed into the hall for a night of food, music and prizes.
“I’ve really been blessed,” Buxton said. “They’re a good group of people. They changed my life.”
Without the volunteers, the senior center would not last, she added. Volunteers pack meals, deliver them to homebound senior citizens, serve beverages to seniors who eat lunch at the center, run daily Bingo games and take care of secretarial duties.
Activities at the center include monthly theme parties such as a Hawaiian luau, ice cream socials and Christmas in July. There is a birthday party each month, monthly blood pressure and blood sugar checks, jewelry parties, health programs and group singing.
Rosemarie Tiefenauer has volunteered for nearly 10 years. She arrives at the center about 8 a.m. on her volunteer days and packs hot and cold items for the delivered meals. Some days, she packs approximately 130 meals, she estimated.
After 10 years, such a task might seem boring, but Tiefenauer did not consider quitting.
“The last couple of years I’ve brought a friend to help me and it goes by faster,” she said. “I do it because they need someone and I have the time. It’s something worthwhile.”
After the food is cooked and packed, drivers deliver the meals to senior citizens who cannot come to the center for lunch. Norma and Al Buttrey have been driving a Leadwood route for the past six years, and deliver 17 to 30 meals per run.
“It’s good. It gets you out and it’s rewarding,” Al Buttrey said. “In the long run, we get more out of it than they do.
Norma Buttrey does the driving. Her husband checks on clients and chats with them whenever he delivers a meal.
Although several couples deliver meals together, at least one set of volunteers makes delivery a family affair.
Chip and Dot Barton bring their young granddaughter, Brittany Middleton to help. When their daughter, Michele Middleton is not at work, she accompanies them as well.
“They need the help and we enjoy doing it,” Chip Barton said. “Whenever she calls us, we’ll be there.”
Guests enjoyed candlelight dining in the new banquet center, located in the old Masonic Lodge and Post Office building in the center of Park Hills. Owners Brenda and Joe Crews bought the place in February to have a permanent site for their mobile deejay business. They kept the original tin ceiling, added separate bar and food preparation areas, and installed a deejay booth and dance lights. Using a special stenciling technique along with sprayed concrete, the Crews created a textured and patterned surface on the outdoor walkway.
Eventually, Joe Crews said, they hope to build a wedding chapel on the second floor. He also plans to donate use of the hall to nonprofit groups for special occasions.
During the evening, volunteers received a certificate of appreciation from Buxton and won door prizes that included a television and a DVD player. After a meal of stuffed chicken breast, they enjoyed the sounds of “The Sheriff and His Deputies.” The group consists of St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock and deputies Clyde Anderson, Stormy Bennett, Tommy Thomas and Dave Black. Former Iron Mountain Lake Mayor Gene Henson also performs in the group, which features bluegrass and gospel music.
Buxton spent the evening bustling around to ensure her guests were having a good time. It was important that they knew how important they are to her and to the senior center, Buxton said.
“I have a new saying,” she said. “Volunteers are not paid – not because they’re worthless, but because they are priceless.”