In front of a packed Southeast Polk High School Auditorium in Pleasant Hill, dozens of volunteers from Central Iowa were presented with Governor's Volunteer Awards Tuesday morning. Among them were a number of Marion County residents.
Capt. Ron Hays has served as the American Legion Post 168 Chaplain for the past 15 years. This is after he had spent 15 years in the same position, prior to taking over at Post 168.
Nearing 80 years old, Hays says he has been involved with the military, in some form, dating back to his time in ROTC in high school, for nearly all of his life. Currently, he is still a member of the Navy Reserves and a Merchant Marine.
"I was just doing my job and somehow they think that's wonderful," Hays joked. "I couldn't have gotten it without my friends. They work with me." He gives full credit to those with whom he works to support veterans in the Legion.
"It's quite the honor," Curt Schwanbeck, fellow award recipient, said. Schwanebeck is known around Knoxville for his work with the Kiwanis and as a member of the Grand Theater Foundation Board. "If more of us did that, it would solve a lot of our problems," Schwanebeck added about volunteering.
Grand Theater Foundation President Dylan Morse also received an award, but was not in attendance at the ceremony. Marilee Richardson was honored for her work with Birthright of Knoxville.
Carla Eysink of Pella was recognized for the third time. She received a 20-year volunteer service award from the Iowa Tourism Office. The past three governors - Terry Branstad, Chet Culver and Tom Vilsack - have each presented her with one of these awards.
Eysink was glad to receive the award, and takes pride in promoting tourism to benefit Marion County and the entire state. None of the success Marion County has in tourism would be possible without those who volunteer to help, she added.
This was the 33rd Annual Governor's Volunteer Recognition Awards. Gov. Branstad started the program in 1983.
"I'm very honored and very proud to be able to get my picture taken with them and express our appreciation," Branstad said of the winners. "That's really what makes Iowa the special place that it is."
Branstad also expressed his appreciation to the City of Pleasant Hill and the Southeast Polk School District for hosting this regional event.