Recognizing Outstanding Service: Bosque County honors exceptional volunteers for agriculture, community, family, health, youth & first responders at 2022 Annual Volunteer Recognition Banquet
Maybe it’s because Bosque County lies in a rural area comprised of a conglomerate of smaller towns that volunteerism becomes a natural part of life, a necessity. Without the gifts of time and devotion of the hundreds of volunteers committed to one cause or another, things just would not get done.
So, Bosque County Commissioners’ Court, the Leadership Advisory Board and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service selects and puts a spotlight on volunteers and civic groups in different categories at the annual Volunteer Recognition Awards. It represents a way to convey the thanks from the communities to those who take to it naturally and serves as an example to others – to let them know their tireless community service is not taken for granted.
After a three-day ice delay, 2022’s outstanding volunteers were recognized and honored at the annual Volunteer Recognition Awards Dinner last Thursday at the Meridian Civic Center. The volunteers receiving a certificate this year were: Chris Sanders for Agriculture and Natural Resources; Bryan Davis for Community Festivals and Events; Kathy Meissner for Family and Health Services; Lloyd Wayne Kuykendall for Fire Departments and First Responders, MaryAnn Brandenberger for Youth Services and Renee Kettler for Civic Organizations and Community Service.
As the guest speaker, Texas House of Representative District 13 Angelia Orr compared volunteers to the “volunteer” plant that grows on its own, that come up with no effort on the gardener’s part. Orr experienced volunteer plants at her grandparents’ farm when she was young. They come up earlier in the season, are resilient, with long root systems, they bloom and bear fruit – all characteristics of human volunteers that offer their help, unsolicited and make communities grow and bloom.
“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy,” Orr said. “You are changing your community. And please keep doing what you’re doing, with honesty, diligence and with dignity. Thank you for your service for this great county and state.”
In that vein, Orr quoted Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance.”
The Bosque County Agrilife Extension office gathers nominations and presents a shortlist to the Leadership Advisory Board, many who were present to present the recognition certificates.
“Without volunteers in a community, organizations would not function,” Bosque County Agrilife Extension Agent Chelsea Dorward said. “Within the Bosque County Extension Office alone in 2022, volunteers contributed roughly 9,000 hours. This allows the agents in the office to be able to reach more individuals than just the three of us alone.
“Volunteers are the backbone to any organization, setting up behind the scenes, helping organize and a lot of time without the credit they well deserve.”
The category Agriculture and Natural Resources recognizes individuals or groups that volunteer their time and efforts to anything having to do with agriculture. This year’s recipient rancher Chris Sanders is known for his generosity, financially and otherwise.
“He is a fixture around anything that has to do with agriculture and kids,” presenter Bosque County Commissioner Precinct 4 Ronny Liardon said. “Anything ag, Chris is game to do it.”
Among other things, Sanders organizes and funds the Central Texas Youth Fair Buyers meal while being involved in the Clifton Future Farmers of America Alumni organization and the Area Go Texan. He and his family organize and execute relief hay and supply runs for stricken areas – like during wild fires or other natural disasters. Together with Mike Domel and First Security State Bank, Sanders organized and funded an appreciation dinner for Bosque County fire fighters and their families during the extensive and exceptional wild fire season.
Working at the Fort Worth Heifer Show prevented Sanders from being present at the Volunteer Recognition Banquet, but once again showed his dedication to promoting and assisting anything agriculture related.
Leadership Advisory Board member Angela Smith presented the category Community Festivals & Events recognizes volunteers who help organize and promote festivals and events in Bosque County promoting tourism, raising money, or providing opportunities for family fun. Showing his continued selfless servant leadership at every opportunity, this year’s recipient Bryan Davis had already received this special honor in 2018 for his work at the Bosque Arts Center, Tin Building Theater, Bosque Museum, Chamber of Commerce, and his church the First Presbyterian Church in Clifton.
A passionate supporter of Bosque County, its events and citizens, Davis works ceaselessly in making his community a better place and uses his excellent writing skills to promote his county.
“Bryan is a person who sincerely cares about others,” his nominator Sue Fielden said. “His compassion for others is evidenced by his actions, day after day after day.”
According to Fielden, Davis represents “a walking, talking, natural community service person and his good heart compels him daily to extend kindness to multiple people in many circumstances. I truly believe he sees every person and every situation through his heart of kindness, naturally thinking, ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’”
Prior to the Recognition Banquet, Fielden presented Davis with a framed poem from her late husband Sherrod Fielden called “Ripple Effect,” that emphasizes the fact that everyone touches the lives of others in one way or another
“Both Bryan and Julie have kind and caring hearts,” Fielden said. “And they touch many lives in positive, encouraging, helpful ways.”
A retired postmaster, Davis is most proud of his volunteer work which spans his lifetime.
Volunteers in the category Family & Health Services provide family and health education or to meet the physical needs of community members.
According to Agrilife Extension Family and Community Health Agent Chris Coons, presenter for the category Family and Health services award, the recipient Kathy Meissner is a true servant for the church, community, and county. She wants her community to do more than just survive – she wants it to thrive. Meissner exhibits servant leadership wherever she can, for whoever she can.
As the director for the Clifton Food Bank, she works with the Tarrant County Food Bank to coordinate monthly food distribution for over 200 families. And she does more than pass out produce and canned goods, she makes sure the families are being taken care of, to the point of counseling them on food and financial management. In the summer months, food bank works to provide meals for children that might be missing meals due to school being out of session.
Meissner is always willing to help someone in need -- ready to provide transportation to doctors’ appointments or physical therapy, sometimes even if it means traveling to Temple. And she also oversees the Handyman ministry of the Immanuel Lutheran Church, assisting people with yardwork, tree trimming, car repairs, and helping with replacement or repair of home appliances.
“But it is a team effort,” Meissner said humbly after receiving her certificate, pointing to her table guests Raymond and Dolores Zuehlke, Colby and Vickie Crockett. “I could never do any of this by myself. There are a lot of people behind this.”
“But she goes above and beyond,” Colby Crockett said, commenting on her dedication.
It was Bosque County Clerk and Leadership Advisory Board member Tab Ferguson’s honor to present the certificate of recognition for the category of volunteers who serve as a fire fighter or first responder, or they might work to help raise funds and support for the Volunteer Fire Departments in Bosque County are recognized in the category Fire Department & First Responders.
Being a volunteer firefighter is so much more than wearing the gear and driving the truck, it means helping members of our community at their lowest times -- responding to vehicle collisions; helping save people’s homes, their land, their livelihoods, and when these things cannot be save. And it means circling the wagons to take care of those people. Being a volunteer firefighter means knowing your community and its members and loving them so much that you are willing to walk through fire to keep it safe.
A firefighter through and through and a hard-working guy, Lloyd Wayne Kuykendall always finds a way to make sure he is on call for the Volunteer Fire Departments in Kopperl, Lakeside Village, Morgan, and Steel Creek, securing the county’s north-east corner. He additionally assists the Laguna Park and Walnut Springs VFD’s from time to time.
Kuykendall, like his father Sunshine before him, has exemplified being a firefighter for many years and plans to continue exemplifying it for many more. Sunshine Kuykendall received the volunteer recognition in 2021, shortly before he passed away.
In Youth Services, volunteers serve Bosque County youth by leading youth organizations, raising support or funds for youth activities and scholarships, or mentoring youth. According to presenter Leadership Advisory Board Member Roger Parks, MaryAnn Brandenberger learned her volunteerism and work ethic early from her parents Don and the late Alice Brandenberger. And the list of her community service is as endless as her love for her community.
Following her parents’ passion for the Central Texas Youth Fair, Brandenburger started volunteering at the CTYF just after graduating from Clifton High School in 1978, and has stopped helping, as secretary and superintendent at the fair. Additionally, Brandenburger served many years on the Bosque County Go Texan Committee raising money for scholarships; serves on the Bosque County Hay Show Committee and the area 4-H program generating funds for scholarships and helping organize 4-H activities, helping and mentoring youth with their livestock projects. She is also a founding member of the Clifton Future Farmers of America Alumni Association.
Together with her daughter Dacey, Brandenberger has a goat patch in Norse. She happily loads up her goats to visit local nursing homes, which was especially appreciated during the COVID-19 lockdown. Each Christmas she also participates in Clifton’s Immanuel Lutheran Church’s annual live nativity as a shepherd and supplying the baby goats. The goats also assisted in a Clifton High School fundraising event – goat yoga.
Outside of her involvement in anything agriculture, Brandenberger served on the Clifton Independent School District site-based decision committee and is a tireless volunteer at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Norse where she serves as church benevolence/memorial secretary, vacation Bible School teacher and volunteer and on the Smorgasbord Committee; is ECLA Women’s Education Secretary, and while her daughter Dacey was growing up as a Sunday School teacher; she was involved in the Angel Tree Program and the Church Under the Bridge in Waco. She has chaired the three-on-three basketball tournaments for Clifton’s Freedom fest, volunteering at Clifton’s Fall fest and the local Food Bank.
“I learned well from my mom and dad,” Brandenberger said. “And hopefully, I taught my daughter the same.”
Renee Kettler was recognized for her volunteerism as leader/board member for the Clifton Lions Club, the Clifton Athletic Booster Club, the Clifton Baseball Association, the Clifton Economic Development Corporation, the Clifton Chamber of Commerce.
Through the Lion’s Club, Renee has helped with the annual Pancake Supper Fundraiser, provided vision screenings, plunged into freezing water to raise monies to send kids to camp and has assisted in Wreath’s Across America Day. Together with other Texas New Mexico Power employees, she volunteers many hours to community service projects. Her passion for running translated to organizing the Healthy Kids Running Series since 2021.
Kettler makes all her volunteerism seem effortless, in which she has the loving support of her family and sons Hutch and Jackson. “A huge shout out to the other award winners,” Kettler said who felt honored on being recognized. “It’s amazing to be in such great company.”
In Bosque County, there are countless opportunities to offer time, talents and energies for a greater good. Schools, food pantries, historical commissions, libraries, various clubs and organizations and events throughout the county would suffer, fail or simply not be able to exist without the efforts of many thousands of people donating hundreds of hours to selfless service. Bosque County stands richer thanks to the many volunteers. Since the Volunteer Recognition Program’s inception in 1992, over 160 volunteers have been recognized.
Fortunately, Bosque County has many volunteers who do what they do, that go above and beyond the general realm of expectations with just a smile and appreciation for their efforts. For example, the crew that prepared the evening’s meal, drinks, table decorations and more.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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