Walters’ impact measured in decades of service

Impact Award WaltersAlice Walters was feted Sunday afternoon at the sixth annual Greene County Community Impact Award presentation in the courthouse rotunda.

About 80 persons attended the festive event, including relatives from Minneapolis and Ames, and Pastors Bill and Sheri Daylong of Mount Vernon, formerly of Jefferson.

Emcee Jerry Roberts called the event “a celebration of Greene County volunteerism.”

Impact Award SchwallerAccording to one nomination, “impact is a difficult thing to quantify. In the case of nominee Alice Walters, impact is measured in the decades of dedicated volunteer service she has contributed to schools, churches, and other organizations.”

Walters was nominated for the award by kindergarten teacher Sheri Schwaller (pictured, standing), Don and Jean Van Gilder and Jacque Andrew. Also pictured are (from right) Guy Richardson and Jerry Roberts.

Don Van Gilder told of Walters’ work with 4-H and Extension. Walters served as Extension home economist for 10 years starting in 1958, and then continued to volunteer as a mentor to club leaders and as a county and state fair judge.

“Her impact on this community is far beyond any measurement,” Van Gilder said. “Her presence among young people, boys as well as girls, in those Extension-related activities no doubt left a tremendous impact on those who were involved….All 4-Hers will recall her loving, sometimes stern demeanor, which was revered and respected by every 4-Her.”

Van Gilder said it was Walters’ practice of talking with 4-H exhibitors in the course of judging their projects that evolved into the conference judging used now.

“If there was blue ribbon, or better yet, a championship purple ribbon, it should be awarded to Alice for a life time of devotion, of service to others, especially in her 4-H related activities. In essence, Alice is the embodiment of the 4-H pledge,” Van Gilder said, and then invited all former 4-H members to stand and recite the 4-H pledge together.

Walters’ volunteer service now centers at the First United Methodist Church in Jefferson and in Sheri Schwaller’s kindergarten classroom at Greene County Elementary.

Pastor Bill Daylong mentioned Walters’ “stern, crusty exterior,” but added, “I believe that behind that is a heart of gold that absolutely would not stop caring for other people.” He said she was often an “anonymous benefactor” helping people in need.

“In all the time that I served here, I can’t think of anybody that had a larger impact, not only on the church and the functioning of the church… and there’s nobody that loves her community and loves her church, and serves both with every ounce of energy in her,” Daylong said.

After speaking, Daylong joined the United Methodist Choir on the second floor to sing “Everyday Heroes” in Walters’ honor.

Walters’ generosity with her resources was mentioned, including her $25,000 donation to the initial endowment required to establish the Greene County Community Foundation in 2005.

Schwaller has known Walters for 35 years. She showed knitted Christmas stockings Walters made, and told of the chair bags Walters has made for all the kindergarten classes.

Walters has volunteered every afternoon in Schwaller’s classroom for almost 20 years. She provides the one-on-one time young students need, listening to them read and playing games. Schwaller told of a time Walters told a student “You’re not doing very well. I don’t think you’re ever going to learn this. You better work a little harder.” The student’s parent called Schwaller and complained, and Schwaller mentioned the concern to Walters. “But guess which child, when Alice walked into the room, was the first one who wanted to go with her? She always wanted to go. She still says ‘Hi’ and she still wants to go with her. A lot of it was her, right there [pointing to Walters]. She does a lot for those kids,” Schwaller said.

Impact Award Gr Gr Grand Niece AliceSchwaller said Walters teaches in every conversation she has with children, and that even during the program, when great-great-grandniece Alice climbed up in her lap, the elder Alice whispered instructive things into her ear.

When Walters turned 90, her family gifted Schwaller’s classroom with new educational games and toys. Those items are still in use. “She’s had a big impact on the kids that have gone through the school over the years. I know she will continue to do that, and I want to thank her for everything she’s done for me and my class,” Schwaller said.

Schwaller will retire at the end of the school year. Walters plans also to retire. She will turn 99 this summer.

Supervisor Guy Richardson presented Walters with a framed proclamation naming May 3 as “Alice Walters Day” in Greene County. “With your lifetime of volunteerism, you’ve shown how much you care about your community and the people in it,” Richardson said to Walters.

In an open mic portion of the program, Jim Andrew, Chris Henning, Ruth Freeman, Jacque Andrew, Jerald Deal, Jane Millard, Sheri Daylong and Joanna Hunter all spoke. Millard said Walters has given the library many no-fiction books over the years and often provides craft supplies for the children’s library. Sheri Daylong called her “a steadfast presence of God.”

Impact Award Walters, RobertsRoberts presented the award to Walters. Walters made only brief comments after the presentation. “I’m embarrassed by this, so much being said. I don’t know that I deserve it. But it’s good of you to come, and I appreciate it no end. Thanks a million.”

The Impact Award committee includes Roberts, Lawrence Geisler, Mary Weaver, Teena Toliver, Becky Cunningham and Elaine Schermerhorn. Nominations for the 2016 Greene County Community Impact Award will open next February.

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