Harlan man wins national Volunteer of the Year award

HARLAN, Ky. (WYMT) - Reverend Joe Howard was nominated by his friends that work at Harlan Health and Rehabilitation Center, where he has volunteered the past 25 years.

"It is a calling with me. It is not a job or anything like that. You know, I preach the Gospel and it is part of preaching Gospel. I think it is God's work and I want to do it," says Reverend Joe Howard, Volunteer of the Year.

Reverend Joe Howard is Pastor of Lenarue Baptist Church in Harlan, but every Monday morning he preaches a sermon at the Harlan Health and Rehabilitation Center.

Howard's daughter, Amy Aslinger is Social Worker and Admissions Coordinator at HCRC and says she can remember her visiting residents at facilities when she was a child, with her dad. She will also be representing HCRC as she travels with her father to California to receive the award.

"To say we are honored is an understatement. To me, he is one of the most precious individuals in my life. It is just truly an honor to be able to be with in and accepting something that amazing," says Aslinger.

Howard says it is the joy of the residents that makes all the years and hours and volunteer work, rewarding.

"A ninety-one year old man was saved last week and he is as happy as a lark. That makes everything worth it," says Howard.

Staff that nominated Howard for Volunteer of the Year say the moment they nominated him, they knew they had a winner.

"Anybody that knows him knows he is the real deal. He is a genuine loving person. He lights our residents' lives. I mean he has helped so many over the years and we love him," says Gail Hensley, Administrator.

Staff say Howard brings light to the residents, saying while they help with the physical part of aiding the residents, Howard helps with the spiritual aspect of their facility. Which they say makes his dedication unique.

"I have been here eighteen years, and I had not started very long. We had a little man here that had gotten saved. He wanted to be baptized, due to his health he was not able to leave the facility. Joe baptized him in our tub, in our shower room. That was so special. That always sticks in my mind," says Deanie Rigney, Activities Director.

Howard won the Kentucky Volunteer of the Year award in 2017, and will pick up his national award in San Diego next month.

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