OTTUMWA — A few extra minutes in an otherwise tight schedule allowed Gov. Terry Branstad to see more of Ottumwa than anyone expected.
The governor and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds came to Ottumwa to honor some of the top volunteers in southeast Iowa on Friday. They included people of all ages and backgrounds who, Reynolds said, have a servant heart.
One example of a younger volunteer was Justice Parcel, a teenager who serves as a mentor for youngsters at Iowa Kids University in Ottumwa. Justice knew of the group through his association with its predesesor, Big Brother Big Sisters.
Sue Huff, director of both groups, said he started as a "little," one of the clients served by the agency.
"I've had him since he was in second grade," said Huff.
When he graduated from the program, he immediately began volunteering.
"Not only that, he recruits for me; he'll gather a carload of friends and come down to volunteer," Huff said.
At the 30th annual Governor's Volunteer Awards, there was not time to share each story. Though these were only the top volunteers in the region, "every year, we recognize more and more," Branstad said.
Reynolds said volunteerism has benefits to those being helped, as well as those who see how valuable volunteering could be if they, too, got involved. She added that it makes good financial sense, too, as volunteers tackle issues like literacy, disaster response and community development.
"I'd like to challenge you to ask [family], friends, co-workers and neighbors, 'What's your 50?'" Branstad told the crowd at St. John Auditorium on the Indian Hills main campus.
The concept is to get every Iowan to contribute 50 hours per year to an organization dedicated to improving the lives of others. The volunteers before the governor Friday, he said, "contribute a lot more than 50 hours."