Shepherdstown resident Gary Tucker has been honored with Salute to Senior Service award for his work with Good Shepherd Caregivers of Shepherdstown.
The award, which is given by Home Stead Senior care is a national contest designed to recognized the community service achievements of retirees who volunteer their time to help their local communities.
Aaron Bight, owner the Martinsburg branch of Homestead Senior Center, explained what a happy surprise it was to find West Virginia's winner so close to home.
"We're absolutely delighted that that's the case," Blight said of the Shepherdstown resident's win.
Tucker, who was nominated by Good Shepherd Director Paula Marrone-Reese, was chosen from a batch of candidates from all over the state by a blind panel of judges who rate contestants based on hours served and nature of work done.
Tucker who has performed community service since childhood, said he just sees volunteering as his duty.
Upon receiving word that he was being honored at the end of April, he said he shocked and humbled by the news.
"I just go about my business," he said.
Tucker, who has volunteered with the Good Shepherd Caregivers for the past 12 years, said he truly felt called to make service with Good Shepherd his life's work after an introspective experience in Alaska.
Retired after years working for the Department of Defense, Tucker traveled to Skagway, Alaska in 2008 to work on a large scale garden railroad, a hobby of his.
Tucker said that during a period of reflection while working and traveling throughout Alaska's vast landscape, he realized that he wanted to be a part of something bigger than himself.
"Good Shepherd was it," he said.
For the past four years Tucker has committed to bringing Good Shepherd out of a what he described as a financial slump that set in after the economy crashed.
"Good Shepherd was stuck," he said.
Dependent on donations to continue their services to the community, Tucker said he realized that Good Shepherd needed to find new and different ways to raise funds, during the tough economic times.
Tucker successfully launched the annual Rubber Duck Relay race fundraiser and worked to find ways to better market Good Shepherd's traditional events like the golf classic, Potter's Bowl and spaghetti dinner.
Elected board president in October, Tucker also continues to perform lawn work, transport seniors to doctor's appointments and perform light repair work as part of the Good Shepherd 'fix-it' team he started.
In a comment posted after his win, nominator Paula Marrone-Reese said of the following of Tucker.
"Volunteering is such a beautiful gift to see in action. That is what is displayed while witnessing the neighborly acts of kindness performed by Gary Tucker."
Aaron Blight said Tucker has received exceptional praise from fellow community members he has touched through his work, as evidenced by a flood of comments submitted to Salute to Senior Service homepage.
"I think that's pretty impressive... He's obviously a valuable volunteer."
Blight said he hopes the contest will continue to highlight the meaningful contribution senior citizens make and change the perception that, "Once you retire, you're done."
"We know that there are lots and lots of retired people who make a difference," he said.
The grand prize national winner of the Salute to Senior Service award wins a $5,000 reward for a charity of their choosing. State winners, like Tucker will receive and special plaque in commemoration of their the service and are featured on the Salute to Senior Service web site.
To view Gary Tucker's profile visit www.salutetoseniorservice.com/senior-hero-nominations/gary-t/