SWVTC volunteers honored amid fight to keep facility open
by Allen Worrell
The Southwestern Virginia Training Center (SWVTC) not only honored its many volunteers April 11, it heard how the Town of Hillsville vows to keep up the fight to keep the center open.
More than 100 people attended SWVTC’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation Banquet, which provides an opportunity for the center to convey its gratitude to its volunteers for all of their hard work, dedication and tireless efforts. The SWVTC volunteers assist in the coordination of a wide variety of activities for facility residents throughout the year.
“The volunteer appreciation banquet was an opportunity for us just to pay homage to the many individuals and organizations that give up their time and their energy, and some even their resources into supporting the training center and our residents,” said Andrew Shannon, SWVTC’s Volunteer Services Director. “We certainly appreciate the strong representation we have.”
Hillsville Mayor Greg Crowder was scheduled to speak, but was not able to attend due to a bout with bronchial asthma. His wife, LouAnne Crowder, spoke in his absence and conveyed his strong feelings and willingness to continue to support the training center, which is scheduled to close by June 30, 2018 as part of an agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The training center and the people there, it’s always meant a lot to him. He hated not being able to represent himself and the town that night,” Crowder said. “He went to Richmond earlier this year and talked to the Senate about funding and about how closing the training center would impact the community.”
Crowder also spoke about how much volunteers mean to SWVTC, calling them the lifeline to any kind of healthcare facility.
“It was about them and thanking them. It was an honor for them to ask Greg to come and for me to speak to them,” she said. “And we told them we were going to continue to support the training center in any way we could. If there was anybody he could talk to, we weren’t going to give up the fight. Let’s keep up the fight to keep it open. It affects so many people, not only the workers, but the residents themselves.”
Many local organizations came out in full force to the meeting such as the Hillsville VFW Post 1115 and its ladies’ auxiliary organization, the Floyd Retired Seniors Volunteer Program, and Gospel Chapel Church, including Pastor Andy Edmonds.
“The highlight of the Volunteer Appreciation Banquet was certainly seeing and having the residents there engaging in partnership with the community at the banquet. The residents were present and they just wanted to show that they are thankful to our many community volunteers who give up so much of their time, energy and resources in supporting SWVTC,” Shannon said.
The highlight of the night came from Evelyne Gunter of Mount Airy, N.C., Shannon said. Evelyne and her husband Lonnie Gunter pastor a church in Mount Airy, but for years they’ve traveled up and down the mountain to volunteer and assist Sunday service at the training center.
Lonnie Gunter passed away in March after volunteering for nearly 20 years at SWVTC. During the Volunteer Appreciation Banquet, Evelyne sang in memory of her husband.
“We did a special segment in memory and as a tribute to Rev. Lonnie Gunter. She gave a very strong and powerful performance of inspirational music to the attendees and everyone just sat in awe,” Shannon said. “They sat with reverence and respect during that segment as Evelyne sang “He’s an on time God.” She sung that song and we made a presentation in memory of her husband and it moved the audience to tears. It was a very powerful evening.”
Pathways Director Collene Webb also spoke about her 35 years at the Training Center and those that have volunteered during that time.
“Our partnerships with you-the volunteers and with this community have helped to strengthen and support the facility and the residents. I have been asked lots of times about what it has been like working at the center. It has not really been work in the scheme of things- it has been a unique opportunity to share in the lives of the many residents who live here,” Webb said. “If you look around the room you will notice that the humanistic desire to help others is contagious. Volunteering is contagious! I admire your work, your empathy, your generosity, and your care for the residents of Southwestern Virginia Training Center who means so very much to me. It is because of the difference you have made as volunteers that the residents experience an enhanced quality of life and my thanks to you on their behalf.”
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