Efforts of three women recognized by Alliance
by Rick Nichols
A rural Valley Falls woman and two women from the Oskaloosa area with at least one thing in common, a heartfelt desire to help others, were honored last Thursday in Oskaloosa by the Jefferson County Alliance of Service Councils Inc., during a luncheon at the office of the county health department.
Assisted by coalition member Jerry White, Beth Brown, R.N., administrator of the Health Department and president of the coalition, handed out Spirit of Humanitarianism Awards to Heidi Pickerell of rural Valley Falls, Jo Cross of Oskaloosa and Pam King of rural Oskaloosa, the “point person” for the organization she was representing, Anchor of Hope. Pickerell was nominated for her individual award by Susan Grey, principal of Valley Falls Schools. Melinda Harwood, pastor of the Oskaloosa United Methodist Church, submitted the nominations for Cross’s individual award and Anchor of Hope’s award in the group or business category.
“Heidi gives tirelessly for her community and USD 338,” Grey wrote in suggesting that Pickerell was worthy of a Spirit Award. “She has served as the USD 338 Parent-Teacher Organization president for the past 11 years. She is also a school board member for our district. In these capacities she has worked diligently to provide a variety of opportunities for the youth of our community, including the annual school carnival, turkey bingo, classroom pizza parties and raising countless funds which are distributed back to benefit all students.”
Pickerell is the president and chief executive officer of Meals on Wheels of Shawnee and Jefferson Counties Inc., and president of the Meals on Wheels Association of Kansas. As such, she is in a position to “advocate for Kansas seniors at both the state and national levels to help ensure that nutrition and other services will continue to be available to allow seniors to stay in their homes,” Grey’s nomination reads.
“Jo Cross leaves no stones unturned when it comes to helping people,” Harwood wrote in recommending that she be considered for a Spirit Award. “There are so many ways Jo gives herself away to her community, her state and her world. She is a worthy candidate for the Spirit Award.”
Cross is the county’s Salvation Army representative as well as the “contact person” whenever emergency funds are needed to help people pay their utility bills or cope with the effects of a disaster. She also heads up the county’s Bell Ringers fundraising campaign at Christmas. In addition, she works with children in the USD 341 schools as a volunteer, helps with the monthly Harvesters food distribution in Oskaloosa and at Lakeside Village, participates in a biweekly prison outreach at the women’s correctional facility in Topeka, hosts the monthly meeting of the Prime Timers, a social group for seniors that is educationally-oriented, at the Methodist Church, and takes a daily walk with her dog Corkie, thus affording her an opportunity to pick up the trash she finds along the way.
Cross also has traveled to Haiti to assist in efforts to rebuild the nation “one village at a time” following the January 2010 earthquake and crocheted prayer shawls for the sick, the homebound and children. Yet another cause she has eagerly embraced is stopping human trafficking in both the Midwest and around the globe.
Led by King, the United Methodist Church’s Anchor of Hope is the new name for a ministry that was established 10 years ago in an attempt to meet some of the essential needs of disadvantaged children living within USD 341 by making food, shoes, clothing and personal care items available to them. “The aim of Anchor of Hope is to provide these basic needs as an anchor for the soul (someone cares), help for the present (meet immediate need) and hope for the future (“I can do this.”),” Harwood’s nomination reads.
During the 2013-2014 school year Anchor of Hope delivered 30 pairs of shoes and “many packages” of personal care products, including head lice kits, to needy students. It also furnished a Christmas meal and presents for eight families.
Anchor of Hope will be sponsoring a 5K Run/Walk during this year’s Old Settlers’ Festival to raise additional funds in support of underprivileged students and their families.
The names of this year’s Spirit Award winners are to be added to a plaque that hangs on a wall in the courthouse.
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