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Rev. Joe Howard was recently named National Volunteer of the Year by the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.

Howard named National Volunteer of the Year

For the second year in a row, a Harlan County resident has been named National Volunteer of the Year by the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).

Rev. Joe Howard, a volunteer at Harlan Health and Rehabilitation Center (HHRC), received the honor for 2017, according to The Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities/Kentucky Center for Assisted Living (KAHCF/KCAL).

According to a press release, Rev. Howard has been volunteering at HHRC weekly for 20 years. He conducts church service on Monday mornings and encourages residents to get out of their rooms and come to church and activities. He has performed weddings and funerals of residents. He also brings more than 100 flowers for the female residents on Mother’s Day.

“It is truly an honor to be awarded the National Volunteer of the Year,” Howard said. “I would like to thank, first of all, God and all of those whom have made this possible. It is truly a humbling and honorable experience to serve and share the gospel with the residents at the Harlan Health and Rehabilitation Center.”

Harlan administrator Gail Hensley said he is very deserving of the national recognition.

“I am so pleased and very excited that Joe was chosen to receive this prestigious award. He is such a wonderful person and a selfless individual,” she said. “He’s been volunteering at our facility for over 20 years, and the residents love and respect him greatly. He’s been like family to so many of our residents who have no family. (He is) a friend to all that know him.”

HHRC Activities Director Deanie Rigney said Howard first won the state award, then the national.

“We nominated Joe because we felt he was one of our most wonderful volunteers,” Rigney said. “He comes out on Mondays and has church for our residents. He is always there for them. If I call him at any time, he’ll come out and pray with our residents any time that they need him.”

Rigney said Howard also helps provide Christmas gifts for the residents.

“He’s just always there for the residents,” Rigney said. “Anything they need. He’s been really great over the years.”

The release also states Harlan was also home to last year’s AHCA/NCAL National Volunteer of the Year, the late Mike Howard. In fact, Kentucky has had five national volunteers of the year in the last 11 years.

“We are thrilled to add Rev. Joe Howard to the number of honorees,” said Betsy Johnson, KAHCF/NCAL President. “Volunteers are such an important part of our residents’ daily lives, and it is an honor to see people like Rev. Howard receive the recognition they deserve.”

Howard will be recognized by AHCA/NCAL at its 69th Annual Convention in San Diego on Oct. 10.