Originally Published: May 3, 2009 11:22 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The Northern Arizona Veterans Affair Health Care System recently honored Chino Valley resident John Been as its top volunteer.
Ame Callahan, acting public affairs officer, said the NAVAHCS presented Been with his 17,500-hour award at the Prescott Resort and Conference Center. Rosemary Bressler of Chino Valley and Bob Holmes of Prescott, each received their 12,500-hour award.
In 2008, Callahan said, about 700 volunteers donated more than 100,000 hours of volunteer time at NAVAHCS, representing nearly $2 million in volunteers' service.
She added, "Our volunteers make a dramatic impact on the care and service provided to our veterans."
Been, who is starting his 20th year of volunteering at the NAVAHCS, said he ran the photo lab for the VA's police department for the first five years. Then it was computerized so he looked around for a new job and found one as the parking lot shuttle driver. He has been doing that for the past 15 years, seven hours a day Monday through Friday.
He volunteers because, "I get as much out of it as the vets do."
A native of Chicago, he grew up on a farm in Michigan before entering the Air Force. In 1956 he was transferred to Williams Air Force Base and then spent four years at Arizona State University in the Air Force ROTC before retiring.
The next five years he spent in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Mounted Patrol and then 20 years with the Chandler Police Department.
Twenty-one years ago Been moved to Chino Valley and still lives there.
"I'm very proud of this award," he said.
Holmes, a retired mechanical engineer with U.S. Electrical Motors, became a NAVAHCS volunteer 20 years ago because his wife was one before he retired.
A native of Maywood, Ill., he worked 20 years in Los Angeles with U.S. Electrical Motors before transferring to Prescott 41 years ago.
Initially, he was an escort. Then, he worked at the information desk when the new outpatient area opened. And 15 years ago, Holmes switched over to chapel duty. For the past 15 years he has been its lay minister with the Catholic Church. In this job, on Mondays and Fridays Holmes takes the communion to the inpatients who can't get to the chapel. On Sunday, he helps at the mass at the chapel.
Holmes said volunteering at NAVAHCS is interesting knowing you're serving those who gave the most.
He encourages people to become volunteers at NAVAHCS. "That way you know you're doing something good," Holmes said.
The former Marine works about 750 hours a year at the NAVAHCS.
The Arizona Marine Corps League presented Holmes with the Bronze Award four years ago and Silver Award three years ago for being the former Marine with the most volunteer hours.
Bressler, has been NAVAHCS's Voluntary Services timekeeper for the past 14.5 years.
The native of South Bend, Ind., and her husband moved to Chino Valley 15 years ago from Colorado. For the prior 12 years she was the American Legion Auxiliary's state secretary in Colorado.
Bressler said they started volunteering at NAVAHCS because she had talked to her friend at the VA center in Denver. After her husband died a year later, she kept her volunteer job. "The fulfillment of knowing I've helped the center's staff keeps me going," she said, "and it is such a great group to work for."
Bressler added, "It is a great honor to get this award."