Herald-Whig

Volunteers of the Year

From left, Barbara Bockhause, Joyce Mester, Marylyn Mock and Alvera Bardon volunteer at the Adams County Extension Office on Monday, Feb. 10, 2020. Bockhause and her mother, Bardon, are RSVP volunteers that received the 2019 Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Volunteer of the Year Award. | H-W Photo/Katelyn Metzger
Katelyn Metzger1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 12, 2020 12:01 am

QUINCY -- Barbara Bockhause carefully adds the last staple then moves onto the next set of materials, keeping up a steady rhythm and her share of the conversation.

Not far away, her mom, Alvera Bardon, works her way through a stack of magazines, adding a label to each one.

Volunteering with the Adams County Agriculture in the Classroom program is a Monday morning tradition for the mother-daughter pair recently recognized with the 2019 Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Volunteer of the Year Award.

The award, presented during Illinois Farm Bureau's annual meeting, recognizes county volunteers who have done an outstanding job with Agriculture in the Classroom and agriculture literacy efforts. Since 1983, 98 individuals have been recognized for their contributions.

Bockhause and Bardon said they were surprised, and pleased, to be recognized for giving of their time.

"We just volunteer to volunteer, to help, to meet people," Bardon said.

They volunteer through RSVP and connected with Ag in the Classroom when program coordinator Robin Thomson asked for help in preparing materials for classroom presentations.

Bockhause and Bardon, along with Marilyn Mock and Joyce Mester, have met at the Extension office each week for six years.

"We all look forward to every Monday. We enjoy it. We have a good time," Bockhause said. "Robin has a list for us every Monday when we come in. We go down the list and try to accomplish all of it. We work very well together."

During the 2018-19 school year, more than 9,055 students participated in agriculture educational activities using the hands-on materials Bockhause and Bardon took part in preparing. At the 2019 Adams County Fair, more than 1,700 people visited the tent to participate in arts and crafts prepared by the two.

Thomson said the pair's efforts make a big difference to the county's program.

"When they spend three hours every Monday, that's like a day and a half of my time. That frees me up more time for programs, and it makes programs run more smoothly," Thomson said. "Materials are ready to hand out. We're not spending a lot of time cutting things out, stapling things, taping things."

Typical tasks range from cutting out pieces for a lesson, focused on apples this week, to Bardon's favorite, popping enough corn to fill 120 bags to go to a school.

"Everybody does a little bit to it, and all of a sudden it's all put together," Bardon said.

"We all look forward to every Monday," Bockhause said.

Mother and daughter don't limit their volunteer work to Ag in the Classroom. For some 30 years, the pair have gone to St. Vincent's every Wednesday to call Bingo and help out. They've volunteered with the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts and "wherever they need help," Bardon said.

It's a way to stay active in the community – and potentially to live a long life.

"If people would get out and volunteer, they'd meet new people, and they wouldn't be so lonely," Bardon said. "It will be good for their health."

Bardon, who will turn 100 in September, credits hard work and keeping busy for her longevity along with trying to set a good example for her daughter.

"I keep a happy outlook on life all the time, I look for the good side and never worry about the bad side until it comes," she said. "You have to keep going and help people. I even help a food pantry at St. Francis."

Just as important are the friendships developed through volunteering.

"We share pictures and stories, what's going on in their families right now," Mester said. "They've been my listening ears. They've been my support system."

But they've also learned not to play cards with Bardon.

"She'll beat you in cards," Mock said.