2018 Governor’s Volunteer Awards Recipients

Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott, Honorary Chair of the 35th annual Governor’s Volunteer Awards, announced the 2018 award recipients on August 15. The Governor’s Volunteer Awards, administered by OneStar Foundation, honor the contributions of individuals, businesses and organizations in Texas that have made a positive impact in their communities or across the state through service and volunteering. Through her Texanthropy Initiative, Mrs. Abbott has made promoting volunteerism and service to others her primary focus as First Lady of Texas.

“There is nothing more powerful than Texans helping Texans,” Mrs. Abbott said. “Whether it is through everyday volunteering and giving, or by responding to the most disastrous storm in our state’s history, Texans can always be depended on to answer the call to help their neighbors. This year’s Governor’s Volunteer Award winners are an inspiration to us all.”

West Texas RSVP nominated Linda and Ron Aten from Abilene for the Governor’s Make a Difference Award.  They also nominated Rust Street Ministries for the Governor’s Community Leadership Award for an Organization.  We are proud and delighted that they both won in their respective categories and will be receiving their awards at a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion on October 15.

National Service Make A Difference Award - Senior Corps

Linda And Ron Aten of Abilene


Linda and Ron Aten began volunteering in the Senior Corps RSVP program in Abilene in 2001 and have since accumulated over 11,000 hours of volunteer service. Together they have served through 36 different agencies; however, it is the AARP Tax Aide Program where their major volunteer service is focused. Ron has been a tax counselor since 2006 and Linda has served as the District Coordinator since 2011. In 2017, the Abilene District prepared over 1,500 tax returns at no cost and gave back to community residents over $460,000 in earned income credit and $223,584 in tax refunds.


(back row, L-R: sons - Chris & Pat Aten)
(front row, L-R: Ron & Linda Aten with Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott presenting award)
2018 Volunteer Recognition Awards                


Awards presented by Steve Martin, West Texas Rehab President & CEO


Honorary Service Award for 30 years of service - Pete & Betty Martin


4000 Hours - Lifetime Service Award Donald McKee (pictured) and Cris Mathies.



Dottie Beamer (8,959 hours)  & Donald McKee (4,141 hours)  received the RSVP Distinguished Service Award for service to Dyess AFB.




Pictured are RSVP volunteers serving at Dyess AFB who have over 2,500 hours of service to active and retired military members and their families.

National Service Recognition Day

April 12, 2018

CNCS, America’s leader in volunteering and service efforts, engages over 325,000 AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers in national service at more than 50,000 locations each year. Through partnerships with schools, faith-based groups, non-profits, and local agencies, national service members are embedded within the communities they serve, using their ingenuity and training to make a tangible, lasting impact. Whether responding to natural disasters, tackling the opioid epidemic, educating students for the 21st century workforce, or supporting veterans and military families, AmeriCorps members and Senior Corps volunteers help local leaders make their communities stronger.



Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams proclaims April 12 National Service Recognition Day.  Outreach Coordinator with the Area Health Education Center (AHEC),  Terra New, receives the award on behalf of National Service Volunteers with Foster Grandparents, RSVP and VISTA in the Big Country.

West Texas RSVP Volunteer receives WTRC Staff Award

L to R: Dolores Schwertner, RSVP Director; Becky Pyburn, RSVP Volunteer: and Max Ann Bowlin, RSVP Volunteer Coordinator.

Since 1984, West Texas Rehabilitation Center (WTRC) Staff has taken time during the holiday season to honor one or more volunteers or donors who have given of themselves in extra-ordinary ways to help WTRC.   Nominations are made by staff and also voted on by staff.  RSVP Volunteer, Becky Pyburn, was nominated by RSVP staff and voted on by all Abilene WTRC staff and chosen as the Abilene WTRC Staff Award winner. The 2017 Staff Award was presented (as a surprise) at the annual staff Christmas luncheon held on December 15, 2017.


Becky’s music can be heard throughout the halls of the Rehab once a week.  In 2015, the WTRC Adult Therapy Director asked if RSVP had a volunteer who might be willing to come in any day and any amount of time to play a piano that had been donated to the Rehab.  We ran the volunteer opportunity in the RSVP newsletter and Becky Pyburn called the RSVP office and said she would be willing to give it a try!  She was loved by both the patients and employees immediately.  Some of the smaller children will sit in the hall and listen.  Adults will come and stand as she plays and visit with her and share stories about “the good old days”.


In 2016, the day of the Rehab dinner show, Vince Gill was taking a tour of the facility.  Becky was playing on this particular day.  Mr. Gill stood in the hallway listening to her play the hymn, “When We All Get to Heaven,” bringing him to tears.  As he rejoined the group, he explained  it reminded him of his grandmother singing at church when he was small and some of his first memories of music.  This year, she was asked by the donor relations department if she could play again during the time Amy Grant and Jenny Gill would be touring the facility.  Becky went home and studied and practiced to learn several songs that Mrs. Grant has sung.  Amy loved listening to her and was thrilled she played her songs!  It was a real treat for Becky even though she claims she was extremely nervous-you would never have known it by listening to her play!