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Havana Couple Receives National Volunteer Award

October 21, 2009

Beverly and Gordon Phillips of Havana, ND, were recently recognized with the National Group Volunteer of the Year Award at the American Healthcare Convention held in Chicago, IL.

Havana, ND, has earned a spot in the national spotlight, thanks to the effort of long-time residents Gordon and Beverly Phillips. The Havana couple recently journeyed to Chicago, IL, to accept the National Group Volunteer of the Year Award at the American Healthcare Convention.

They have been volunteering at the Four Seasons Healthcare Center in Forman, ND, for over eight years. Last fall they were judged the North Dakota winner and went on to receive national honors.

"The day that they called from Four Seasons about the award they were all excited and hollering, and Bev said, 'I think you have the wrong number,'" remembered Gordon. "And then Bev came out to me and asked if I had my speech ready because we had just won the national award and were going to Chicago. "We just couldn't believe it and we were very honored. But you don't do it for any awards, and there are a lot of other people involved. We just enjoy it." Gordy did give that speech - to a crowd of over 2,000 people. When he was asked back stage if he was nervous, his reply was a definite no in true "Gordy fashion." "I told them I wasn't nervous at all. There were only four people out there that I knew!"

Whether it's filling the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Claus at Christmas, helping transport residents on many outings, or just taking the time to visit with the 35 residents and staff, one thing comes to the forefront. "We often hear the phrase, "Angels on Earth," said Activities Director Virginia Litchfield. "Some of us are fortunate enough to be friends with them. Bev and Gordy truly are a Godsend to us." The Phillips became actively involved with Four Seasons after Gordon retired as an Amoco Oil dealer and daughter, Peggy, who is one of six Phillips children, "volunteered" her parents. "Peggy is a good friend of the activities director, and when they were looking for some help Peggy said, 'Call Mom and Dad, they'll come,'" recalled Bev. "I used to go in and do hair for some of the ladies, but once Gordy retired he had time, too." Becoming Mr. and Mrs. Claus was one of the first assignments. "I think a lot of times people don't come out when something is going on, but when Santa comes they are kind of like little kids," said Gordon. "They all come out. There was even one lady that I didn't really know well, but she told her son one day, 'I don't know who that Santa Claus is, but when I die I want him to be one of my pallbearers." He was. That's the type of spirit that endears the Phillips to the Four Seasons residents.

"My mother is a 92-year-old resident of Four Seasons, and the Phillips are among her favorite people," wrote Earl W. Anderson, Jr. "Gordy and Bev give freely of their time, and of their material resources as well, to help make a better quality of life for those suffering from the infirmities of age and failing health. Their cheerfulness and enthusiasm are contagious, and they make the residents participants, not just observers, in their activities. "When Gordy and Bev show up at Four Seasons, it is as if an electrical charge has energized the residents," continued Anderson. "The care and concern and the energy and enthusiasm that the Phillips bring to their volunteer activities draw even the most withdrawn and reticent residents into active participation, bringing a dose of joy and happiness into their lives."

The Phillips don't keep track of how many hours they spend with the Four Seasons residents, but they regular attend mass on Friday mornings and then stay to visit. They are also always available when needed. "The Phillips are just two people who do the hours and work of a large group," said Administrator DeDe Cookson. "They drive over 12 miles one way to be at our facility for the residents, and they use their vehicle on most every outing and will not even accept gas for their effort. On fishing trips, Gordy will use his own tackle for all the residents. They are very generous with their love, time, and money."

The Phillips, who have been married for 54 years and have 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, have also given back to their community. Bev was born in Rutland, moved to Minnesota for a short time, and then came to Havana when she was in the fourth grade. Gordy's great grandfather was born in Havana and he has been a lifelong resident. "The attitude, character, and generosity of Gordy and Bev's actions have been manifested in their contributions to their family, the local school, and the Sargent County community," wrote Anderson. "They have supported youth athletic programs, community economic and social development activities, and the work of their church."

The Phillips just look at the things they do as a good way to enjoy life. "What we enjoy most is seeing how much the people like getting out and doing things," concluded Bev. "We don't do these things to be rewarded. Our reward is just knowing how much the residents appreciate it." "We just hope that somebody will come visit us some day," concluded Gordy.