By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
TILTON — Volunteers, who play a key role in maintaining morale and providing a link to the outside world for the 200 or so residents of the New Hampshire Veterans Home here, were honored at a special luncheon held in their honor at the home's Town Hall Wednesday.
Lisa Punderson, volunteer coordinator for the home, said that more than 90 people volunteered last year at the home and contributed 4,929 hours, which, based on a $23.07 per hour estimate on the value of volunteer work, amounted to a $113,717 contribution.
The most volunteer hours in a single day was 178 during a Cruise Night event, which brought dozens of classic cars to the home and is one of the favorite events for residents, rekindling memories of the hot rods and heavily chromed cars that many grew up admiring.
Punderson noted that volunteers who were being honored played many roles at the home, from bingo callers and clergy to outside trip assistants, a librarian and even a cribbage player, all of whom have contributed their special talents to help provide care and comfort for those who have served their country.
Among the volunteers are Steve and Carol Hankard of Hebron, who have been coming to the home every Tuesday for more than 10 years.
"We feel like its an honor to come here and spend time with the veterans. It's the highlight of our week," said Steve Hankard, a retired police officer from Hartford, Connecticut, who served six years with the Connecticut National Guard.
Carol Hankard, a retired nurse, said their son, Stephen, is the police chief in Sanbornton and that their daughter will soon be teaching at Newfound Regional High School in Bristol.
Veterans Home Commandant Margaret Labrecque said the volunteers add a great deal to the quality of life for the residents of the home and that their contributions of time and effort are invaluable.
"We have over 100 residents ranging in age from a man, 58, from the Vietnam War, to one who is 103, from World War II,'' says Labrecque, the first-ever female commandant of the home.
Residents of the home say they enjoy seeing the volunteers on a regular basis.
"They add a lot of enjoyment and companionship to the home,'' said Bill Bertholet, president of the resident council, who has been a resident of the home for two years. "They keep track of all of us and do a wonderful job."
Bertholet, whose wife, Paula, is originally from the Lakes Region, said he grew up in California but moved to New Hampshire after they were married and hasn't ever regretted it.
"I've lived all over the world but haven't found a better place than New Hampshire," said Bertholet, who lived in Gilford for 28 years before moving to the home.
He said his wife is also a volunteer at the home and enjoys working with the residents.
For more than a century, the New Hampshire Veterans Home has been a home and a health resource for Granite State armed forces veterans. Established in 1890 as the Soldier's Home for Civil War Veterans, it has provided care and comfort for thousands who have served their country.
Steve and Carol Hankard of Hebron have been serving as volunteers at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton for over 10 years and say that the highlight of the week for them is there is their Tuesday visit to the home. He is a retired police officer from Hartford, Conn., and she is a retired nurse. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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