Just about anywhere you go in Chadron that involves a volunteer effort, you’re likely to see one of two – or perhaps both - distinct license plates: Kotsch and Vicki K.
“They are really community people,” said Del Hussey, who is a neighbor to and good friend of Glen and Vicki Kotschwar.
The couple’s involvement in nearly every organization in town has earned them the Chadron Record’s 2017 Citizens of the Year title.
A lot of people can say they “belong” to an organization, said Betty Staal. But Glen and Vicki put that word into action, becoming actively involved in so many activities it’s hard to count them all.
“I think they’re wonderful. They’re just nice people and they seem to be so caring,” Staal said.
Retired from the Hemingford Public Schools – Glen as a principal and Vicki as a teacher – they still ask after former students and many of their current efforts focus on youth. Vicki is a member of the Chadron Public Schools Foundation, always offering support in a variety of ways, said Superintendent Dr. Caroline Winchester. That ranges from searching for teacher grants, supporting summer programs or sending students to state and national events, lending aid at the summer theatre program and throwing her support behind a Foundation grant to fund new auditorium seating.
“She’s so personable. You just love to be around her. She puts the community first in everything she does,” Winchester said.
Glen is also a mentor to several young people, Hussey said. According to Chadron Record archives he’s mentored confirmation classes at the United Methodist Church, and Staal noted that he is actively involved with the American Legion’s and Legion Auxiliary’s Boys and Girls State programs, including accompanying students to orientation in Valentine.
“They are just people we can count on in a pinch,” said Chadron Chamber of Commerce Director Brooke Smith. The Kotschwars are always willing to jump in and help. Glen played Santa for kids at Christmas, and they assist with the Easter Egg Hunt, from prepping eggs to grilling and serving at the community hot dog feed that follows.
They volunteer with a happy, positive and upbeat attitude every time.
“They are just such warm and welcoming people,” Smith said.
Many of Glen and Vicki’s volunteer efforts come through Northwest Community Action Partnership’s RSVP program and the American Legion and Legion Auxiliary.
“Glen and Vicki are the best. They encourage and exemplify good citizenship and they have earned the respect and gratitude of our community,” said Rachel Johnson, who directs RSVP. “As 17-year Senior Corps RSVP volunteers they have shown they are deeply committed to making our community a better place to live and never shy away from a challenge. They feed the hungry, deliver Meals on Wheels, help us prepare for disaster and they are deeply concerned about the quality of life and opportunities for veterans. Together they have amassed over 11,000 lifetime RSVP volunteer hours, and I can’t imagine our program without them.”
A former Air Force member, Glen has a running commentary with members of the Legion who served in the Marines, but the good-natured ribbing doesn’t keep him from hard work, said John Dueker. Glen has served as the Legion’s House Committee Chair, which involves taking care of the premises and looking out for the finances. He’s usually the one who mows the lawn at the Legion.
“We try to take turns down there, but you have to get ahead of him,” Dueker said.
Glen is also a member of the Legion Honor Guard, providing services at funerals and marching in parades.
In 2016, Glen was recognized with the Nebraska American Legion Department Citizenship Award, which goes to individuals who have distinguished themselves as active members in their post and community. His nomination form denoted his eight years of service on the Post 12 House Committee, his work in the Honor Guard and as Legion secretary, and his efforts at the Legion’s Thursday night dinners, for which he served as Dinner Team Leader.
Vicki is a board member of the Nebraska Mid-America Honor Flight Network, which works to raise funds and coordinate free flights for Dawes County area veterans to visit their memorials in Washington, D.C.
She has served as ALA president for four years and is active with all of the Auxiliary programs, Staal said. She’s also a member of the Veterans Board, coordinating the collection of clothing, pots and pans and other household goods to be donated to veterans in need.
“She goes all over to meetings as (ALA) president,” said Aletta Hussey.
Vicki’s work with veterans goes far beyond Chadron’s borders. She bakes cookies for them, works with the coat drive and last Easter helped make sure residents at the Veterans Home in Scottsbluff had pretty table favors to enjoy during their Easter dinner. That effort earned her a 2017 Ak-Sar-Ben Good Neighbor Award, which was presented at the Dawes County Fair in August.
Vicki designed the table favors, purchased the materials and convinced ALA members to help make and deliver them to the 90 men and women at the Veterans Home, according to Del Hussey’s nomination form.
While that one effort was singled out during the Good Neighbor program, Hussey’s original nomination listed the many other organizations Vicki supports with her time and energy. Beyond the ALA , RSVP and Chadron Schools Foundation, Vicki is a hospice volunteer, a Friends of the Library member, active in her church, sings in community choir and helps organize the Crestview Care Center’s sing-along.
“She is so active. There isn’t a day of the week she doesn’t get up early and head to town,” Del said.
Vicki has been a hospice volunteer since 2004, and has been so active she’s received the Hospice Volunteer of the Year Award from the Nebraska Hospice and Palliative Care Association twice, in 2005 and 2011.
Dependable and enthusiastic, Vicki is also compassionate with hospice patients, said Hospice Director Sarah Hageman.
“She has a very calming presence,” she said, and is willing to go above and beyond. Vicki visited one patient 46 times. During her visits, she builds relationships, offers support for the families, takes them food, does their chores and is willing to visit patients who live out of Chadron. After the patient passes away, she makes sure to follow up with the family as well.
“It’s really crazy what she does. She’s a strong support for me,” Hageman said. That’s because in addition to visiting patients, Vicki answers phones in the office once a month and helps run volunteer meetings. She also helps with the annual Remembrance Ceremony and lends her vast knowledge of the other organizations in town to help hospice connect with them.
She is also a member of Friends of the Library, helping with moving, sorting and selling books during the organization’s book sales. Susan Vastine said Vicki is always available, and usually doesn’t wait to be asked for help; instead, Vicki knows what needs to be done and just goes ahead and does it.
Both Glen and Vicki are also active in the Chadron United Methodist Church. They serve meals at Closer to Home and help with ushering, greeting and the UMC TV Ministry, according to church secretary Melody Herbert and Pastor Bonnie McCord. They also help with seasonal decorating and the church’s monthly soup supper.
Glen takes care of yard work around the church and parsonage and provides supervision for the CSC Big Event work that takes place at the church. Vicki sings in the vocal choir and plays in the bell choir, serves as a Lay Servant and is a member in the PEO Chapter, as well as the Martha’s, a group that helps provide funeral dinners. She is also a network leader for the Highway 20 UMC group and serves as disaster relief coordinator for the church. In her role as disaster coordinator, she helped gather more than 25 flood buckets to send to Louisiana in 2016 when 40,000 homes were impacted by flooding.
The couple also provides plenty of volunteer hours at Camp Norwesca during the summer, where Vicki sings during the service and Glen, a past board member, provides golf cart transportation up the hill for the elderly.
“Glen is locally famous for his fudge! It raises lots of money at the Methodist Church auctions,” Vastine added.
Outside of their involvement in the community, Glen and Vicki are great neighbors, Del Hussey said. The two men trade chores if one of them is going to be gone, and Glen took care of things when Del was receiving medical treatment twice a week.
Family is important to both of them, and they work to keep in touch with children and siblings.
“That’s something I really admire,” Del said.
Del and Glen have also started a tradition of regularly taking random people in town out to coffee.
“We’ve met a lot of interesting people that way,” Del said. Those coffee dates were mentioned more than once during interviews for the Citizen of the Year Award, as both Smith and Staal were honored to be among them (as is the writer of this article).
“(Glen) always has a kind word of encouragement and looks for ways to be helpful or useful,” Del said.
The community is definitely better off for their presence, Staal concurred.
“They pretty much belong to every organization in town. They are always willing to help, no matter what.”