Jefferson Award Winner: Alice Vandegrift

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BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV)- The Jefferson Award, presented by Antero Resources, highlights individuals who spend countless hours dedicating their time to the community and to others.

This month Alice Vandegrift was honored for her service work. Alice is a former school teacher who spends much of her retirement volunteering at a nursing and rehab center in Morgantown.

Alice, a Morgantown native, says she has always followed a path of staying heavily involved within her community. It started with volunteering at church when she was a child, and continued to be a part of her life throughout her years in school, and now into her adult life.

"It started when I was young and would volunteer at Bible school," Alice said. "I just knew teaching was something I wanted to do."

Alice was a Home Economics teacher at South Middle School for 35 years. She also helped her husband coach the wrestling team. Alice says teaching opened her up to new opportunities and friendships with students, fellow teachers and even parents.

Retiring was bittersweet for her, but Alice decided she would use her newfound free time to continue to give back to the community. She focuses on helping people of all ages who are in need of physical and emotional support.

"Growing up, we were raised with a strong worth-ethic that we were supposed to give back to our community, not just take from it," Alice said.

Alice has always participated in service projects at the Morgantown Church of Christ, but now spends most of her time helping residents at the Mapleshire Nursing and Rehab Center. She started visiting when a former teaching friend, Becky, moved to the center.

"Becky was just a really dear person," Alice said. "She loved her students and was the type of person that would give you the shirt off of her back."

Becky was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at the age of 33. The disease progressed quickly and Becky lost most control over her body.

Alice took it upon herself to visit her friend seven days per week. Her goal was to provide emotional, physical and social support to Becky. The two women would read together, watch their favorite television shows and eat meals. Oftentimes, Alice would run necessary errands for Becky as well as other residents in the center.

Her visitation with Becky quickly led to many other friendships within the center. Before Becky passed away, Alice made a commitment to continue visiting and looking after other residents at the center.

Alice continues to visit the center daily. She says the residents seem to appreciate having someone to share stories with, as it can get lonely in a nursing home.

Many people say Alice is like a ray of sunshine they look forward to seeing each day. Alice says it is a two-way street and that she gets just as much out of her service work and visitation. She says above all she appreciates the new friendships she has developed over the years.

On an average week, Alice spends at least 20 hours at the center. Additionally, she continues her service work at her church as well as community outreach in her area. She says she will continue to give back to the community that gave so much to her.

"The Bible tells us that we are supposed to love one another, and that is a commandment I take very seriously, which is why I feel volunteering is important."