Grand Teton couple wins AARP volunteer award

WYOMING — Walter and Karen Jones will be honored as the 2019 Andrus Award winners during the AARP Wyoming Volunteer Recognition Dinner at Sheridan’s Holiday Inn this month.

But in true Jones fashion, neither of them will be there. Instead, they’ll be finishing their season as volunteers in Grand Teton National Park and heading south to Canyon Lands, Capital Reef in Utah.

“We don’t let the grass grow beneath our feet,” Karen Jones tells AARP Wyoming.

The Andrus Award, named after AARP founder Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus, recognizes individuals who are sharing their experience, talent, and skills to enrich their communities in ways that are consistent with AARP’s mission, vision, and commitment to volunteer service.

Only one volunteer per state (or couple performing service together) can receive the award each year and the recipient must live in the awarding state. The award winner is required to be at least 50 years old, and the achievements, accomplishments, or service on which the nomination is based must reflect AARP’s vision and mission.

Karen and Walter Jones spend their retirement years volunteering with the National Park Service in Grand Teton National Park. For four months out of the year, the Jones’ live in their camper and devote their time to ensuring that the visitors of the park have a fulfilling and educational visit. Their duties with the park include talks about bear safety, animal information, and cultural history. They can be found answering questions at the desk or out on the hiking trails. Karen and Walter are an inspiration for their dedication to the park and their connections to visitors from all over the world.

“It was so exciting to be a part of this,” Karen Jones says. “We had a lot of fun. We love volunteering, we love the people. We think that we make a difference, we hope, and that is a good thing. It is the perfect retirement for us.”

The Jones family was one of three finalists for the 2019 Andrus Award. The other two are Kenda Colman of Medicine Bow and Linda Bebout of Riverton. The winner of the Andrus Award was determined by the public, which was encouraged to vote for their favorite finalist on AARP Wyoming’s Facebook page. The voting took place from Sept. 10 until September 17 with the number of likes and shares acting as votes. The Jones family received 146 votes, while Bebout finished in second place with 84 votes.


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