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Northwest Wyoming Couple Awarded AARP’s Highest Volunteer Honor

Posted on 10/14/19


Walter and Karen Jones have been voted by the public as the 2019 honorees of the Ethel Percy Andrus Award. They will be honored as the 2019 Andrus Award during the AARP Wyoming Volunteer Recognition Dinner at the Holiday Inn of Sheridan on October 29.

However, in true Jones fashion, they will not be in Sheridan. Rather, with their volunteer duties at Grand Teton National Park over, they are leaving to camp at Canon 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. This is not a posthumous award.

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 is 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.

Other Andrus Award finalists

Kenda Colman of Medicine Bow.

Kenda has dedicated over 25 years of her time to the city council and has been a strong advocate for the citizens of her town as well as the surrounding area. She attends school board meetings and is a voice for both children and senior citizens. Kenda lobbied for her town to obtain broadband access and road resurfacing. She has inspired others in her community to start other projects such as the Community Garden.

Linda Bebout of Riverton

Linda can be seen throughout her community lending a hand and offering service to people because she leads by example. She played a key role in expanding educational opportunities at Central Wyoming College and helped to keep the library open during tough times. Linda devotes her time to the Wyoming Senior Citizens and Foster Grandparent Program among other organizations. She gives a voice to the 50+ in her community, advocates for safety to prevent injuries, and promotes the local summer band program.

For more information

For more information on the Andrus Award, contact Tanya Johnson, AARP Wyoming’s Associate State Director for Outreach and Local Advocacy at 307-214-7965 or

This story is provided by AARP Wyoming. Visit the AARP Wyoming page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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