At 86, Citizen of the Year devotes hours to helping others in Junction community

Charles Kornman, 86, center, grins Thursday when named Citizen of the Year by the Kiwanis Club of Grand Junction at Two Rivers Convention Center. Seated beside Kornman are Ruth McCrea, left, volunteer manager for Mesa County RSVP, and Sheila Linwood, executive director of the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation. In the past six years, Kornman has given 10,000 volunteers hours to RSVP. He also volunteers as a patient advocate for the suicide prevention foundation.

Charles Kornman was humbled and honored when he was named Citizen of the Year by the Kiwanis Club of Grand Junction on Thursday.

Kornman, who wore a red rose boutonniere for the annual Kiwanis charter luncheon at Two Rivers Convention Center, said he had a hard time understanding why he had been selected. But he started his speech by saying, “They think you are an eagle, so act like one.”

The 86-year-old continued that thought by sharing a story about an eagle who was raised in a chicken coop. The eagle did not know that he was meant to soar, Kornman said, until someone showed him how to fly.

Like the eagle, Kornman told the Kiwanis members, his life began with years of not understanding what he needed to be doing. Only after battling cancer and enduring divorce did Kornman realize he had built a wall of ice around himself.

He had to be taught how to fly in order to do good things for others, he said.

Hence, he volunteered for the American Red Cross at 23 natural disaster sites, including four months post-9/11 in New York City.

He is active in the Victims’ Advocate Program under the Grand Junction Police Department and the St. Mary’s Hospital Crisis Team.

Also, Kornman has given 10,000 volunteer hours to Mesa County RSVP (retired and senior volunteer program) in the past six years.

“Every time I see him, he’s smiling and gracious,” said Ruth McCrea, volunteer manager for RSVP. “I’d like to have more volunteers just like Chuck.”

He also volunteers as a patient advocate for the Western Colorado Suicide Prevention Foundation. Sheila Linwood, executive director of the program, said Kornman’s quiet and loving demeanor around troubled teens was enough to help those contemplating suicide.

“All he has to do is hug them and be there. He doesn’t even have to say much,” Linwood said.

And if that’s not enough, said speaker Pete Jouflas, Kornman has given 18 gallons of blood and recently joined Spellbinders, an animated group of seniors who tell stories to schoolchildren.

“He’s given a lifetime of service, which gives reason to nominate him as our citizen of the year,” Jouflas said to the Kiwanians who gave Kornman a standing ovation.

Linwood, who calls Kornman her best friend, said she is inspired by his ability to volunteer and help so many people.

“He really is amazing,” she said.

Later in the meeting, Kornman donated a couple of “happy dollars,” money members give to the club to honor something good in their lives.

The first dollar he gave was for the “humbled, proud and privileged” way he felt when someone shared a story of suicide with him.

The second dollar he gave was for a connection he felt recently with a student who said, “I don’t feel suicidal.”

Jouflas said the club really just wanted to thank Kornman for all the good things he does for the community.


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