Will Kirkland has an incurable disease and is waiting on a double lung transplant, but he doesn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself.
Instead, Kirkland devotes much of his time to helping others. He has logged hundreds of volunteer hours with Hospice Savannah, visiting patients in their homes and nursing homes.
“Well, if I stay home, I’m going to get sicker. So if I go do something, I’ll feel better,” said Kirkland, who lives in Guyton.
Kirkland was honored Thursday as the Herb Jones Volunteer of the Year Award recipient at the annual banquet hosted by the Rotary Club of Effingham County.
He helps Hospice Savannah despite battling stage IV sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that can affect any part of the body but is most common in the lungs. Kirkland makes frequent trips to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatments — some of which take a week or more — as he prepares for a double lung transplant when a donor becomes available.
“He’s on the top of the (lung transplant) list. He’s first right now in the United States to get it, and we’re just praying every day,” said Christy Fulcher, homecare volunteer coordinator for Hospice Savannah. “But he never stops.”
Along with his regular visits with patients, Kirkland collected gifts to give to hospice families this past Christmas. He said his favorite activity is being a counselor at Camp Aloha, an annual grief camp for children who have lost a loved one.
“He is incredible,” Fulcher said. “He is a true blessing to our organization.”
Kevin Poythress, a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity of Effingham County, was the first runner-up for the Volunteer of the Year award.
Despite being in constant pain from recurring back problems, Poythress plans and supervises a number of Habitat projects. Also, he donated his car last year to the organization Assisting Working Women in Need to provide reliable transportation to a single mother.
The second runner-up was Jerry Shaufelberger, who helps Manna House Ministries feed hungry families in Effingham County. At 81 years old, and in the midst of battling cancer, Shaufelberger picks up donations for the food pantry nearly every day. He loaded his truck with more than 75,000 pounds of donated groceries last year, according to Manna House.
Thirteen community volunteers were honored at the banquet at the New Ebenezer Retreat Center. Also recognized were:
Rosemary Alexander – Effingham Health System
Vikki Beech – Springfield Elementary School
Jackie Brown – Family Promise of Effingham
Albert Jernigan – United Way of the Coastal Empire
Tina Keener – Ebenezer Elementary School
Christine Kirkland – Live Oak Public Libraries
Eric Knight – Guyton Fire Department
Kim Lee – Sand Hill Elementary School
Joann Miller – Rincon Elementary School
Kennedy Williams – South Effingham Middle School
For Kirkland winning the award, Rotary gave $500 to Hospice Savannah. The club contributed $300 to Habitat for Humanity for Poythress being first runner-up and $200 to Manna House on behalf of Shaufelberger.