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Broken Bow woman receives AARP Nebraska's highest volunteer award

Deborah McCaslin

Deborah McCaslin, a long-time civic leader in Broken Bow, has been selected to receive AARP Nebraska’s highest volunteer award. She is the 13th volunteer to be honored with the annual AARP Nebraska Andrus Award for Community Service since it was established in 2002.

McCaslin’s charity, TeamMates of Broken Bow Chapter, is a big winner, too. AARP Nebraska will present the organization with a check for $2,500 on behalf of McCaslin, who is president of the TeamMates chapter board.

TeamMates is a one hour a week school-based mentoring program whose mission is to positively impact the world by inspiring youth to reach their full potential. An energetic supporter of the program, McCaslin helped bring TeamMates to Broken Bow and is a mentor for a fifth-grade girl she meets with once a week.

“Deborah sees a need and carries it forward. She is a firm believer in making a difference one family, one child at a time,” said Penny Ashenfelter, who nominated McCaslin for the award, citing her many efforts to improve life for people of all ages. “When she is excited about a project or program, the whole room feels her energy. When she chairs a project like TeamMates, she works as hard as anyone else at the concession stand, selling raffle tickets at the games or planning the end-of-the-year party. Other volunteers know she will be there to back them and work right alongside them.”

Raised in a newspaper family, McCaslin is the executive editor and third generation past publisher of the Custer County Chief. As an Air Force spouse, she published newspapers in Taiwan and Germany for Air Force families. Through her involvement with the Rotary Club, she volunteers overseas with Alliance for Smiles to provide free treatment for cleft lip and palate deformities in underserved areas of the world. This work has taken her to China, Ghana and Zimbabwe, where she takes photos, helps with paperwork and writes stories about the children to raise awareness of the project.

McCaslin is Custer County’s public information officer for emergency response and a member of the Custer Emergency Response Committee. She was instrumental in organizing Nebraska’s first Hero Flight to take 50 World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the World War II memorial. While serving as chair of the National Press Association’s Government Relations Committee, she fought to keep small town post offices open to guarantee reasonable mail delivery and fair competition for community newspapers to keep readers informed and local governments accountable.

In addition, McCaslin is a board member of Healing Hearts and Families to support victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; chairs the Children’s Christmas Fund to provide holiday dinners and gifts to 500 people annually; and is secretary of the Custer County Economic Development Corporation to revitalize business in the area.

“I am humbled and honored by the award. It takes a village to champion a cause, and to keep good programs viable,” McCaslin said. “To have been chosen by AARP for the Andrus Award brings me nearly to tears. There are so many wonderful people out there doing great things, and they do so without any expectation of being thanked. They do so strictly because it is the right thing to do. Their only goal is to make a difference. I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked beside some of these really great people.”

Bob Eppler, state president of AARP Nebraska, agrees.

“Through her astounding record of service with TeamMates and beyond, Deborah McCaslin demonstrates what it means to make a difference in the lives of others. The Andrus Award acts as a symbol to the public that we can all work together for positive social change,” Eppler said. “AARP has long valued the spirit of volunteerism and the important contributions volunteers make to their communities, neighbors and the programs they serve.”

The AARP Nebraska Andrus Award for Community Service – and an oversized check for $2,500 to TeamMates of Broken Bow – will be formally presented on Sept. 12 at the Broken Bow High School football game during half time.

Andrus Award recipients across the nation were chosen for their ability to enhance the lives of AARP members and prospective members, improve the community in or for which the work was performed, and inspire others to volunteer.

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