Linda Allen typically spends her Mondays with fellow church members distributing food items, clothing, reading material and hygiene products to residents of two personal care homes.
As the weekend approaches, she begins rounding up residents to take them on fishing trips in the country.
Allen has bought residents dentures and birthday gifts, she has installed their TVs, listened to their stories and even granted one resident's dying wish. Over the past five years, Allen has sacrificed her free time to help the residents of Shady Lawn Home and Parkside Manor LLC in Cynthiana.
"One of the main goals is to show the residents their importance and that they matter," Allen said. "We want them to know that people care."
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Early last week, Allen began organizing a fishing trip Saturday at a Cynthiana farm off US 62. The residents arrived in the morning, had lunch and left in the afternoon. The fishing trips are one of the random events Allen does throughout the year. Throughout the year, she organizes activities to keep the residents entertained and get them out. That's what makes them happy, Allen said.
Allen began volunteering about five years ago, after she watched a video about the need for volunteers at Shady Lawn and Parkside Manor. Allen said one of the residents in the video said "what people like you forget about people like us is that we are human and have feelings, too." That stuck with her.
"I felt a sense of helplessness on the resident's part. Someone needed to step up to the plate," said Allen, an admissions officer at the University Of Kentucky College of Health Sciences.
The resident's words would change her life forever. She volunteered, and her efforts inspired members of her church, Leesburg Christian Church, and members of the Cynthiana Baptist Church to become volunteers.
Allen's work has not gone unnoticed.
In the spring, the Red Cross recognized Allen for her actions, giving her the 2013 "Hero of the Year Award" as part of the sixth annual Heroes campaign. The Hero Award is for someone who has made a significant and positive difference in the community. The award was presented to Allen on May 16 at the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort.
"Communities don't become great without great people. Linda Allen is a great person," said Winn Stephens, director of development for the Bluegrass Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Residents, friends and peers all say Allen is a role model in the community and a champion for the residents. They find her inspiring.
"Linda has a heart of gold. She is always putting someone's needs before her own," said Karen Barnes, Allen's friend and Leesburg Christian Church member.
Dennis Thompson, a resident, described Allen as "a very kind and giving person."
"She is always doing things for us," he said. "She will get me clothes when I need them. She remembers each resident's birthday and throws them a birthday party. She even sets up random fishing or luau events, which is really nice because it's not required of her."
The "Blessing Ball" is one of the biggest events Allen organizes for the residents.
The ball, which is held every November, is an extravagant sit-down dinner and dance.
Geno's Formal Affairs, Cinderella's Closet, and private citizens provide tuxedos and dresses for the residents; Allen makes the residents beautiful brooches and corsages.
"The smiles, the love, the hugs, you can tell from that how appreciative they are that someone cares enough to minister them," Allen said.
Want to help?
If you or a group is interested in getting involved in this outreach ministry, please email Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.