Searcy man receives Andrus Award for AARP volunteerism

By Lisa Burnett Published December 1, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Jack Harris of Searcy received the Andrus Award for community service from AARP on Nov. 5.

SEARCY— The Andrus Award is AARP’s most prestigious and visible volunteer award for community service, and Jack Harris of Searcy is the most recent recipient.

The award was presented to him Nov. 5 at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock.

“I was very honored to get that,” Harris said. “I had

[done volunteer work for] quite awhile, but I hadn’t given a lot of thought to [getting an award].”

According to AARP, the Andrus Award recognizes outstanding individuals who have made their communities better in ways that are consistent with AARP’s mission, vision and commitment to volunteer service, and who inspire others to volunteer.

Harris started volunteering for the organization in 1989, shortly after he retired from a career that included education, administration and aviation.

“A friend of mine invited me to go to the Capitol with him,” Harris said. “Then I picked up an interest in that.”

Harris worked as a coordinator of the Capital City Task Force for six years, managing advocacy volunteers before a state AARP office was opened.

“Back then, we worked out of Dallas because we didn’t have a state office,” he said.

He has volunteered for AARP for 24 years, and his passion for helping others has not stopped.

“[When I started volunteering], I saw a need for looking out for the vulnerable, or the underdog, in some cases,” Harris said.

Harris was born in Turrell in 1927.

“At 86, I’m very fortunate to be able to still volunteer,” he said.

After graduating from Jonesboro High School in 1945, he attended what was then Harding College.

However, his higher education was interrupted by the Korean War, during which he served in the U.S. Navy in the Western Pacific Ocean. When he returned from the war, he finished his degree in education in 1956.

He was a teacher for many years and when he wasn’t teaching — evenings, summers and weekends — he was a flight instructor.

“I really had the best of two worlds,” he said.

Before he retired, Harris said, he was a hearing officer for the Memphis School District.

“I heard severe cases of discipline and drugs in schools,” he said. “It was my last job before I retired.”

Harris was inducted into the 2006 Senior Arkansans Hall of Fame and has been an active delegate to multiple sessions of the Arkansas Silver Haired Legislature, a mock legislature of delegates age 60 or older that has convened every two years since 1978. It allows seniors to learn about the legislative process

and become more effective advocates for all seniors in the state, according to the Area Agency on Aging website.

“It’s very educational and helpful,” Harris said. “I get to do that advocacy work and work with [politicians].”

With more than 20 years of volunteering under his belt, Harris has enjoyed the people he has met through AARP.

“I’ve made some very good friends,” Harris said. “That’s one of the delights of volunteering.”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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