United Way celebrates Volunteer of the Year

Posted on Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 11:42 am

The crowd of family members surrounding Reuben Couch and his wife, Mary, center, during the United Way of Hamblen County Annual Meeting held Jan. 14 at Rose Center’s Prater Hall includes sons, Phillip, Bernie and Alvy and daughters, Charlotte Singleton and Patricia Williford. Couch was named the UW Joe Q. Dougherty Volunteer of the Year for his longtime support of Kingswood School in Bean Station.

The crowd of family members surrounding Reuben Couch and his wife, Mary, center, during the United Way of Hamblen County Annual Meeting held Jan. 14 at Rose Center’s Prater Hall includes sons, Phillip, Bernie and Alvy and daughters, Charlotte Singleton and Patricia Williford. Couch was named the UW Joe Q. Dougherty Volunteer of the Year for his longtime support of Kingswood School in Bean Station.

When a large number of family members accompanied Reuben Couch to Rose Center’s Prater Hall on Tuesday, he figured the United Way of Hamblen County was going to acknowledge one of his favorite places on earth, Kingswood School in Bean Station.

What he didn’t realize was he would be presented with the UW’s annual Joe Q. Dougherty Volunteer of the Year Award by Public Relations Director Edwin Goan.

After recovering from the surprise, Couch addressed the crowd.

“As I look at all of you fine people here today, I think of 1944 when I came to Kingswood at age 11, and I think that all of you have made that precious ministry a success, where I was taught to be an asset to the American way,” he said.

Couch shared a group of verses from Psalms 41 that began with the phrase, “Blessed is he that considers the poor …”

“I’ve prayed about 2014, prayed that God would direct me in what I do,” Couch said. “I have chosen to leave what I have done for the past 48 years, to leave the road with my fine sons, four of them, and work for Kingswood School in whatever capacity that I might be able to do. And I thank Him that He has directed me this way from Dayton, Ohio, back from where I went in the 1970s.”

Couch said, “I am so thankful that I enjoy what I do, at age 80; I enjoy it and I don’t see any reason to retire.”

“Reuben Couch learned at an early age how to help others and the opportunity came frequently,” Goan said.

“Even before the United Way of Hamblen County came into existence, this young helper was busy working in his spare time around his class schedule to help other volunteers construct and maintain buildings during the 1940s at Kingswood, now a United Way Charter Agency.”

Couch helped keep the former grand hotel building “polished and shining,” according to Goan, and later joined older students and community volunteers in building new cottages on the campus.

He was part of the inaugural graduating class of 1945 and went on to volunteer with the 101st Airborne Division of the Army, serving with distinction. After completing his commitment, Couch’s next stop was the founding of a successful commercial painting company that currently operates nationwide and is managed by his children.

“Couch has returned to the Kingswood campus many times during the past 70 years. He helped build a memorial chapel in the 1970s and provided administrative support to Mary Wachtel. During the past three years, he has painted the exteriors and roofs of five campus buildings,” Goan said.

In the fall of 2012, Couch took on the leadership of refurbishing the chapel and raised $30,000 for new carpet and the painting of the exterior and interior of the building, doing much of the actual painting himself.

The Volunteer of the Year Award has been sponsored by the United Way of Hamblen County since 1976, in memory of Mr. Joe Q. Dougherty. The award honors a person who voluntarily gives time above and beyond normal expectations in a participating United Way Agency or to the United Way itself.

-By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer

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