North Big Horn Senior Center Director Denise Andersen refers to them as her “army of angels,” a tireless group of volunteers who reach out to seniors in the community, providing invaluable services from home meal delivery to just showing aging residents that someone cares about their well-being. Each year the Center honors two of those “angels” to represent the Center during the Mustang Days celebration in Lovell. This year the Senior Center is honoring Jack and Barb Marchant of Cowley.
“The most important aspect of honoring people out of the army of angels, that we have and that we count on, is oftentimes the result of their dedication, and their longevity to quality of life for seniors needs to be recognized,” said Andersen. “ It’s never difficult to find those people.”
“These two have distinctive stories of different kinds of caring, they’ve cared for wives and husbands, respectively (both are widowed). The way I see it, these are two very caring individuals, who came together as a married couple and have continued their dedication to the services we offer to the community.”
Barb delivered meals to Jack’s mom for many years through the Center’s “Meals-On-Wheels” program. The couple crossed paths many times in their lives. They were even neighbors at one point during their childhood.
“The beautiful thing is that they brought their passion and compassion for others into their relationship,” said Andersen. “So now, instead of just caring for their own families, they are caring for our families in the community.”
Barb worked as a helper in the kitchen at the Senior Center and she’s been an employee and valued volunteer at the Center for many years. She is on the board of trustees for the service district.
“She has put herself out there in terms of helping at the Center, but I’m sure their volunteer efforts don’t stop here,” said Andersen. “I’m sure they are involved in other organizations, as well.”
The two “rediscovered” each other after they were both widowed and found themselves alone, like many seniors, in their golden years. The two married, which Jack humorously refers to as their “merger” at which time volunteering became a part of their lifestyle.
“Volunteering becomes a lifestyle, so your mate or companion has to be in it with you or it doesn’t last very long,” explained Andersen. “Something has to give.”
The two have embraced their volunteer work for the Center. They are both very active volunteers in the Meals–On-Wheels program, often with Jack acting as chauffeur, as they drop meals to residents throughout the greater Lovell area.
Andersen said Meals-On-Wheels often turns into lifetime relationships between the person delivering the meal, the person receiving the meal and their family members. In this case, it became a union of a couple based on their desire to help others.
“The extra-special part of Meals-On-Wheels persons and other volunteer efforts is that they don’t walk around talking about all the good deeds they do. They just do it. It’s really impressive,” said Andersen.
Andersen said the couple epitomizes the caring service offered by the Center.
“Our emphasis is to honor their passion for compassion,” said Andersen. “I’ve seen them help people and that help comes from caring.”
Andersen said that naming these “very important persons” to represent the Center in the parade gives the Center the opportunity to honor their service and their volunteer efforts on behalf of seniors in the community.
“They represent the Center, because they personify our goal for seniors in the community to age with dignity and independence in their own homes. These people, these many angels, help us every day to keep that going. It happens in tiny ways. It shows seniors in the community that they have dignity in spite of losses they may have had in life.”
Andersen said naming senior VIPs (formerly referred to as royalty) has been a tradition at the Senior Center for at least 35 years.
“I know we’ve probably missed a few over the years, but we have done the best we can to honor those who have provided this important service to the community,” she said.
“Historically and traditionally, if you look back on these community celebrations like Mustang Days, Cowley Days and Byron Days, they are all celebrating pioneers. They are celebrating elders. The events always celebrate those who had the forethought to settle here and through their blood, sweat and tears made a living here, created opportunities for their children and their children’s children. Honoring them in this way shows the compassion we have for our seniors.”
Andersen said the Marchants are good role models for others.
“These are active, healthy, want-to-do-something-good kind of people and our center and our community should embrace them and people like them,” she said.
The couple has been married nearly two years. Jack will be 79 years old in August. Barb will be 72 in a few months.
The two recently returned “home” after living away from the community for many years. Jack lived in Utah, Texas and most recently Mesa, Ariz. Barb lived in Billings for about 17 years. When Barb’s husband died, she sold the house in Billings and moved back to Lovell where it was less expensive. She has been delivering meals for the Senior Center’s Meals-On-Wheels program since 2005. Since their marriage Jack has also become an active volunteer in the program.
“One of the things that really sold me on the program here was that I could call the Center here and find out how my mom was doing,” he said. “Oftentimes, it is the only contact these people have with the outside world.”
“Mostly the people we see are glad to see us,” added Barb. “Sometimes we are the only person they see all day.”
“We do what we do and it feels good to help out,” said Jack.
The two will make their appearance in the Mustang Days Parade on Saturday, June 28. They will be riding in their Prowler, with Jack acting as chauffeur, of course.
By Patti Carpenter