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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Helping Hands award presented

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Deborah Taunton, the widow of Dale Taunton, presents the 2011 Dale Taunton Helping Hands Award to Ben Layton for his work on constructing a new park in Pierce City. [Times Photo by Melonie Roberts]
Winner of the 2011 Dale Taunton Helping Hands Award is Ben Layton for his continued efforts to build the park at Highways 37 and 97 in Pierce City.

The award was presented by Deborah Taunton, widow of Dale Taunton, who was killed in the May 4, 2003, tornado. The award has been given annually since 2004 in Taunton's name through the Dacy Foundation.

"It's been eight years," Taunton said. "It doesn't get any easier.

"I would like to thank the Dacy Foundation for giving this award every year in honor of Dale," she continued.

Upon acceptance of the award, Layton expressed his surprise at being chosen.

"When I heard that Ben Slagle and Father Peter [Morciniec] were also finalists, I told my wife there was no way I could win. I think of Ben [Slagle] and everything he does for the community and Howdy Neighbor Days, and Father Peter, who opens his heart and his church to everyone."

Layton went on to thank many others in the community who have helped in the development and construction of the park.

"I've had a lot of help," Layton said, "but I love Pierce City and that's why we did it."

Special guest speaker for the evening was Steve Grant, of KY3 television in Springfield, who spoke of the Ozarks Honor Flight program.

"We're ramping up to take more veterans on each flight," Grant said. "We fly to Washington D.C., and visit the World War II memorial, then the Vietnam and Korean war memorials. Our last stop is Arlington Cemetery, and many vets think that is the most significant part of the day.

"When we return, there are crowds, waving flags and cheering them, thanking them for their service to their country."

Grant went on to discuss the staggering costs associated with the program from the $50,000 per-trip jet rental to the limousines, meal service and other costs. In support of the program, Grant said many different groups have held fundraisers.

"This program has inspired many groups of people to donate," Grant said. "It needs to continue. Time is growing short for many of these veterans. We have several on a waiting list, some have died from illness before they had the chance to take the flight. We want to make sure these veterans get their opportunity."

An auction of items followed the dinner and awards presentation. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Ozarks Honor Flight.

Entertainment for the evening was provided by Melissa and Denny Wolf.

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