Kirk tapped for ‘CARES’ award

Published 9:28 am Wednesday, November 2, 2011

John Kirk of Troy has been recognized for his outstanding support during his 21 years of volunteer service to the American Red Cross at Lyster Army Health Clinic at Fort Rucker.

Col. Patrick Denman, Commander of the Lyster Aeromedical Hospital, said that Kirk’s selfless devotion to the hospital’s beneficiaries and staff was above reproach.

“Mr. Kirk’s positive attitude and team spirit helped contribute to the continual success of Lyster Army Health Clinic,” Denman said. “His professionalism to service reflects great credit upon him, the United States Army Aeromedical Center and the United States Army.”

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Kirk was also selected as the CARES award recipient for the month of October.

The CARES acronym stands for “compassionate, attentive, responsive, enthusiastic and smiling” customer service.

Denman said the CARES award is based on the MEDCOM standards of excellence for customer service.

“Those standards are friendliness, positive dignity, showing empathy when necessary and being a good listener,” Denman said. “Mr. Kirk is most worthy of this award as we recognize his outstanding customer service to the staff and patient population of Lyster Army Health Clinic.”

Kirk has been volunteering at Lyster Army Health Clinic every week since his retirement from the workforce July 31, 1990.

Every year, he has received volunteer appreciation award certificates and some years he received special awards.

Among the special awards are the Clara Barton Leadership Honor Award, NOCA Military Excellence Award and the Quilts for Valor from the Quilts for Valor Foundation.

The Quilts for Valor awards are given to military men and women who have been wounded in action. However, the exception was made to award it to a civilian when the commander of the hospital wrote the Foundation and requested that they make an exception for Kirk.

Kirk said that he is honored and humbled by the recognitions that he has received during his years of volunteer service.

“I retired in July and started my volunteer service in August,” he said. “It’s just my nature to volunteer. It’s what I enjoy so it’s what I do.”

Kirk’s volunteer service with the Red Cross included keeping time records for the volunteers and making a monthly report. But, on his own time, Kirk visited all of the clinics, wards and work areas to keep the patients and staff “pumped up.”

And a cheerful word and a peppermint could lift most all spirits.

Over those 21 years, Kirk became known around Fort Rucker as “The Peppermint Man” just as he is known around Troy.

Kirk laughingly said that he doesn’t remember when he started handing out peppermints “to ladies only” but it’s a habit that he enjoys and one that brings smiles to others.

“I hand peppermints to cashiers, sales people and folks I meet on the street,” he said. “It seems to brighter their days.”

Linda J. Smith of Troy agrees that the Peppermint Man brings a “mint” of happiness to all of those with whom he shares the red and white candies.

“When you run into Mr. John, he gives you a peppermint,” Smith said. “When you see him before church or after, he gives you a peppermint. When you see him in his choir robe, he gives you a peppermint and a hug. I think the peppermint might come with a silent prayer, too.”

Smith said the treat is not just the candy.

“The treat is the hug, the smile, the twinkle in his eyes and the time he gives you,” she said.

Kirk said that he always tries to see the sunny side of everything and wants everybody else to see it, too.