La Crosse, WI (WXOW) ----- "The Jefferson Awards" is the nobel prize for public service and a prestigious award that honors volunteers in the community. This month we call attention to a man who has been volunteering for over 50 years. He literally transformed the tiny village of Soldier's Grove and he has changed the lives of impoverished people in four counties in the region.
Meet this month's Jefferson Award winner, John Young. If you want to know the key to John Young's success, you first have to know where he came from. "I grew up in the Depression Era .....in 1952. I was born in 1932, raised on a farm then went into the service. You can say everybody was poor then."
Understanding poverty was what gave John the edge to help others and being in the military taught him from an early age that nothing worth having ever comes easy. "I think that's the story of my life. I just liked to work." And work he did, inside his store, "John's TV." Here you see proof of that but it's the walls of "John's TV" that prove this man was way more than just a local business owner.
When John got out of the service he joined the American Legion it ignited something inside of him and so he began to serve others. In 1971, John served as a volunteer firefighter. He then joined the Crawford County Board of Supervisors, 55 years later he's still volunteering with the department and he helped the department get their own trucks.
After seeing another need he organized a volunteer ambulance service and to meet a housing crisis in his community he organized the county housing authority. 72 senior apartments have been developed because of him. He also developed low income housing in the area.
John also started a health clinic. There's hardly a place in Soldier's Grove that isn't the handy work of this man.
But there is another place where John has made the most difference and that is with Coulee Cap, a non-profit that helps impoverished families throughout four counties. The Executive Director says when john started with the organization it had a staff of 4 with a hundred thousand dollar budget and now it has a staff of 80 with an annual budget of 11 million dollars.
Johns says that although it's been hard work he's loved every minute of it and has no plans on slowing down. Unless of course he's not around. "But I got a few more years left yet." (John laughs)
The Executive Director of Couleecap told me John was re-elected board chair 38 times and missed just 2 meetings in 40 years.
If you know someone deserving of a Jefferson Award, nominate them by going to our website, wxow.com and click on the Jefferson Awards tab.