John E. Cook became the 21st recipient of the Bill Hoyt Distinguished Service Award on Wednesday, Dec. 5, during the annual RSVP Christmas Party, held at the Grand River Multipurpose Senior Center, Chillicothe.

Per the nomination form, "the award will be presented annually to a person residing in Livingston County, Missouri, who does outstanding service for his/her city, community, village, or county." It was established on Nov. 19, 1994, in honor of then-presiding Livingston County Commissioner Bill Hoyt, who gave service to the county for over 35 years.

Cook was born in Chillicothe, where he attended both elementary and high school. He graduated from the University of Missouri — Columbia, with a degree in Business Administration. He was a member of Delta Sigma Phi business fraternity. He served three years with the United States Army, and returned to Chillicothe to work for Harden, Cummins, Moss, and Miller CPA firm. He earned his CPA certificate in 1964. He is currently semi-retired, and continues to work regularly in the Harden, Cummins, Moss, and Miller office.

In the past, Cook has been a part of the Chillicothe Parks and Recreation Board, the Baptist Memorial Hospital (Kansas City, Mo.), the Grand River Historical Society (treasurer), Grand Oaks Baptist Assembly Camp (treasurer), First Baptist Church for 40 years (deacon and treasurer), Y-Pals and Buddy programs, and the Chillicothe School Board for 16 years.
Cook currently serves on the board of Hedrick Medical Center, on the Chillicothe Municipal Utilities Board, on the Board of Grand Oaks Baptist Assembly Camp, as treasurer of Operation Help, as a member of the Kiwanis Club, on the Board of Trustees for the Baptist Home, on the Missouri Foundation Board, and as Pastor of Wheeling Baptist Church.

He has received the Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award, the Rotary Unsung Hero Award, was Grand Marshal for the 2011 Chillicothe Christmas Parade, and was featured within the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune's mychillimo "Day in the Life" feature.

Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney and retired Livingston County Associate Circuit Judge Barbara Lame (both past recipients of the award, and both members of the Bill Hoyt award selection committee) presented Cook with the customary clock plaque.

The full list of selection committee members is as follows: Winston Buckner (who was honored for his retirement from the board during Wednesday's party with a plaque of his own, following 18 years of service), Barbara Lame, Cindy Ireland, Betty Preston-Steele, Ed Douglas, Chuck Haney, Dr. John Neal, Charlene Coleman, Todd Rodenberg, and Andrea Graves (who is replacing Buckner on the board).

Past winners of the award include Bill Hoyt, Ruth Seiberling, Charlene Coleman, Vincent Moore, Lucy Murphy, Bob Skinner, Dr. Jack Neal, Dr. Leonard Fair, Ed Douglas, Betty Preston-Steele, Ed Turner, Bob Staton, Bill Murry, Chuck Haney, Dale Whiteside, Eva Danner, Jerry Wilford, R. Wayne Cunningham, Ken Lauhoff, and Barbara Lame.

Time was taken out to recall the six deceased winners — Hoyt, Seiberling, Moore, Skinner, Staton, and Murry.

The RSVP Christmas Recognition Party officially began shortly after 2 p.m., at the Multipurpose Center, 607 W. Business 36, Chillicothe, with refreshments of punch, coffee, and cookies available to guests. Jamie Pauls provided introductory Christmas music on the piano.

Eva Danner Horton served as Master of Ceremonies for the event, and led the group in greetings and opening prayer. She chose an example from Ripley's Believe It or Not regarding a bar of steel and its many uses and worths when made into different items to describe the community's RSVP volunteers.

"What is important is how the raw talent is used," she said.

The Chillicothe High School Choraliers, led by vocal instructor Penny Denton, provided a compilation of holiday numbers, including "Deck the Halls," "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and "I'm Getting Nothing for Christmas," among others.

Danner Horton followed the Choraliers with a pair of inspirational readings — History of an Apron for the women in the crowd, and Dirt Roads for the men.

Patty Mefford, RSVP Director, then took to the microphone, to thank the many local volunteers for all that they do for the community.

"You're an inspiration to me, and to others," she said. "And you probably don't hear that enough, so I'm going to speak for everybody."

Debbie Colton earned a gift certificate from Mefford for successfully completing the puzzle within the Party pamphlet.

Following the award presentations to Buckner and Cook, "thank yous" were extended to the Christmas Recognition Committee (Chair Clara Ratliff, Mary Davis, Theresa Figg, Marilyn Keith, Sherry Weldon, and Sandy Wheeler), to the RSVP Advisory Council members and volunteers (who helped put cookies on plates, decorate, and serve the party), to Threads Thrift Store (who provided the Santa centerpieces), and to donors for the party — Chillicothe Commerce Center ($100), Grand River Historical Society ($50), Hedrick Medical Center ($150), and Serve Link Home Care, Inc. ($25).

Calendars were passed out as party gifts for all of those in attendance.

The Livingston County RSVP began in Sept. 1973. It is partially funded by the Corporation for National and Community Services with a federal grant this year of $39,678, which comes to their sponsoring organization, Concerned Citizens for Community, Inc. The grant must be met with at least a 30 percent match from the community. Livingston County RSVP has approximately 350 volunteers, and they contribute 50,000 hours of service to the community each year.

Patty Mefford serves as the RSVP Director. Theresa Figg is the Administrative Assistant. Sharon Petree is the THREADS Coordinator.