The tables were turned on Tami Klinedinst Wednesday.
Klinedinst, activities director at Pioneer Ridge Retirement Community, was struggling to keep back the tears as she always has to do when she welcomes a military war veteran who stops by to visit the residents.
"I usually get really weepy at these things, so I usually try to do something stupid because if I don't I'll start crying."
So Klinedinst, with a couple of dozen Pioneer Ridge residents looking on, read a poem to Army Spec. E-4 Matthew Roach and dumped a variety of candies into a basket for him. It was all part of the Pioneer Ridge Support Our Troops program initiated two years ago by Klinedinst.
Klinedinst, however, suddenly found herself receiving her own special award.
As she stood next to Roach, three leaders of the Kansas Activity Directors Assn. appeared and handed Klinedinst a framed certificate proclaiming the troop support program as the state's top activities program among those at retirement and nursing facilities.
"They told me not to say anything," Roach, a 2001 Baldwin High School graduate, said with a chuckle.
Since the war in Iraq began, Klinedinst started the troop support program by working with the Pioneer residents to prepare boxes of supplies for area military personnel in the war zones. The boxes contained items such as toothpaste and toothbrushes, snacks, pencils and numerous other things. One box goes to the local soldier and other boxes are also sent to be divided among the trooper's comrades.
KADA's membership will meet for a convention in Wichita Sunday through Tuesday. Various state awards will be given out. Klinedinst was not going to be able to attend. To make sure she got her award, KADA and Pioneer Ridge administrator Helen Frye thought Wednesday's reception with Roach would be a good time to also recognize Klinedinst.
"It was a total surprise," Klinedinst said after composing herself. "I wasn't expecting it."
Klinedinst's program was recognized because it involves the Pioneer residents and the community, and performs services for the soldiers as well, said Tina Ashford, KADA president, who was accompanied in presenting the award by Vice President Laurie Kloepper and Lisa Donahue.
"They make an impact not just here, but also where the soldiers are," Ashford said.
Frye, who has been Pioneer administrator only for a month, also commended Klinedinst as well as other staff.
"If you look at the residents' faces and watch them smile and then touch the staff, then you know you have a good facility," Frye said.
Roach, who is home on leave from Iraq while serving with the Third Infantry Division, said such support programs are welcomed by soldiers.
"It's because of people like her that our morale is as high as it is," Roach said.