Atwell honored again
Max Atwell remembers the words he used to train his children not to litter.
"They would say, 'It's just a gum wrapper,'" he said. "I would tell them in time it all adds up."
Keenly aware that it all counts, few have provided a better example than Atwell about how to add to the quality of life of the community. In the past, he helped found and lead a riding club and Jaycess, served as fire chief and sat on the school board. He currently serves on the board of the Johnson County Area Agency on Aging, is a regular volunteer for the Catch-A-Ride program, delivers Meals On Wheels when needed and takes it upon himself to police the Rotary Club's newspaper recycling bin and the city recycling bins next to it.
Atwell was honored Saturday as the De Soto Chamber of Commerce's Member of the Year. In presenting the award, Chamber Director Sara Ritter cited his long list of volunteer contributions to the community.
It was the second time in the last year Atwell has been honored for his commitment to De Soto. He was named grand marshal of the De Soto Days Festival Parade by the organizing committee he's headed for the past five years.
Atwell was again humbled by the honor, if somewhat baffled.
"I really wasn't doing it for any honor being associated with it," he said. "I really think of it as the right thing to do."
Atwell announced his resignation as chairman of the De Soto Days Festival Committee in September and to make sure his determination was understood planned a trip to Alaska for festival weekend 2008. He's pleased Reheema Samson of FCB Bank has stepped up to take his place.
"I was happy to see that," he said. "The festival goes back to 1965. There were a couple of years in there it didn't happen because no one stepped up to take on the leadership."
Atwell will remain active with a number of volunteer activities and is sure others will come along.
"There is always somebody wanting me to do something," he said. "My church (the De Soto United Methodist Church) wanted me to be on the fellowship committee. I said I'd be on it but I don't want to lead it. That will keep me busy."
Looking back, he has had many gratifying experiences, including the continued success of the festival.
"There's no way to be really sure, but as far as we can tell this year was the most people ever at De Soto Days," he said. "Last year was good too. It's picked up the last few years."
Asked to single out his most gratifying experience, Atwell said it was his time as fire chief.
"When I was fire chief, we were in the Dark Ages," he said. "We had six fire phones - one at City Hall, one with the fire chief and the rest spread around.
"I'd been at the fire department for a while and knew some people so I hustled up a couple of radios - one we put on the truck. Before that, once the fire truck was committed, there was no way to call it back."
He was also able to secure safety gear for volunteers and map the location of city fire hydrants, learning that one wasn't connected, Atwell said.
Another gratifying experience was helping Darrel Zimmerman relocate and rebuild the barn on Zimmerman's Kill Creek Farm.
"The barn gets lots of use for all kinds of events now," he said. "Hopefully, it will be there for another 120 years."
To those in De Soto who complain about different issue, Atwell counsels they get involved. He pointed to the example of Zimmerman, Jodi Hitchcock and Kathy Ross, who served with him on the De Soto Days Committee and works with the cemetery board.
Staying busy helps keep him young and as he's learned twice in the past year, people notice.
"There's just enough who say something to make it worthwhile," he said.