By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
When asked about his long history of community service, both during his career in law enforcement and during his retirement, B.L. Heckathorn simply shrugs his shoulders and smiles.
"It's just about serving other people," said Heckathorn. "I've done it all my life."
After serving the public for 17 years as a detective with the Harker Heights Police Department, the 77-year-old Heckathorn now volunteers his time at the Bob Gilmore Senior Center in Killeen as an assistant cook.
"I was retired, and I wanted something to do," said Heckathorn. "So I came (to the center) and asked what I could do and they made a cook out of me."
While many people only volunteer for the holidays, lending a helping hand to others is something Heckathorn plans to do year-round.
Heckathorn works in the center's kitchen nearly every day, and helps to set up, cook and serve the hot lunch offered to seniors. He estimated that the kitchen serves up to 45 seniors per day.
"For some of these men and women, this is the only hot meal they might get all day," said Margo Coster, the center's program coordinator. "Making sure they get a good meal is critical, which is why volunteers like (Heckathorn) are so important to what we do."
Coster said volunteers like Heckathorn, who work hard and care about the center's seniors, are even more important during the holiday season, when many senors are looking for a warm meal and camaraderie.
"Some of them don't have any family, so they are here almost every day," said Coster. "During the holidays, they want to come here to talk and eat and feel good. They want to have that feeling of being with a family."
Coster said Heckathorn was a shining example of the commitment and dedicated work ethic of the center's volunteers.
"Whether it's peeling potatoes or cleaning the dishes, he is always ready to jump in and help out," she said. "He goes out of his way to help others and everyone at the center loves him."
It's not just his work ethic that makes Heckathorn a good volunteer. Coster praised the assistant cook for his attitude and rapport with those who frequent the center.
"He is always happy, always in a good mood and always smiling," Coster said. "He's personable and everybody loves him; he's like a member of the family."
Heckathorn said he tries to help whenever he can, and he even assists some of center's members by giving them rides to medical appointments.
"There's not much to it; it's just about getting out there and helping other people," said Heckathorn. "That's just how you do it."
Contact Chris McGuinness at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568.
How to help
The Bob Gilmore Senior Center was built in 1977 and has continued to serve seniors in the Killeen area for more than 30 years. The center offers classes and activities such as art, dance, yoga and ceramics.
The center also offers one hot meal a day for $2. Seniors who visit the center can get information about services and resources within the community.
The center is at 2205 E. Veterans Memorial Blvd., and is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Those interested in volunteering at the center can call (254) 953-4796 or go to www.ci.killeen.tx.us for more information.