Each year, the Neosho Exchange Club awards the Book of Golden Deeds Award to someone who is a dedicated volunteer, who give their time, talent, and heart toward making their community a better place to live. The annual award ranks as the Exchange Club's longest running project.

The Neosho Exchange Club has announced this year's recipient - Ellen Arnce.

Arnce, a retired nurse and longtime local volunteer for a variety of organizations, is humble.

"There are many more people out there who are much more qualified than I," Arnce said. "I feel very honored."

Arnce spent 42 years as a nurse, most of it in a hospital setting. She graduated from Joplin High School in 1964 and from nurses' training in 1967. She married Navy Vietnam Veteran Charles Arnce in 1969. The couple celebrated their 50th anniversary earlier this year.

"The reason I became a nurse was to work labor and delivery, to bring lives into this world," Arnce said. "And I did, after I graduated nurses training in 1967. I worked labor and delivery. The majority of my working career which was 42 years was probably hospital. I've done it all, ER, ICU, minor ER, the floor, surgery."

In Arnce's career, she worked the longest at Freeman Neosho Hospital for a total of 18 years.

She also spent four years teaching health occupations at Crowder College, in the Vo-Tech division.

"I loved that but I wanted to get back into the hospital part," she explained.

The last eight and a half years of her nursing career were spent in hospice.

"I started my career helping lives into this world and ended it helping lives into the next world. That's how I tell people. That was one of the most rewarding experiences," Arnce said.

She retired from nursing in 2009 and became a hospice volunteer but she didn't stop there.

Arnce's list of volunteer experience is lengthy. She's very active in the American Legion Auxiliary and is currently in her second year as president.

"That's my biggest passion. I'm really zealous for our veterans."

Other areas where she volunteers include the Flowerbox City Newcomers Club, the annual American LegionAuxiliary Essay contest and poppy poster contest, Friends of the Library (where she works in th gift shop), Friends of the Fish Hatchery where she helps with the three fishing derbies each year, serves as Girls State Chairman, helps with Kids of Our Heroes Adventure Camp each year, participates in the Neosho Good Government Committee, Trinity Circle Horses Healing Hearts, became a volunteer at the Joplin Veterans Clinic in March 2019, works in the canteen at American Red Cross Bloodmobiles, volunteers at two veterans clinics, and works with the Mt. Vernon Veterans Home. There, among other things, she works with the Christmas Shop, a program that allows veterans who can't easily shop choose gifts for their families. Arnce is also a hospice volunteer through Angels - which stands for Alliance of Neighbors Giving Life Support.

"I sit at beside of someone in their last 24-48 hours of life. The majority of time it's in a nursing home situation. Sometimes it's in a home," she said. Arnce and her daughter also sing karaoke at several area nursing homes including Granby House and Medicalodge.

Exchange Club member Kevin Wilson notified Arnce she had been nominated.

"Kevin Wilson is the one who told me I had been chosen and said hoped that I would accept.

I'm very aware that there are many, many people out there much more qualified than I who haven't been nominated. I feel very honored," Arnce said. "I get a Scripture everyday - Psalm 29:2 -

After Kevin talked with me, I looked at the phone "and looked at the Scripture which was Psalm 29:2 and it said 'give God the Glory'. I said okay, so I will use this opportunity to give God the glory."

Arnce said there are several reasons why she volunteers.

"I love our town," she said. "I just want to give back because there are so many needs out there. The other reason, no one ever does anything on their own. There are always others. You're always part of a team."

The Neosho Exchange Book of Golden Deeds banquet honoring Arnce will be held on Thursday, October 17 at 6 p.m. at the Neosho Civic. Tickets are $15. For information about tickets, contact Janet Penn at 417-455-1117 or 417-592-6327.

"I will use this opportunity to give God the glory," Arnce said. "God is with me."