Home is where the heart is — and for the past 20 years Lance Diener has made his home at Hesston's Schowalter Villa, contributing a big part of the residence's overall heart.

Since coming to the Villa (due to medical reasons), Diener has always looked for ways to help out and immediately latched onto a role delivering mail to all of his fellow residents.

"To give people a smile on their faces, that's why I always said I'd go give it — getting the mail and getting a smile to their faces," Diener said.

Additionally, Schowalter Villa Life Enrichment Coordinator Cherie Wohlgemuth noted Diener is always willing to help staff with other tasks as needed.

"He helps us out in so many ways," Wohlgemuth said. "He is always trying to give a kind word and caring word to people and give them rides in their wheelchairs if needed. He's always there to lend a helping hand. We can always count on him."

Diener will also usher for chapel services and help set up for all the activities Wohlgemuth plans, which led her to nominate him for the Harvey County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program's annual Sunshine award — given each year to someone who is a positive influence and brings joy to their work, "which in turn brightens the lives of others."

Recently recognized with that award at the annual RSVP banquet, it held a lot of meaning for both Diener and Wohlgemuth.

"(I'm) privileged to get an award and recognized," Diener said. "It was a privilege to get that award."

"It was a big joy, because it made him feel good," Wohlgemuth said. "When we see him recognized and honored beyond here, it makes it rewarding for us."

From all that Diener helps with at the Villa, he has donated a lot of his time to volunteering and assisting others. Diener admits that service to others comes naturally to him and his father — a former principal — was a strong influence.

Prior to living at the Villa, Diener worked at Doskocil in his hometown of South Hutchinson. There, he said there were a number of workers who remembered his father and had many kinds words to share upon his retirement.

While his father worked as a principal, Diener would help out in his school as well, but for all the volunteering he's done, the fun mixed in stands out to Diener as well — whether taking breaks to play basketball when he was young or pausing to play cards with residents at Schowalter Villa.

Mixing in that fun has helped in his enjoyment of his own volunteer work and he recommends others looking to get involved should seek that out in some regards in whatever way they are thinking about giving back.

"Let volunteering be a mission or be fun," Diener said. "Have an experience or something in your life. Find something enjoyable."