Virginia Mullins jumped into the deep end when it comes to volunteering, so to speak, and she hasn't looked back since.

Following the death of her husband, Mullins admitted it was her daughter and a friend — who worked at Grand Central — who encouraged her to get out and get involved. Little did she know how deeply that involvement would go at the senior center, and how quickly she would gravitate to it.

"My husband passed away in 2014 and I was just kind of rattling around the house by myself and just generally depressed. My daughter said I ought to get out and do something," Mullins said. "I was just going to go down there and maybe play games, read magazines, whatever, and the kitchen manager asked me if I'd volunteer in the kitchen right off the bat, so I did. She made me her assistant after a while."

That role as an assistant eventually evolved into a job as manager of the API/Friendship Meals program at Grand Central, which Mullins has filled for a little over a year now.

While food service was a whole new world for Mullins, she quickly came to relish the opportunity to help out in that capacity.

"I've never worked in a kitchen to speak of, so it was really new serving people food because I never did have any waitress experience or anything," Mullins said. "They trusted me to do it. Some of them said I couldn't do it, and so it just made me want to do it more because it was kind of a challenge."

On top of making sure the food is delivered, served at the right temperatures and her other duties managing the meal program, Mullins also volunteers twice a month to staff the front desk.

Given her daily duties with Friendship meals, though, she noted she is always willing to offer assistance in times of need.

"I'm usually there all day long, so if somebody doesn't show up to answer the phone in the morning I always do it until I have to get into the kitchen for lunch," Mullins said.

Mullins also spends her time line dancing, learning to shoot pool and playing Rummikub at Grand Central. When she is not participating in all that Grand Central has to offer, she is happy to help — and it is this attitude that was recently recognized.

For her ability to bring a smile to customers' faces and the extra effort she has put into helping others at the front desk, Mullins was recently honored by the Harvey County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program as the 2019 recipient of the Sunshine Award.

The Sunshine Award is traditionally presented to a volunteer who has "significantly and positively influenced the tone of the volunteer station" and brings joy to others through their work.

"It was completely unexpected. I've always been shy and quiet, but since I've went down there I have learned to be more outspoken and talk to people, but this really surprised me," Mullins said. "It means I'm doing something good. I'm doing something that needs to be done. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing."

Volunteers are always needed at Grand Central, but Mullins is one who is clearly dedicated to continuing to offer assistance and to brightening the experience of all those she helps out on a daily basis.