WASHINGTON – When Paul Eubanks Sr. answered a call for volunteers,he didn’t know it would consume his life. He was just a bored retiree with plenty of time and nothing to do.
Nearly 20 years later,Eubanks,72,of Corpus Christi,Texas,still a volunteer for the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery Program,was honored with the Jefferson Award from the American Institute for Public Service.
“The most outstanding award I’ve ever received,” Eubanks said. It’s bigger than the Bronze Star and gold flight wings he earned during 23 years of service in the Navy,he said.
He’s a “giving guy” who “never asked anything for himself,” said Phil Eubanks,his son.
Eubanks was selected as the 15th annual Caller-Times/KRIS 6 News Jefferson Volunteer Award winner in April. He joined 73 other winners from across the country for the national ceremony this week.
The ceremony is a two-day gala culminating in a reception followed by a dinner at which five individuals from the pool of Jefferson winners received the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for Outstanding Public Service.
Eubanks,who did not win a national award,was impressed with the other winners. “It’s amazing what these people do,” he said.
One of the overall winners was Holly Dunn-Pendleton of Evansville,Ind.,the only known survivor of the so-called railroad killer,Angel Maturino Resendiz.
After her ordeal with Resendiz,she helped many organizations and police departments in her area educate the public about dealing with violent sexual crimes.
Eubanks has shown similar dedication working with cancer victims.
In 1986 Eubanks,a retired Navy lieutenant commander,was restless and answered an ad looking for volunteers to drive cancer patients to treatment centers.
He called,trained and started carting cancer patients in his new 1986 Mercury Sable.
Twenty years and 25,000 miles later,Eubanks is not stopping. “I never realized it was going to take over a big portion of my life,he said.
After a brief hiatus this spring to help his wife recover from knee surgery,he’s back to driving.
“The patients need us,” he said.
Patients shouldn't have to worry about “how in the blazes I'm going to get to the doctor,” he said. Some patients have even told Eubanks they'd rather take their chances than get treatment. “That isn't right,” he added.
Just three weeks ago,Eubanks said he drove a woman who previously took a bus to her cancer treatments. The bus stopped about eight blocks from the medical center,and after hours of treatment,the walk back to the bus was too much,he said. She had to stop several times as she was overcome by dizziness and nausea.
“Her main concern is to fight this cancer; not to worry about ‘how I'm going to get there,'” he said.
Sen. John Cornyn R-Texas,greeted and posed for photos with the winners from Texas. “They've dedicated their lives to providing for others,” he said,adding that the recognition is well justified.