VA Butler Healthcare honors pair with newly created Volunteers of the Year awards

| Saturday, April 19, 2014, 5:12 p.m.

Dave Cavanaugh loves to tell jokes, and his wit has captivated veterans at VA Butler Healthcare.

“It makes me feel good to make them feel good, and they do enjoy the jokes,” he said.

“With what they've done for us, it's the least we can do.”

Cavanaugh, 66, of Butler and Betty Slaugenhaupt, 87, of Saxonburg were named 2014 Volunteers of the Year at VA Butler Healthcare.

They were honored in a ceremony April 11 for exemplifying the spirit of volunteerism, leading by example and positively impacting the lives of veterans.

This is the first year for the award, which the health system would like to make an annual honor.

Cavanaugh, an Air Force veteran who served from 1965-70, has volunteered for eight years in the escort program, recreation and special events and activities.

He has racked up 2,199 hours of service, said VA Butler Healthcare volunteer coordinator Paula McCarl.

Although he technically volunteers as an escort, shuttling patients to and from appointments and activities, Cavanaugh said, he makes time every day he volunteers to visit the veterans in the community living center.

“I sit and listen to them, tell them my bad jokes, just to give them some companionship and get rid of that lonely feeling,” he said. “I probably get more out of it than they do, but the pay is great.”

Slaugenhaupt, the wife of a veteran, has volunteered for 25 years in the escort program and more recently as a dispatcher.

She has accumulated 9,169 hours of service, McCarl said.

“I thought it was wonderful, but I was shocked,” Slaugenhaupt said of receiving the award. “I didn't expect to be nominated. There's a lot of people there working that deserve it more than me.”

McCarl described Slaugenhaupt as a wonderful person who is extremely dedicated, giving and fun.

What McCarl said she admires most about her is her dependability.

“I know on Mondays and Fridays, unless there's something severely wrong or she tells me in advance, she's going to be there,” McCarl said.

“That's one thing about Betty I admire. She's always there, always friendly and always willing to help out.”

Slaugenhaupt got her start in volunteering after she retired from Du-Co Ceramics in Saxonburg.

She was drawn to the VA because she had three brothers fight in World War II and two of her brothers fought in Korea.

“I was in a hospital one time, and I saw how people come around and help you, so I told myself when I was retired I would do that,” she said.

Slaugenhaupt, who has a daughter and three grandsons in the area, said she plans to continue volunteering as long as she's able to drive.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at 724-779-6902 or

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