Community Builder: 84-year-old Dorn VA volunteer serves up coffee and smiles

Community Builder: 84-year-old Dorn VA volunteer serves up coffee and smiles
(Source: WIS)
(Source: WIS)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Vernetha Wannamaker has been a volunteer at the Dorn VA for two decades, and at 84-years young, she has no plans of stopping any time soon.

Once a week you'll find Wannamaker inside the lobby at the Dorn VA hospital serving coffee.

"I've been coming here 11 years, and she serves the best coffee at the VA," said veteran Reginald Dargan.

Stay a while and you'll see each cup of coffee that Wannamaker makes comes with a side of joy.

"Everybody she meets is with a smile and joy," said William Bell, who helps coordinate volunteers with the Disabled American Veterans group at Dorn VA. "She gives them sweets and laughs and smiles. She's a blessing around here."

Wannamaker has been serving up smiles for nearly 20 years. She says she started coming after her husband passed away. But Wannamaker said serving others has always been a part of her story.

"They said, when I was conceived they tried to get rid of me, but God said, 'No, I've got work for her to do,'" Wannamaker said.

When Wannamaker was born, she was left in a box on a doorstep. Throughout her life, she's battled a brain tumor and the loss of all four of her children.

"Her testimony is a marvel of perseverance and faith," said Wannamaker's pastor, Rev. Clarence Johnson. "If you put your faith and trust in Jesus, He'll somehow make a way and pull you through."

"She's like a legend in my book, and so that was my reason for nominating her," said Wannamaker's niece Shirley Richardson.

Richardson nominated Wannamaker as a WIS Community Builder in partnership with Mungo Homes. Wannamaker was truly surprised when Matt Mungo presented her with the news that she's our latest honoree.

"I just wanted to say that because of all your hard work in the community and at the VA hospital, you have been nominated and chosen as a Community Builder!" said Mungo.

Wannamaker was so excited to see her nieces, she missed the big announcement.

"Did you hear what he said?" we asked. "Who?" she replied. "Matt!" we responded. "What he said?" asked Wannamaker.

"You've been chosen as our Community Builder!"

With a big smile and a loud burst of cheers, Wannamaker replied, "Oh good!! Yeah!!! Oh I got a hat, too! It might be too little!" she said as she laughed. After thanking everyone, Wannamaker added, "God bless, God bless. Now I got to serve coffee."

And she went back to do doing what she does best: serving smiles, with a side of coffee.

As a Community Builder, Wannamaker will receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of her choice from the Michael J. Mungo Foundation.

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