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Rotarians honor Joanna Buckles for Lifetime Achievement Award

Longtime Rotarian Joanna Buckles was honored at the May 17th, Gilchrist County Rotary Meeting.
Recently, the Gilchrist County Chamber of Commerce awarded the J. Min Ayers Lifetime Achievement Award to Joanna Buckles.
Gilchrist County Judge Sheree Lancaster nominated Buckles for the award and talked a little about her at the Rotary meeting. Judge Lancaster began with Buckles background saying, “Joanna Buckles was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She moved to south Florida and graduated high school in 1977. Then she moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida, she met her husband Steve while attending UF. She graduated in 1982, with a Health Science in Clinical and Community Dietetics degree.”
In 1982 she got her first job at Ayers Health and Rehabilitation as the Dietary Manager and Dietician. She and Steve married and they moved to Gilchrist County in 1984. In 1989, Buckles became the Administrator of Ayers Health and Rehabilitation. Judge Lancaster said, “Jo has lead Ayers Health and Rehabilitation to be, in my opinion, the premier nursing care facility in the State of Florida.”
Judge Lancaster reminded her fellow Rotarians of the many activities at Ayers throughout the years. Such as the Antique Car Show, Halloween event where hundreds of area children go to trick or treat, and the staff’s annual participation with the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk held each year in Gainesville.
The Buckles have two sons, Anderson and Schiefer, they also have two grandchildren, Lily and Wyatt.
Patricia Knight spoke about Joanna Buckles many years in Rotary, saying, “She is an amazing and incredible, woman, juggling being an administrator of the best nursing home in Florida, volunteering with Rotary, and her family.” Knight spoke of her willingness to show up and take action. Buckles was one of the first women in the Trenton Rotary, now Gilchrist County Rotary, she has served as president two times and went on to be the assistant District Governor. Knight described Buckles as selfless, dependable, generous, devoted and passionate.
Cindy Jo Ayers spoke on behalf of her family, explaining the life and times of her father-in-law, J. Min Ayers’ and why the Lifetime Achievement Award was named after the former State Representative and State Senator.
Joanna Buckles, the meeting honoree, was given a chance to speak at the end of the meeting. She thanked the Rotary Club for the special moment. Buckles said, “After 38 years of working at Ayers and being in Rotary since 1992, it becomes very difficult to accept recognition when my philosophy has always been, ‘It’s not about ME it’s about, we!.’” In fact, she has several quotes she likes to use including “It’s more important to be kind than right,” and “You can get what you want when you help other people get what they want.”
Buckles spoke of the hardship at Ayers since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic. She said, it was difficult with ever changing rules and regulations, with inconsistencies depending on the source of the information. She remembered early on when they were screening visitors and in one day they had 126 visitors. Then the sad news came that No Visitors would be allowed at nursing homes. During that time there were only lonely residents and sad family members that she and her staff could not console. Buckles said, “We worked day in and day out on wearing proper PPE, following restrictions inside and outside work, educating everyone as the rules changed and monitoring residents for signs and symptoms of Covid-19. This appeared to be the most difficult challenge possible. But, we were wrong. We made it until July and our world critically changed when we received our first positive Covid-19 resident! It’s hard to even imagine how we got through those six weeks. We were literally on a battlefield to save lives and prevent further destruction. Many of us cried on the way to work and on the way home, but remained tough for the residents, staff and their families. Our employees worked so hard to keep everyone safe, you cannot even imagine. They had become the residents’ families. The love they shared was so special.”
Now, with vaccines the nursing home is again open to visitors. Buckles said, this is a special community dedicated to taking care of the elderly and that she was proud to be part of it.
She went on to share a bit about her personal Rotary history including when she received a letter from Bill Clifton, which encouraged business women to become a part of Rotary.
Buckles shared some of her special memories from her 29 years as a Rotary member, such as fishing tournaments, Purple Pinkies, and Poker Paddle Runs. Buckles said, “Our Rotary goal is to provide a humanitarian serve and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. Rotary is about Peace!”