81-year-old Jefferson Award recipient inspiring those around him

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Lyle Hart isn’t slowing down any time soon. The 81 year old is just getting started.
With the help of other volunteers Hart opened up a food pantry to fill a serious need.

We were serving a lot of people in Black River but some of the people in Millston, Wisconsin weren’t able to come that distance. That’s 15 miles and so we thought it just makes it easier for the shoppers if we’re in their community.”

Hart isn’t just feeding the hungry. He’s inspiring people of all ages to do what they can to give back.

Jennifer Zillmer volunteers with Hart and says her kids really look up to him.

“He’s actually teaching them to volunteer. That’s a big deal. My kids will come over and they see him do this and now they want to go help at the animal shelter and stuff like that,” said Zillmer.

Hart is so passionate about volunteering for his 80th birthday he asked people to forget the gifts and give blood.

“I had a lot of people respond after they had given blood. Some it took a while before they had gotten there but
people wrote and said they had given blood and maybe I got somebody started. I don’t know. It’s amazing how
many people can give blood and how many people don’t,” said Hart.

As for the party, Hart said it was his best one yet.

“We didn’t sacrifice anything but I just encouraged rather than giving money or a gift. Give blood because that’s the gift of life,” said Hart.

Zillmer says her and Hart have become so close that if she needs a little help getting out the door with all her kids, he’s there. She says Hart has become more than a friend. He’s a role model for both her and her children.

“My daughter wants to donate blood now. She’s not eighteen yet, she’s ten,” said Zillmer.

Hart has been volunteering since he was in high school but giving blood is just one of many things he does. He also supports the Humane Society and the work they do.

“I’ve had a good life. It’s time to give back if I can. I’m very fortunate. I see many of my friends who never got to be 80 and I’m so lucky. Why not share it,” said Hart.

Heather Armstrong

Heather Armstrong

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