June Kester oversees volunteers for Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs
at SkyRose Ranch in San Miguel
When June Kester learned there was a need for volunteers with the Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs at SkyRose Ranch in San Miguel, she had just one question – “How soon can I start?”
That was four years ago, and since then Kester has been leading a crew of 40-plus rotating volunteers as the Volunteer Coordinator for MOWP locally.
“Next to my faith and my family, Mighty Oaks is the most gratifying thing I have ever been involved with during my lifetime,” says Kester.
Naming Loretta Borges, Julie Diggs, and Susie Anastasia as her “right hand gals”, Kester coordinates transportation for those attending camp sessions at SkyRose. Additional volunteers include MOWP alumni Jeremy Wallace and Greg Gallow. Known affectionately among the attendees as “Mama June”, Kester also ensures the quarterly potluck graduation ceremonies run smoothly. From setting up the barn, serving the food, and cleaning up, she makes sure every job is completed.
“With the help of my volunteers, we pick up the men – and women, when it’s a women’s session – at the San Luis Obispo airport at the start of the week and drop them back off at the end of their camp session,” says Kester. “It’s just the most amazing thing to witness – the look in their eyes when they first get off the plane and then the look in their eyes when they finish their time up at SkyRose and graduate. The transformations are truly remarkable and we all feel blessed to be part of this in some small way.”
Kester is a past president of the CattleWomen’s Association and former Cattlewoman of the Year. She is a cattle rancher by trade alongside her husband, Kevin, the president-elect of the National CattleMen’s Association. Together, they have three children and two grandchildren and are the owners of Bear Valley Ranch. When she learned about MOWP from her close friend, Kelly Work, who provides horse rides for the Warriors, Kester stepped up to help and has never looked back.
“It was a Wednesday, the SkyRose Ranch caregivers had given notice, and there was a MOWP graduation set for Friday,” says Kester. “I gathered a bunch of my SLO County CattleWomen friends; they showed up, and we set things up. We served beef and it was a hit. After that, I have volunteered cleaning the lodge, preparing meals, doing airport runs – just about any job that needed to be done.”
That makes her the perfect Volunteer Coordinator, according to MOWP West Coast Regional Site Facilitator Jamie Warner. Commending Kester and her crew, Warner says, “When our volunteers pick up our Warriors and spouses from the airport and drive them to SkyRose Ranch, they are our first physical contact with the attendees. Their hearts of hospitality are an important part of putting the Warriors at ease when they arrive in San Luis Obispo. With the high volume of program participants at each of our programs and limited staff in the local area, the volunteers make it possible for smooth and timely rides, often driving several hundred miles in service to our veterans. As if that wasn’t enough, our volunteer cadre also decorates and hosts the barn graduations.”
Want to volunteer? Email Kester at firstname.lastname@example.org.