As judges and other dignitaries arrived Wednesday, Barb Cox started to wonder what was going on as she waited for Gov. Mike Pence to visit the Shepherd’s House.
"This doesn’t feel like a tour," she said while her husband, Lonnie, chatted with Allen Superior Court judges John Surbeck and Fran Gull, State Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola, and Shepherd’s House board president Jane Surbeck.
However, this wasn’t just a tour.
Both Barb and Lonnie Cox, founders of Shepherd’s House, a faith-based rehabilitation center for veterans, were about to receive the Sagamore of the Wabash. It is the highest civilian award given in the state, Pence said.
Everyone else there was in on the secret.
As the governor pulled out the framed honors, he mentioned the life skills, Alcoholics Anonymous and computer classes offered at the facility, along with "an environment that rewards that progress."
A sagamore was an adviser who was of the greatest value to the chief in Native American tribes, Pence said, comparing the Coxes to the sagamores.
Pence had visited Shepherd’s House in September to tour the new kitchen and dining room area.
The facility, which opened in 1998, treats veterans suffering from PTSD, anxiety, depression, and addiction to drugs and alcohol.
The Coxes are now eyeing the adjacent used car lot on Spy Run Avenue, hoping to acquire it and expand services. The entire project will cost close to $400,000, they estimate.