The Adair County courthouse, Columbia’s signature centerpiece, is one of the many touchstones of Ellen Zornes’ volunteer service to the community.
Thirty years ago, when she and her husband, attorney J.D. Zornes, were considering a move to Columbia and drove down Jamestown Street, the courthouse was the first thing that caught her eye.
“When we topped that hill, I said, ‘J.D., I’m home. This is where I want to live.’ I thought that courthouse was the prettiest thing that I had seen in such a long time, and there were just so many nice, older homes, and the square was so pretty,” Zornes remembers.
Three decades later, she finds herself chairing one of the committees dedicated to saving the endangered courthouse from being demolished following construction of a new judicial complex.
Helping to preserve the historic landmark is one of a long list of community projects that led to Zornes’ Cooperative Hero nomination. She and her husband are members of Taylor County RECC.
The daughter of Baptist home missionaries who served in both eastern and western Kentucky and in Baltimore, Md., Zornes first got involved in volunteer work and student government during high school and community college in Henderson, and continued at the University of Kentucky.
Beyond her efforts to save the Adair County courthouse, she is a founding member of LEAD Adair County, is co-founder of a grandparents-raising-children group, READ Adair County, and the local Salvation Army Angel Tree for seniors.
She has been involved in the creation of the Green River Animal Shelter, is president of the board of directors and acting director of the Lake Cumberland Children’s Advocacy Center, is involved in two afterschool programs for children, and is on the education division advisory council at Lindsey Wilson College.
“I guess I really suffered terribly with empty-nest syndrome when both of our sons left home and I realized I had time that I needed to fill,” says Zornes, who is district coordinator of dropout prevention for Adair County schools.
“Nobody does stuff by themselves, it takes us all,” Zornes says. “I hope that most people are trying to make the world a better place…and I don’t want to be a spectator. I want to be out there participating.”