By Kodey Toney
Volunteers of America
English writer and poet John Bunyan once said, "You have never really lived until you have given something to someone who could never repay you." I think giving back to the community is the biggest gift you can give. This weekend I had the opportunity to see that true spirit firsthand when I was privileged to hear two of my mentors speak at the Eastern Oklahoma Leadership Conference hosted by the Oklahoma Family network in Poteau.
Lundy Kiger and Jim Berngen talked to the crowd of more than 30 about some of the great programs they have had the opportunity to work with over the years. These programs have helped develop communities throughout eastern Oklahoma and have been a godsend to numerous people in their lives. Perhaps more importantly they have inspired many others, myself included, to pay forward that spirit of giving.
Lundy spoke first Saturday and talked about some of the programs and events he worked with as part of the AES Shady Point power plant. As the group has seen a need over the years, Lundy has worked diligently to provide solutions to many of the communities in our area. And while AES has been the funding source for many of those, Lundy's giving spirit has been the driving force.
As I said Saturday during the conference, while working for some of the community organizations like the Panama Businesses and Associates or my wife's work forming and continuing the Panama Parent Teacher Organization, Lundy has never failed to provide assistance in funding for the many events that we have held throughout the years. It seems that no matter what we ask for when I call Lundy his answer is always, "Sure what do you need and how can we help."
Jim Berngen is a man I met several years ago when he was working with the LeFlore County Youth Services.
At that time I realized that Jim was a true giver. He was working with the children in this area to help provide a better life. That in itself is the spirit of what I'm trying to do with the Pervasive Parenting Center.
Jim went on to form a motorcycle club to continue that works of helping protect people in this area from child abuse and domestic violence while continuing to give back with other programs that he had developed.
About 10 years ago Jim decided that he wanted to start a Thanksgiving day dinner for people in LeFlore County. That dinner grew into also starting a Christmas dinner or people in this area. Last year's dinner fed more than 500 people.
Jim has also worked to honor veterans by, among other things, providing wreaths for graves and bringing in the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial wall.
As I mentioned before these two men have been mentors to me, whether they know it or not, and have inspired me to do things throughout this area to help others.
They are only two of the many great people throughout eastern Oklahoma that make this such a wonderful place to live.
Sunday I had the privilege of seeing this giving spirit in my hometown as more than 200 Panamanians gathered to hold a spaghetti dinner and auction to raise more than $5000 for a little girl who was recently diagnosed with cancer. The outpouring of support for this family exemplifies the caring spirit of this part of the nation.
It really makes it easier to continue to try to help others when you see that others would help you, and it makes me very proud of where I'm from.
Sent from my iPhone