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Leading by example

BY KELLY RODAMER

Sweet Owen Contributor


CHARLIE RIDDLE, an active member of both the Owenton/Owen County Volunteer Fire Department and the Monterey Volunteer Fire Department serves his community in various capacities. Along with his dedication to the fire departments, Riddle was instrumental in organizing the First Christian Church Food Pantry and continues his efforts there today. — Photo courtesy of Nicki Thomas

Charlie Riddle is not one to focus on himself. “I am about other people,” he said. 

Many in our community share this sentiment. The constant stream of celebrities and charity events on social media fades compared to the light that shines from the heart of Owen County: our volunteers and those who work tirelessly to improve the community. 

Small towns often carry the stigma of having nothing to do. However, in Owen County, numerous opportunities exist to gather with others and help those in need. Whether your passion is feeding food-insecure households, planting and harvesting, leading Bible studies, or simply giving your time, there is always a need to be filled.

People like Charlie Riddle have helped create many of these opportunities. His impressive accomplishments stem from a selfless heart and a desire to make the world a better place. Throughout his career as a medical professional, firefighter, and EMT, Riddle pursued countless opportunities that benefited the community at large. His dedication has helped bring programs for training and professional development to Owen County and surrounding areas.  

Reflecting on his life, Riddle shared his heart. Each job he has ever had involved helping others, and each volunteer opportunity allowed Riddle to use his skills and time to benefit others. Now retired, he spends his time making Owen County a place where people can thrive.

“We have a great community where people are willing to help each other. We’re lucky,” he said. “Not every town looks out for each other like we do.” 

Riddle and his late wife, Mitzie, were integral in organizing the Owenton First Christian Church (FCC) Food Pantry in 2011. At the time, it was one of the only places where food-insecure households could obtain food. Now, there are nearly a dozen locations for families in need to collect food, all with varying requirements. 

“No one should go hungry when there is food to give,” Riddle explained.

He is proud of those who step up to help and has observed the county expand its initiatives to feed the hungry. 

Outside the various food pantries, Owen County residents have opportunities to volunteer in the school system, at the fire departments, the senior center, the extension office, local churches, and more.

Libby Banks, a member of Owenton First Baptist Church, leads a group of women who dedicate time each week to Bible studies for women at Addiction Recovery Care’s (ARC) Eagle Creek campus, located in Owenton. 

“I retired from teaching and had more time to volunteer in the community,” Libby explained. “Speaking with these ladies has been a wonderful challenge for me. They are working hard to reach new goals in their lives, and I want to encourage them and share God’s love.” 

When Libby began speaking at ARC, three women alternated teaching twice a week. Her group has grown to eight women, and they now visit ARC four days a week.

Angela Walters, an Owenton resident and member of Banks’ group, says the opportunity to serve her community has improved her life.

“I look forward to my time with the ladies, and my mood and interpersonal skills have been positively impacted,” Walters said. “Since I have had the opportunity to serve my community, I feel like I belong and can make a difference in the lives of these ladies and their families.”

Walters’ sentiments echo Riddle’s outlook on service. When we put others first, everyone benefits.

Owen County Senior Center Director Margina King knows firsthand the importance of volunteers and the benefits of serving others.

“Because of my administrative tasks, having volunteers within the center helps accomplish our goals and create a sense of community and routine for our seniors,” King explained. “Our seniors benefit from external volunteer-led programming because they learn something new from each person that comes in. Each volunteer brings something fresh to the center.” 

Previous Sweet Owen articles have highlighted other organizations that rely heavily on volunteer efforts:

Food From the Heart is a food pantry in Owen County that is purely volunteer-led and always needs extra hands. Organizers Barry and Thelma McCormick were recently recognized for their exceptional volunteerism and service contributions at the 28th annual Governor’s Service Awards.

THE OWEN COUNTY COOPERATIVE EXTENSION OFFICE relies heavily on volunteer participation for successful execution of events such as Preschool Days. In the above photo, Ginny Cook Miller, left, volunteers at one such event. — Photo courtesy of the Owen County Cooperative Extension Office

The Owen County Cooperative Extension Office’s Family and Consumer Science Agent, Chelsea Young, offers unique programming for children and families, such as Santa’s Castle, Recipes for Life, and Preschool Days. These programs rely heavily on volunteer participation for successful execution. 

Owen County Friends of Animals provides extensive services for animals, including veterinary assistance, shelter, and rehoming. As a 100% volunteer-run organization, it relies heavily on volunteer time, monetary funding, and donations from the community. 

Each opportunity to give back is a chance to focus on others. Owen County residents have barely scratched the surface of the volunteer opportunities available to create the culture and community they want to see in their hometown. 

“When you spend your time helping others, you live a good life,” Riddle said. “Your time will never be wasted if you focus less on yourself and more on other people.” 

As summer unfolds, explore ways for you and your family to engage in the community. Look for opportunities to focus on others, following Charlie Riddle’s example.

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