EDMOND — Ralph Wheeler gives time away.
Wheeler, 74, retired from an insurance company and could have kept his time to his himself. Instead Wheeler, who already was volunteering, continues to use his time for others.
“I didn’t start volunteering until I joined St. Monica Catholic Church and became a member of the Knights of Columbus,” said Wheeler, of Edmond. “ I volunteered at the food bank and became aware of the high number of hungry people, especially the children of Oklahoma.
“I have also volunteered at Ida Freeman school in Edmond for the last 11 years. I do this because there are so many children in single-parent homes that need a positive male role model in their lives.”
Wheeler, born and raised in Elk City, volunteers at Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma on Saturdays.
“I feel like I contribute by helping the poor and needy and the Gospels tell us to do this,” Wheeler said.
He takes time to give of his time at Ida Freeman once a week.
And, Wheeler said: “I encouraged the Knights of Columbus Council at St. Monica’s to volunteer at the Food Bank, so since 2010 the Knights as a group have volunteered at the Food Bank the second Thursday of every month from 6 to 9 p.m.”
How important is that gift of time to churches, schools, nonprofits or others in a community?
Wheeler is an example of the value of the gift of time.
“Volunteers like Ralph are one the Regional Food Bank’s most valuable assets,” said Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank. “More than 33 percent of the food that goes to feed the hungry in our state is handled by our volunteers — that’s a significant number. We simply couldn’t do the work that we do without our volunteers.”
Wheeler “has been a faithful volunteer at our school for many years,” said Ida Freeman school counselor Brenda Landwehr.
“He enjoys being a mentor to our young students,” Landwehr said. “We pair him with young boys that need some extra guidance either academically or socially. He will sit patiently and listen to a beginning reader or help with a new math concept. Other times he is someone to offer a listening ear and some encouragement.”
Landwehr said Wheeler also helps with the Backpack for Kids program.
“He often comes to the school on Friday afternoons to help distribute the food that we send home with needy students for the weekend,” she said. “He has also been instrumental in leading food drives at Ida Freeman that support the Regional Food Bank.
“Mr. Wheeler has been a great asset to Ida Freeman through the years.”
People tend to use the word “great” when describing Wheeler and his efforts.
“He gets everybody motivated to help other people,” said Bobby Burger, Grand Knight of the St. Monica Knights of Columbus council. “He is an all-around great guy.”
Wheeler provides encouragement not only to those he helps, but also to those who give of their time in helping others in their communities.
“Everyone has some kind of talent to share that will benefit other people,” Wheeler said.