Burke, student service group lauded by Lions

Members of Culver's Lions Club, which instills in its members regularly its oft-repeated mantra, "we serve and we serve and we serve," honored community members last week who embody that same spirit of service, as it does each January at its annual community awards banquet. This year's honorees were David Burke and the CYCO (Culver Youth Community Organization) Club.

Burke, introduced by longtime Lion Pat Birk, was lauded in particular for his service through Meals on Wheels here. Noting Burke was born in Portland, Indiana and graduated from Warsaw High School in 1951, Birk added he was an outstanding athlete in three sports and received the Minear Award as an outstanding student athlete (in fact, he was inducted into the Kosciusko County Basketball Hall of Fame just last summer). He earned degrees from Purdue University and his Master's from Ohio State.

After marrying Janet in 1953, the couple bought a home in Culver in 1961, where they raised three sons and a daughter. That same year, Burke launched a 33-year career teaching mathematics at Culver Academies besides coaching track and cross country.

In addition to many committees on which Burke served at the Academies, he chaired a Faculty Academic Committee. He also received the Award for Outstanding Teaching.

The same year he retired from Culver Academies, 1994, Burke also began delivering Meals on Wheels in Culver. When Beth Reaker retired from the position in 1998, he became director of the program, which included handling all intake paperwork and scheduling drivers each month. This included making 20 copies of the schedule and mailing one to each driver, the postage for which Burke insisted on paying himself.

"Over 14 years that's a minimum of 3,360 stamps," noted Birk, adding that Burke "sincerely cherished the time he spent keeping the Meals on Wheels program active and serving our community."

The program, added Birk, required two delivery routes to serve the 15 to 20 clients during that period, in order to keep hot food hot and milk cold, and Burks not only handled his own scheduled delivery day, but was available as a substitute when drivers couldn't make it, she said, adding that in 2012, drivers delivered 1,427 meals on 256 days.

Birk, also noting David Burke graduated high school the same year she did, and moved to Culver the same year she did, said, "It's been a long service to our community, and we've enjoyed having you in our community."

Accepting the award, Burke admitted his family and friends had kept the Lions tradition of keeping his award a surprise quite well, and he "had no idea" the honor was forthcoming.

"Thank you," he said. "It's always nice to be appreciated."

Lions president Don Freese introduced the recipients of the Community Service Award, members and adult sponsors of the CYCO organization, a combined group from Culver Community High School's Cavs service club, and Culver Academies' service club. The students, Freese noted, were led to believe they would be giving a presentation on CYCO at the Lions meeting that evening, as a means of keeping the award a surprise.

"Instead we'd like to have you sit back, relax, and allow us to honor and salute you, your peers, and your directors for the outstanding service you provide this community and the surrounding area."

The two Culver schools, explained Freese, applied for a grant in 2006 to form a structure "wherein a public and a private high school could find common ground and an understanding of each other that would allow them to work together for community service."

With grant received, students attended a four-day seminar at St. Mary's College in South Bend, followed by a two-day meeting in Culver, attended by representatives of various community services organizations, including Culver's Lions Club.

Among the joint service ventures which followed, said Freese, were community Christmas caroling events, raising money for needy families at Christmastime, town-wide cleanups in the fall and spring, assisting with the community-built playground project in the town park, and book collection for African students. The student-run BIRD service organization and event was a derivative of CYCO, added Freese, who also pointed out CYCO members assist annually with the Lions' children's Halloween party, where CYCO students assist 200 to 250 youngsters in the event's games, "a tremendous help."

CYCO has also assisted Culver's Council of Churches and Lions with the annual chili supper for the food pantry, Freese noted.
"When you help people carry food to their table and wait on them (at the chili supper), people love it," he said. "It's a big help."

Accepting the award were adult sponsors Brenda Sheldon (a CCHS guidance counselor), Nancy McKinnis (with Culver Academies' Leadership department), and Culver Boys & Girls Club unit director Cory Monnier, who Freese noted has taken over as advisor to CYCO. Student recipients at the banquet included Culver Academies students Jordan Berger (a senior from Fort Wayne) and Mary McKinnis (a senior from Culver), and CCHS seniors John Ahlenius (Bass Lake) and Erin Bau (Culver). Bau, said Freese, was one of the local students the Lions Club helped underwrite for a mission trip to Mexico along with Academies students.

Mary McKinnis thanked the Lions for the award and added, "It's an honor to work with the community school and show that partnership -- that's what makes this group unique. I look forward to what (CYCO) accomplishes after we graduate."

Ahlenius said he and the other students have "just loved it," and thanked the club for what he said "is really an honor."

Berger said its "awesome" for CYCO students to come together with adult organizations in Culver. "And the two schools coming together is already amazing," she added.

Brenda Sheldon and Nancy McKinnis thanked Monnier for taking on CYCO as its head. Sheldon said Monnier brought a "breath of fresh air" to the organization.

"It's important to us that the (CYCO) organization is Culver's organization and that it be rooted here in the town and not just with the two schools," added McKinnis.