01 Mar 2023
Curtis Richie plants service clubs for students of all ages
By RAY LINVILLE
It seems like Curtis Richie, the volunteer of the year for 2021-22 for Moore County Schools, is the Johnny Appleseed equivalent for planting youth clubs for the Kiwanis. “Bumping into Kiwanis and learning about their service-leadership programs changed my life,” he says.
Richie’s efforts to start and build the Kiwanis club at McDeeds Creek Elementary School was a primary reason that the school nominated him for the district-wide award.
In fact, volunteerism should be the middle name of Richie. As the school district’s volunteer of the year, he and his spirit are well known among educators, administrators, and students. What is also appreciated elsewhere is how extensively he is a good neighbor.
Although the volunteer award gives him well-deserved recognition, Richie’s contribution at McDeeds Creek is only the tip of the iceberg. He has been volunteering through a variety of programs and organizations such as the local Food Bank, Keep Moore County Beautiful, and Kiwanis Club of the Sandhills.
In fact, it has been the Kiwanis Club that has been the catalyst for many of his community involvements. However, it was Richie’s interest in golf that got him first involved in volunteering in the Sandhills.
“In 2010 I worked as a volunteer scorekeeper in a U.S. Kids Golf tournament. I’ve always been dedicated to serving kids,” he reflects.
Part of that dedication stems from his family life growing up with a younger brother and sister. “I was the oldest in family, and I was always there for them,” Richie remembers. He spent several years serving as a youth sports coach for them before attending Western Kentucky University. There he continued as a sports volunteer by coaching intermural teams and helping as a referee or umpire.
When he moved to the Sandhills in 2008, golf was a major part of his life. He says, “I was playing golf all the time, but it just wasn’t fulfilling.” His search to do something more meaningful became more earnest when a back injury stopped him from playing golf.
At another youth golf tournament, a Kiwanis member casually asked Richie if he would like to help at the Food Bank and pack meals for senior citizens and school children. His volunteer spirit then launched him in new and expanded directions.
He was drawn into the Food Bank where he has now volunteered regularly for more than 10 years and has also served on its regional council. About Richie’s role on the council, Michael Cotten, director of the regional branch, says: “He was always the one to give a project to. He’s the optimum guy for a volunteer task.”
There Richie worked side-by-side with Linda Hubbard, who was then the school district’s volunteer coordinator and established the district-wide volunteer award program in 2004. Winning the award that she established is particularly meaningful for him.
Richie also was intrigued with the community service commitments of the Kiwanis and their programs for students.
At the college level, the Kiwanis sponsor Circle K Clubs that guide students through service, leadership, and fellowship. Richie was instrumental in chartering the club at Sandhills Community College.
The Kiwanis also sponsor Key Clubs in high schools around the world for students to learn leadership skills through service and volunteerism. By planning projects, holding elected positions, organizing service activities, and conducting meetings, they are on their way to become future Curtis Richies. He helped to start the club at Pinecrest High School and continues to serve as the advisor for The O’Neal School.
The Kiwanis also have more than 1,200 K-Kids clubs worldwide, which are the largest service organizations for students before high school. Richie is the advisor for not only McDeeds Creek Elementary but also for Carthage Elementary, which had previously nominated him for the school district’s award. In addition, he helped to start the club at Sandhills Farm Life Elementary and Crain’s Creek Middle.
About Richie’s volunteer work with the student clubs, Cotten says, “He got the kids doing food drives. He’s really a person who is involved in multiple service projects and organizations throughout the community.”
Richie says that his work with students in Moore County Schools extends “basically from my involvement with Kiwanis. It’s such an excellent organization. You can make a difference,” he adds about the Sandhills club where he has been a member for about nine years.
He also became the club president in 2017 and then served as a Kiwanis lieutenant governor for a multi-county region for three years.
Cotten, who preceded Richie as club president and lieutenant governor, was extensive in his praise of Richie’s leadership with the Kiwanis, “His whole life is based on volunteerism and supporting the community. He’s a go-to guy.”
McDeeds Creek clearly holds a special place in Richie’s heart. The students there deserve special recognition too for how active they serve others.
“Those kids want to be involved in the community and want to change the world. Every month they are working on a project and getting set for the next month,” Richie says.
The club at McDeeds Creek is “student-driven,” he says. “The ideas don’t come from the advisors. Kids break off into groups of seven or eight and develop ideas. We ask them, ‘What are you passionate about? Who do you want to help?’ What they come up with is very inspirational. It makes me feel good about the future,” he adds.
“The McDeeds Creek club is a distinguished club, and Kiwanis is international. It’s truly significant with over 1,400 elementary K-Kids clubs worldwide. Only 45 are given the highest distinction; it’s a big honor,” he beams.
Let’s not overlook that Richie has also been a long-term volunteer with Keep Moore County Beautiful for many years and its efforts to keep area roadways litter-free. It’s a contribution that he takes personally. “We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. Dad would take us fishing in public lakes and ponds. He had one rule: Leave the place cleaner than we found it,” he says.
The widespread power outage in Moore County brought out hordes of volunteers — serving hot meals, delivering food supplies, offering warm spaces, providing blankets and coats, helping others. Too often after an emergency, many retreat back into their comfort zones of everyday life. Not Richie. Like the Energizer Bunny, he keeps going and going … and going.
Yes, Richie did win the volunteer of the year award from Moore County Schools — but that recognition is only the tip of the iceberg. His commitment to make the Sandhills a better place to live is very extensive.