By Joseph Pratt
Over the years, I’ve come across some pretty great people who give me continuous hope for our little city. I enjoy writing about these organizations and the people who work hard and make differences in something they are passionate about.
The Dalai Lama XIV once said that “our prime purpose in this life is to help others,” and I am happy to say I know many people who spend their lives helping others.
I see these people, who stand as pillars of the community through volunteer work and philanthropy, at various events around town: Rotary, Kiwanis, in the Chamber of Commerce, et cetera. I see these people volunteering or benefiting the Salvation Army, the Scioto County Homeless Shelter, Goodwill Industries, and so on.
Most of these area benefactors all know each other, but one of my favorites always falls below the radar. Whenever mention him, people are often surprised, because he keeps such a low profile.
Ray Shonkwiler is the man I speak of. Ray is the store manager of the Portsmouth McDonald’s, where he uses his position in the company to host benefits for non-profit organizations and schools within the area. He isn’t a Rotarian and he doesn’t speak at Kiwanis meetings; his job certainly doesn’t require him to raise awareness or funds for any anything other than his company.
However, even with his stressful job, Ray is an extremely humble man who does a lot for the area and I respect him greatly.
To understand Ray’s dedication to serving others, both with food and through service projects, you have to know his history with the food chain.
Ray loves to move the spotlight over and brag on Bruce Parsley, the Portsmouth store owner. He always gives credit to his store owner for letting him have freedom with his benefits, but his gratitude goes deeper than that.
Through various health issues years ago, Ray received a lot of support from the McDonald’s corporation, as well as Parsley. Since then, he has returned the kindness by dedicating a lot of his time to helping others through his role as manager of the Portsmouth store.
Generally sticking with the idea of helping children, Ray has held many, many events for local schools and teachers, as well as the Autism Project of Southern Ohio. He has also assisted New Boston Schools for years in receiving an annual McDonald’s grant that provides funding for physical education activities.
He only recently undertook the Steven A Hunter Hope Fund, which he assisted in feeding over 20 local children with food for an entire school year.
All of Ray’s events are organized with charisma and energy. Once he chooses a theme, he runs with it, spending his own money on decorations, candy and prizes, rewards for his staff, and so on. His staff gets heavily involved as well, wearing costumes and hosting games for kids. The love he has for the community is evident through his actions, and he only shares it, instilling it to his employees.
We often hear different variations of the quote saying “you need to be the change you want to see in the world.” If only everyone looked at some of today’s problems the way Ray and his staff does, there wouldn’t be much change needing to be sought after.
Volunteerism is as easy as a weekly shift in the food kitchen, and if everyone did something, it would be hard to imagine the world we would live in. We already get small glances at this reality with the many Rays of this community and all they accomplish through service to others.
Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.