LIMA — It’s almost as if the Jefferson Awards were created with Richard Bowe in mind.
If the criteria for winning the award is selflessness and caring for others, that’s Bowe in a nutshell.
The 81-year-old Lima man, who has endured the loss of two wives to illness and a quadruple-bypass surgery of his own, for the past 20 years has been a regular fixture at the Our Daily Bread soup kitchen, volunteering first at its former location on North Street and since 2001 at the kitchen’s new site on South Central Avenue near downtown.
He started his volunteerism at the urging of Francis Early, a friend and former congregation member at the Elida Immanuel Church. “We spent three months getting this place ready” at the soup kitchen’s new building, Bowe recalled recently.
These days, Bowe comes to the soup kitchen twice a month, at a minimum, to help serve food or clean up or whatever chore is needed.
Since 2007, on the first and third Tuesday of each month, Bowe is a regular fixture at the Red Cross office on Collett Street for the agency’s bi-monthly blood drive, unloading and loading equipment into trucks and setting up tables and cots for the blood draws.
In between his regularly-scheduled volunteer appointments, Bowe can be found assisting his neighbors on Southwood Drive near Shawnee.
“I help my neighbors and anyone who needs help; I do what I can,” Bowe said humbly. “I also haul scrap metal for people in the neighborhood, just to help keep it clean. I’ll keep doing it as long as I’m alive.”
Bowe doesn’t volunteer to draw attention to himself or seek recognition. Quite the opposite. He simply draws enjoyment from bringing joy to others. Take, for instance, his help with the Red Cross.
“If someone gives blood and helps save a life, that’s good enough for me,” he said without hesitation.
The soup kitchen provides a similar sense of giving and fulfillment.
“For a lot of people who come here, this is the only meal they get all day,” he said. “I’m happy to help out, and I get to meet a lot of very nice people.”
Randy Kimpel, director of the soup kitchen, said Bowe is an asset to the site.
“Mr. Bowe goes above and beyond the call of duty,” Kimpel said. “He consistently donates four to six hours every month and collects and donates plastic shopping bags so our clients can take home food items and clothing. He’s a familiar face here, and that means a lot to these people.”
Catherine Reed, disaster program manager for the American Red Cross of West Central Ohio, added that Bowe’s “professional and pleasant demeanor is such as asset for the team, ensuring the success of every blood drive.”
Bowe was nominated for the Jefferson Award by his son, Richard Jr.