LIMA — Mike Mullen’s life has often been about the kids.
He recalled growing up in a large family, with nine younger brothers and sisters. He enjoyed raising his own children in Lima. For 31 years, he was well-known for broadcasting high school games on WIMA-AM radio.
So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that he spends a lot of his post-retirement helping children, now through his involvement with the Lima Exchange Club.
“I’ve always been close to kids, I guess,” Mullen said. “I like kids, and I enjoy being around them.”
Mullen is one of the 12 local Jefferson Awards winners. Each received money to donate to a favorite cause. The Lima News will profile each of them between now and the streaming awards show the night of Thursday, April 22.
The Exchange Club devotes much of its effort to protecting and rewarding children. Mullen joined it in 1982 and is a five-time past president and frequent returning board member.
“Shortly after I was in the club, I realized their mission around child abuse prevention was something that was personally important to me,” Mullen said. “I think if I’m going to be in a service club, this is a good one to be in. Their focus is centered on something I’m kind of passionate about myself.”
The Exchange Club provides an annual scholarship, the Accepting the Challenge of Excellence Award, to students who’ve addressed physical, emotional, drug or family problems in their lives and overcame those situations to head down a road toward graduating high school on time with college plans. The group also awards its Youth of the Year for top academic, athletic and community service achievers among youth.
“Everyone just steps up to the plate,” said fellow Exchange Club member Norene Parish, who credits Mullen’s leadership as club president. “If something needs done for the children of the community or anything that involves elderly people, we do what needs done. … We get ‘er done, and Mike spearheads all of it.”
They also provide a Christmas party each year for an area elementary school.
“Fort he past 35 years he has helped organize a special Christmas party for one of Lima’s elementary schools,” Jack Somerville wrote in his nomination letter for the Jefferson Awards. “… This involves making up Christmas bags of hats, gloves and socks along with a small toy, eating treats and personal items for as many as 350 students per year in grades K-4.”
Mullen is also active with his church, Forest Park United Methodist Church, where he helped hand out food for eight years. He leads the homeowners association for the Village at Riverwalk Condominium Association. He currently serves on the board for Allen County Children Services and previously spent eight years on the board for Crime Victims Services.
To Mullen, it’s important to put his faith into action.
“I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes guy, and that’s fine with me. I got plenty of notoriety as the radio guy in Lima for 30 years,” he said. “I’m not looking for a pat on the back. I strongly believe in the Christian principle of using the talents God gave you as best as you can.”