It’s been said that James Brown was “the hardest working man in show business.”
But if the late “Godfather of Soul” has a Decatur County counterpart, members of the Greensburg Optimist Club might well say it’s Oris Reece.
And in fact, those same club members said a great deal about their friend and recipient of the 2013 Optimist of the Year award Thursday morning at Somethin’s Perkin’. After all, when one is involved in as many activities and projects as Oris Reece has found himself over the years, there’s no shortage of things to discuss.
Pastor Doug Preston, a longtime friend of Reece, complimented the Optimist of the Year for his dedication and ability to consistently follow through with his word, no matter the undertaking.
“He will work and do what he’s committed to,” said Preston. “If he says he’s gonna do it, he’s gonna do it.”
Pastor Preston also mentioned how Reece became a father figure for him following the death of Preston’s dad and how the two bonded through Bible study.
“He (Reece) does everything he does with excellence,” Preston said. “Thank you, Oris, for all you do, and thank you for being my friend.”
Friends of Oris Reece were in no short supply Thursday morning, nor were humorous anecdotes collected by the large group who gathered to honor him.
Hank Herpel, last year’s winner of the Optimist of the Year award, which was named in honor of the late James Greiwe, spoke of Reece’s commitment to the club’s popular Avenue of Flags program, which places approximately 300 star spangled banners of red, white and blue throughout the city in connection with particularly patriotic holidays — an initiative championed yearly by Reece and fellow club member John Nieman.
Herpel mentioned a few of the litany of activities in which Reece has been involved over the years — from teaching driver’s education to being an active participant in both construction and demolition projects of Habitat for Humanity — before officially welcoming him to the rather exclusive group of Optimist of the Year honorees.
Herpel also shared how his friend has helped him deal with recent health issues, providing lift assistance — in a driver’s ed. car, no less — when needed.
“You’re doing a great job in the community,” Herpel said to Reece. “God’s blessing you; keep up the good work, drive safely and keep us informed of what you’re up to next. It’s bound to be good.”
Echoing those sentiments were friend and current Optimist Club President Jacque Richey, who said of Reece, “His heart is just in the right place. There’s no question about it.”
He continued, “You’ve really struggled to make our community better and we thank you.”
Ken Hooten said the prestigious award “couldn’t have gone to a better man,” and referred to Reece as “a great man and a great Christian.”
“Oris, we appreciate all you do and congratulations,” said Hooten.
Optimist club member Mike Sefton also mentioned how Reece’s Christian faith has guided his life, remarking that the honoree’s hope is that he might one day stand at the “Pearly Gates” of Heaven and hear St. Peter say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Sefton said Reece’s award was “long overdue” and stated his admiration for his fellow Optimist member.
Dan Wenning was equally kind with his words, telling the group, “I’ve always heard there are two types of people in this world: those who are givers and those who are takers. Oris is most definitely a giver.”
Wenning added, “The people he touches are better because he’s in our lives. I’m really proud to share a friendship with him.”
Rob Billieu recalled a humorous story involving Reece’s “stolen” City Council campaign signs before giving the podium over to the morning’s honored club member.
Reece referred to himself as a “workaholic” who had put in 15 hours or more each day since he was a teenager.
He said that each morning he asks himself, “What can I do today for someone else?” and noted this philosophy was learned from the generosity of his parents who routinely brought needy individuals into their home and offered them assistance.
Reece later told the Daily News that his multiple trips to Haiti, including a recent trip to help rebuild a church destroyed in the devastating 2010 earthquake in that country, were some of the most fulfilling of his many endeavors. Oris has been to Haiti 14 times since 1979, in addition to trips to Honduras. He also mentioned his time as a basketball coach was a memory near and dear to his heart.
Ever gracious, the Optimist of the Year remarked that there were others more deserving of the award, which he accepted alongside Richey, Billieu and his wife Donna, while pledging to continue being active in his myriad projects.
“As long as I’m able, I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing,” Reece remarked.
Presently, Reece is working with Jeff Emsweller and Bryan Robbins on a community garden project that involves the work of Main Street Greensburg, the Agape Center, the Greensburg Rotary Club, the Greensburg-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce and Habitat for Humanity. In the near future, he hopes to start helping reformed offenders become re-indoctrinated into the community, assisting those individuals’ readjustments to society. But even with a full plate and items adding to it seemingly each day, Oris Reece isn’t planning to slow down anytime soon.
“I do everything I can to stay busy,” Reece told the Optimist Club members Thursday morning. “It’s been interesting; it’s been fun.”
Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056
Past president earns Optimist of the Year award
It’s been said that James Brown was “the hardest working man in show business.”
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