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Larry Mengel thought it was fine to make Cs in school and excel in sports until his history teacher, who also was his basketball coach, pulled him aside one day.
He told Mengel he had a lot of potential and could go to college if he wanted, especially on a sports scholarship. He also said the boy was on a track to nowhere if he didn’t get his grades up.
Mengel had never considered college before.
“He made a lasting impression on an awkward, mediocre teenager,” he said. “He convinced me that life wasn’t just about me and that the world expected more from me.”
That motivation followed Mengel through a lifetime of military and community service with 30 years in the U.S. Army and volunteering with the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity since 1996. He also led the chapter for 10 years.
His hard work earned him the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Boy Scouts of America Lincoln Heritage Council during a ceremony Monday at Grace Heartland Church in Elizabethtown.
The retired colonel said he understands how valuable scouting is to young men and their communities because he earned the rank of first class in the organization.
He thinks there are many boys and girls who are coasting who might benefit the community if they receive encouragement and positive leadership.
Mengel said all citizens need to be aware of the people around them living in substandard housing or who have no shelter at all.
He hopes he and others can make an impact for those people and the next generation will have the principles and dedication to do even more.
State Rep. Tim Moore said Mengel has been involved in many projects in the community, such as the creation of a facility for Warm Blessings in Elizabethtown.
“The reason Larry really shines is because of the careers he had after he retired,” he said.
Mengel and his wife, Martha, have worked hard and demonstrated his worthiness to be honored by the award, Moore said.
Mengel should be honored because of all the lives he has touched, the people who have homes because of his dedication and leadership and the change in people who have picked up hammers alongside him and seen what it means to make the world a better place, Moore said.
“I know Larry Mengel,” he said. “I know he serves. I know he loves because of the motivation he has to serve and love the lord Jesus Christ.”
Maj. Gen. Ret. Bill Barron said Mengel has shown dedication through his military service and community service.
“Bottom line, Larry Mengel walks the walk, and you do great service to this community,” he said.
Being involved in the Scouts tends to instill qualities of leadership and service, Barron said.
The Scouts prepare quality people who have the versatility to face the odds, the drive to participate in citizenship and other qualities that help them lead fulfilling lives in which they contribute to the people around them, he said.
“History had proven that the people involved in scouting today will be the next generation of leaders,” he said.
Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or firstname.lastname@example.org.