Volunteering a way of life for Charlie McKinnie

Published 4:01 pm Friday, November 13, 2015

For Charlie McKinnie, volunteering is part of life he enjoys.

“I try to make time for everything I do. If I can help somebody, that gives me more energy and more of a reason to live, knowing that you helped someone. Keeps me real busy,” he said.

McKinnie, a hydraulic engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District, is a member of several local organizations, serving as a secretary-treasurer of the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club, a Red Carpet Bowl committee member, a volunteer member on the Merit Health River Region Medical Center board and chairman of the Mutual Credit Union supervisory committee.

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He has served on the Haven House Board of Directors and the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce board.

“I guess one of my biggest problems is I haven’t learned to say ‘no’ very well,” he said. “My wife tells me all the time I need to learn to say no.

“I guess I was influenced growing up. I grew up in the Baptist Church in Jackson, and I was very active. I went on a lot of mission trips. I’m a Christian, first and foremost. I believe in helping people, which is what Christians are supposed to do; what everybody is supposed to do. I guess from that, I just enjoy getting involved and helping people.”

He said a lot of the things he volunteers for “involve something different; unique. Sometimes, there’s challenges with it, but it’s a gratifying thing I do. I enjoy seeing kids grow up and being able to help others.”

McKinnie’s introduction to volunteer service began in 1981, when he joined the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club.

“A good friend of mine, Bob Fitzgerald, said, ‘Why don’t come to a Kiwanis meeting.’ My first response was, ‘What’s Kiwanis?’ The first time you hear that word, you ask, what is Kiwanis.

“Kiwanis is a service club. We do service projects. We do a lot of things for the community. The nice thing about Kiwanis is we are not tied to one type of service. We do a multitude of different things.”

Besides being secretary-treasurer, he has served as club president, been a member of the club’s fundraising committee, and was Louisiana, Mississippi, West Tennessee District lieutenant governor for two years.

He became involved with the Red Carpet Bowl committee, because “somebody asked me to come cook hamburgers. The red carpet bowl committee has its own area to serve refreshments and snacks and food for the referees, coaches, school officials, coaches for the other teams.”

The Red Carpet Bowl is unique, he said, because it’s one of the last remaining high school bowl games in the state of Mississippi, adding he served two years as Red Carpet Bowl chairman.

“It has the honor of being the longest running bowl game, I think its 53 (years) now,” he said. “Being affiliated with both high schools is gratifying, that we can help Vicksburg and Warren Central. We also help St. Al’s and Porters Chapel. They play basketball as well.

“We raise funds for scholarships, which is a good thing. It’s gratifying to me that any kind of group like that that can help high school students achieve their goals, that’s what I like volunteering for.”

As chairman of Mutual Credit Union’s supervisory committee, McKinnie oversees a committee that reviews the credit union’s annual audit and ensured the officers and employees follow regulations set by the national credit union association.

“It’s something you get to do that’s different from your normal job, and it helps the members of the credit union,” he said.

McKinnie said the hospital’s volunteer board provides its board of directors with information from the community that will help the hospital better serve the area.

“ It’s real interesting, in that hospitals are audited and reviewed quite often, and one thing they (auditors) want to do is interview the volunteer board members and get input,” he said. “It’s very valuable to the hospital in that it helps them have input from the community so the hospital can serve the community support the community.

“We help doctors and the hospital understand what the community needs.”

McKinie served two years as chamber president, adding, “that was different. I got to see a lot of politics in that, but also I got to see a lot of businesses that support their community of Vicksburg. It’s very gratifying to know how much support businesses provide to this community. I enjoyed being able to serve.”

He said the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club has always supported the Haven House Family Shelter by helping improve the program’s day care playground, painting the building and doing other maintenance work.

“That’s an organization that needs a lot of support from the community,” he said. “Haven house is definitely a place that is needed by the community.”

Of his activities, McKinnie said his favorite is working with Kiwanis.

“The Kiwanis Club has been the one thing I’ve enjoyed the most,” he said. “I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people in the community, get to do a lot of service projects. He added the club last year raised $10,000 through its annual chili feast, which was enough to give scholarships to 13 Key Club members, which the high school version of Kiwanis.

“Knowing you’ve helped high school and Key Club students succeed is gratifying,” he said. “Kiwanis are near and dear to my heart. It’s a good club; there’s lots of camaraderie. We have fun.”

One of the things he likes about the club is the spiritual support, adding members are asked to participate in their churches, and the club says a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and sings the first verse of “My Country ‘tis of Thee.”

“A lot of groups don’t do that any more. It’s a down to earth, grass roots organization that just wants to provide service.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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