GUEST COLUMN: Pay it forward by giving to memorial scholarship fund

By MICHAEL O’HARA, guest columnist

Memorial Day weekend will bring forth the seventh annual Memorial Day ceremonies on the courthouse lawn. I have been informed of a special dedication that will take place no one should miss out on. I encourage everyone to attend. Our local VFW post has worked hard these past few years making this a fine tradition honoring our veterans.

Another event will take place this spring on May 1 at the Larry C. Banks Memorial Gymnasium at Brown County High School. It will be awards night. This is when our young folks will be acknowledged for their excellence in their respective areas of expertise. I remember years ago how proud I was of my youngest daughter, Molly, when she took the award for accounting. I know there will be many proud parents on this night as well.

They also will announce scholarship recipients. This year’s recipient of the prestigious Lilly Scholarship is a young woman by the name of Elisabeth Huls. She must be extremely intelligent to have been chosen for this award, and we wish her the best going forward.

There are many other scholarships available, too. Most have specific parameters for qualification. One such is the Larry C. Banks Bronze Star Scholarship. It is a vocational award. This is why I have written you, the citizens of Brown County.

In 1993, a committee was formed with the goal of establishing a lasting memorial to Larry C. Banks, who was a 1966 graduate of BCHS. He was one of the earliest of our Eagles to leave the nest when he volunteered to join the U.S. Army in the spring of 1967. Sadly, he lost his life in Vietnam the following November.

The committee decided on two separate goals. First, it would attempt to name the new gymnasium after Larry. That goal was accomplished on Aug. 3, 1994, and the gym was dedicated the following Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1994. I don’t think there is a single soul who doesn’t know about the gym or Larry by this late date.

To show good faith to the school, the committee decided to begin a vocational scholarship in his name. The Brown County Community Foundation was just beginning to form, and the scholarship became its first account.

Around 1999, the first Larry C. Banks Bronze Star Scholarship was awarded. It has been awarded every year since. But it has not been easy. During the recent recession, the foundation had to guard its assets by lowering the payouts to protect those precious accounts. Fortunately, our young people did not do without. Generous folks subsidized this scholarship fund until the account and the foundation were back on solid footing.

Last year’s recipient received a $1,000 award and to the committee’s surprise, it was the granddaughter of a well-known alum. That’s the good news.

How are we doing? The bad news is the foundation turned away an additional 50 requests. This is unacceptable. We all, as a community, can do better.

If you could read the thank-you notes the committee has received over the years, you would be moved to tears: a young man who wanted to become a diesel mechanic, a young woman who wanted to become a nurse, and on and on. There is a great need here in our community, and it needs to be addressed.

Our Brown County Community Foundation is offering matching grants of 50 cents for every dollar donated. There is still about $20,000 available. Think about this: If we raise $40,000, overnight it will become $60,000. Added to the funds in this account, maybe next year we can help four or five of our young people go on to become taxpaying citizens who own homes and send their children to BCHS.

I am personally challenging every small business in Brown County, every homeowner in Brown County, every child in Brown County to contribute whatever you can as soon as possible. These funds are open to all account holders. My dad used to always say, “Whoever gets there the firstus with the mostus is the winner.” If Brown County has been good for your business, then you might consider being good for Brown County.

Where else can you make an investment that increases 50 percent the minute you make a deposit, and it continues to grow in perpetuity?

One final thought: On page 19 of the 1966 Shadows yearbook, in the lower right corner is a picture of Larry C. Banks. He is helping an underclassman with a project in the metal shop at BCHS.

Larry Banks gave his all for his classmates, he gave his all for his country, and you can help him give his all still yet to this day by giving a generous contribution to this scholarship fund. Every dime goes into this fund. Only the investment fees and a tiny percentage goes to the foundation for clerical work and advertisement.

You may send your contributions to: BCCF, P.O.Box 191, Nashville, IN 47448.

Make checks payable to: BCCF/LCB Scholarship.

May God bless you all in advance.

Michael E. O’Hara is the chairman of the Larry C. Banks Memorial Committee.