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McCrabb: Fatherly advice leads Butler County man to community service

Peter Engelhard Sr. pulled his son aside one day about 10 years ago and offered this bit of fatherly advice: Don’t be afraid to meet people and get involved.

His son listened.

Every since Peter Engelhard, 26, served as president of the Key Club his junior year at Talawanda High School, he has been active in his school and throughout his Butler County community. He’s one of those quiet leaders. If you’ve never heard of Engelhard, that’s fine with him.

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But every community needs a Peter Engelhard Jr.

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“He does the work behind the voice when promises need to be kept,” said Tina Osso, executive director of Shared Harvest Foodbank in Fairfield where Engelhard has worked for less than two years.

Then she added: “He’s a promise keeper.”

Here’s more advice: Save that sentence — “He’s a promise keeper.” — for your next yearly evaluation.

It seems Engelhard lets no one down when you look over his impressive list of community activities. For his volunteering efforts, Engelhard was recognized Friday as one of the two nominees of SELF’s Janet Clemmons Community Service Award. He and Jeri Lewis, of Kingswell Ministries in Middletown, were nominated for the award that’s given annually in memory of Clemmons, who founded SELF, to a recipient who has gone above and beyond in their service to the community, primarily through volunteer activities.

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Osso said Engelhard was hired at Shared Harvest part-time in July 2016, and full-time a few months later. He works as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach coordinator. It’s his job to connect people in the community with the services they need the most. He’s on a first-name basis with those who frequent food pantries and homeless shelters.

While most of us roll up our car windows as we drive by the less fortunate standing on the corner, Engelhard embraces them like a favorite aunt at a family reunion.

“Love talking with people,” Engelhard said about his passion. “I love helping people.”

He then takes the stories he hears, and matches that person’s needs with the services available in the community. He builds puzzles for a living. Only they’re people, not pieces.

Engelhard certainly is well connected in the community. He lived in Oxford throughout his high school and college days, then moved to Hamilton to be closer to his activities.

During his time volunteering he has played an important role in the lives of the children and adults as a Big Brother in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) with Butler County Parachute, serving alongside Sojourner Recovery Services clients in weekly volunteer activities or as a team leader at Power Source Ministries.

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In fact, Engelhard was so effective at Power Source, a program was started on Saturdays called Project Cupcake. Individuals gather children together on Front Street and go door-to-door with cupcakes or cookies spreading friendship and love to each door.

After graduating from Talawanda in 2010, Engelhard spent six years at Miami Regionals earning an associate’s degree in business management technology and bachelor degrees in integrative studies, and non-profit and community studies.

When Engelhard reviewed his life the last 10 years, he managed a laugh. There’s almost two Engelhards, one before and one after The Talk with his father.

“I’m shocked at myself actually,” he said. “When I take the time to reflect of my life and changes I made. I was just a shy guy.”

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Now, because of his community involvement, he’s frequently asked to speak in public. Regardless of the size or demographics of the audience, Engelhard delivers the same message: Start speaking to people so you can be “a leader in the community.”

It worked for him. He figures it will work for others.

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