Becky Mefford’s office in the Owen County High School building isn’t large, but the work she does to help underprivileged kids in Owen County certainly is. Shelves on one side of the narrow room are lined with food, and clothing items ready to go to students in need of a coat or shoes are scattered here and there. “We’re out of Pop Tarts today, sorry,” she tells a student looking for breakfast. It’s the kind of office where kids stick their heads in the door looking for something they just can’t get from home, and she knows them all by name by the time they hit high school.
Mefford has been the Owen County Youth Services Center coordinator for 15 years, and for her work making a difference in the lives of children, she was named the 2nd place winner in Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives’ Who Powers You contest.
The contest was created to reward and support co-op members who are making a difference in the communities served by Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives. Co-ops serve more than 1.1 million people in 87 counties.
Mefford works with Owen County youth from fifth grade through senior year in high school, and describes her job as trying to remove barriers for students to a quality education. “It’s a variety of things. Whatever we can do to help students graduate, be successful, and go on to future careers,” Mefford said. But Jamie Olds, who nominated Mefford for the award, said she does so much more than that.
“I feel she goes above and beyond for the community of Owen County, and I feel this is a way to celebrate the heroes who at times seem to go unnoticed in our communities,” Olds said. “Without people like Becky and these services there would be a great void if they were not available. This is a position that takes calls and meets needs no matter the time of day or night, holiday, etc. She is an individual #WhoPowersMe to want to look for more opportunities to give back!”
Along with mental health and social services, food pantry items, power pack programs and suicide prevention, Mefford is also trying to get students who are college capable ready for college, and what comes after. But for some of these students, she’s just trying to meet their most basic needs and propel them from one day to the next toward a high school diploma, and hopefully a life beyond that free from poverty.
But sometimes, even talking about how massive the need is in her hometown, where she went to elementary, middle and high school and where she raises her own children, is more than she can say aloud.
“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound a lot of days, but I love it,” Mefford said through tears that she couldn’t hold any longer. “It’s important for me because I feel like it’s something I’ve been called to do. It’s a mission to love God and love others, and I feel like I’m able to do that in my job.”
“Becky deserves to be recognized as a reminder that her work does matter and people do notice the sacrifices that she has to make, they are worth it,” Olds said in her nomination.
“I do it for the kids and families, most definitely, or otherwise I’d have been gone,” Mefford laughs. “You do for one what you wish you could do for them all.”
Mefford said she’s donating her $750 2nd place check to the program, because this has been a particularly hard year, and the program is behind this year because “there are just so many needs,” Mefford said, again through welling eyes. “My budget is tight, usually, so I’m excited to get it.”