When he’s not at his shop overseeing a crew of skilled mechanics, Ken Valentine is out in the community, providing leadership to area youth and raising scholarship money for their future.
His service ranges from teaching kids how to shoot a rifle to chairing committees in different volunteer organizations. Consequently, those who know the 61-year-old man would say he embodies the spirit of service.
It’s for this reason the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce has chosen Valentine as the latest recipient of its community service award.
“The Community Service Award is presented annually to a citizen or organization of Waterloo whose achievements have a positive effect on the quality of life in our community; who has involvement in community service through business, civic, or charitable affiliations; and has demonstrated dedication to providing excellent service,” the Chamber included in its announcement recognizing Valentine.
Valentine, a quiet and humble man, shared feelings of astonishment when asked about receiving the accolade.
“I was quite surprised,” he relayed. “Many have told me, ‘You’re quite deserving,’ and I don’t quite feel that way. But I’m honored and grateful.”
The Valentine family name is well established in Waterloo, as Ken’s late father, Wes, started Valentine Auto Body in 1968 in the city. Ken took over the business nearly 40 years ago.
When Waterloo celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 1988, Valentine served on the Centennial Celebration Committee. He is a member of Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church.
In 1985, Valentine began volunteering with the Waterloo Optimist Club. He is a three-time past president of the group and was named Waterloo Optimist of the Year on two occasions.
In honor of his father, Valentine initiated the Wes Valentine Vocational Scholarship fund in 1996. Two $1,000 scholarships are awarded each year to two high school seniors.
Having seen Valentine’s volunteer efforts over the years, Waterloo Chamber board member George Obernagel said there is no limit to what he will do to extend a helping hand.
“With the kindness of his heart, he would do anything for you and the community. Especially the youth,” he said. “This is very much deserved.”
Valentine helped establish the Monroe County Longbeards as a sponsor 20 years ago and is a current Silver Life member of the National Wild Turkey Federation. Monroe County Longbeards President Scott Goeddel, a longtime friend, said Valentine is “a joy to be around.”
“He’s very giving and a great person. He really believes in the community and in the youth of today,” Goeddel said.
As a member of the Longbeards, Valentine participates in the annual JAKES Day youth hunter safety event. The program includes claybird and shotgun target shooting, a bow and arrow range, air rifle target shooting and the like.
“If you would see those kids, the smiles on their faces, it’s just heartwarming,” Valentine said of the event.
Having been involved in the Waterloo Band Parents Organization, Goeddel recognized Valentine for twice painting the Waterloo High School Marching Bulldogs trailers and trucks. Valentine has also used his talents to paint the Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School bus and for various other projects.
While he has done so much for his beloved hometown, Valentine said he hopes to see some of that goodwill come back his way.
“It’s two-fold. I’d be a liar if I told you some of it wasn’t because of my business,” he said. “I need the public, and I need to get my face out there. In addition to that, my dad would say that I’m the only one who can make this town a great place.
“And if everyone did that, this truly would be a great place.”
Regardless of his motives, Valentine indicated he has seen a steady influx of customers at his business through the years. The shop prominently features the certificates and plaques he has received from his many volunteer experiences.
On Saturday, Valentine will add the community service award to that collection. The Chamber plans to honor him during its annual social at Camp Wartburg. Doors open at 5 p.m., dinner is at 6 p.m., and the award will be conferred at 8 p.m.