Dedication and Devotion Help Those in Need All Year Long



Every Thursday morning at 9:45, Ken Lybarger grabs his keys and leaves work. It doesn’t matter if he’s in the middle of a meeting or closing out the month’s books, all of the office staff know what’s happening even if they don’t know exactly how it works. He gets in his truck and takes off for just over an hour, every week without fail.

As office manager at Lakeland Automall, this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Every week, 52 weeks a year, through Florida heat, rain and even the occasional hurricane. What is this feat that compels Ken to leave work in the middle of the morning? We took a ride with Ken to find out.

It’s no secret; thousands of people do it every week out of the kindness of their hearts. They stop whatever they are doing and go to a specified location, use their own vehicle and time all for the benefit of others.

Ken’s been doing it in Lakeland for almost 4 years and did it in St. Petersburg and other areas for years. In Lakeland he drives across town to a local church where two coolers are waiting… one red and one blue. What’s inside is what is important. Ken walks up to the waiting area, drops off the coolers from last week and picks up two new ones – one filled with hot food and one filled with cold food and beverages. He gets a list of names, directions, preferences and stops and takes off down the road.

As we drive around Lake Hollingsworth he starts to tell stories of the people he has known over the years. Some he never sees and others he has a brief but meaningful conversation.

As we pull up to the first stop, an unassuming house in a nicer part of town, the windows are all covered from the inside and there is a cooler on the front porch. Ken pulls in the driveway, checks his list, then turns off his truck and opens the door. He quickly opens the back cab door and takes a serving tray, opens the red cooler and pulls out pre-packaged food and puts it on the tray. He puts the lid back on the cooler and opens the other one, places some small fruit cups and a container of milk on the tray.

This time of year is just a little extra special. All of Ken’s office staff (he calls the office girls) helped in purchasing and wrapping a small gift for each stop for the holidays. Ken grabs the wrapped gift and places it on the tray and walks to the front door. He opens the cooler on the front porch, carefully places all of the items in the cooler and brings the tray back to the truck. He gets back in the truck, looks at the list for his next stop. He starts the truck, backs out of the drive and we’re back on the road.

“I truly am blessed.” Ken said as he drove off to the next stop. “I’ve got a job and a boss that allows me to do this every week and even though I can’t spend a lot of time with everybody, they really appreciate the hot meal. Hell, I don’t even know if these are the only meals they get.”

As we drive around the corner and what seems like the other side of town, the houses are a lot less kept and the neighborhoods start to see the wear of age and depression. Ken pulls up to his next stop, looks at his list again and turns off the truck. Like precision clockwork, he opens the back cab door, grabs the tray, opens the coolers, places the wrapped gift on the tray and heads to the front door. He knocks a few times and says “Meals on Wheels.”

The door opens and a man greets him as Ken enters. A few moments later he comes out, says “Thank you” and heads back to the truck with empty tray in hand. Like a flash we’re back on the road and headed to the next stop.

The neighborhoods get a little more depressed and the houses are now trailers and small brick shacks. Another stop and Ken gets out of his truck to do it again, and again, and again. Some of the people are home and answer the door; Ken is always polite and says “I couldn’t do this if it weren’t for the office girls.”

In between deliveries Ken is on his Bluetooth Carphone answering calls about business, directing callers who to speak with and how to get whatever they are looking for done until he returns to the dealership.

As we finish up one of our last stops, Ken points out a 1965 Ford convertible coming down the road. It reminded him of one he had when he was a kid – only it was a hard top. It’s pretty selfless to take your time to feed and check on people you don’t know every week. It does prove that caring does happen all year long and not just during the holiday season when most people feel compelled to give because it is the right thing to do.

It is the right thing to do, and not just during the holidays. Thank you Ken for you continued dedication to something you believe in so dearly. Even though we never actually met the people who you helped, we’re sure that your kindness and devotion is appreciated. We know everyone at Lakeland Automall appreciates your selflessness and service and the Lakeland Community appreciates your dedication. Thank you.

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