Difference Makers: Cooper McKelvey’s volunteerism touches many in Sikeston

Cooper McKelvey
Photo by Aaron Eisenhauer

Editor's Note: The B Magazine Difference Makers series is sponsored by Executive Property Management and your local Edward Jones Financial Advisors. Read more stories at www.semissourian.com/DifferenceMakers.

Families in the Sikeston, Missouri, area have a friend and advocate in Cooper McKelvey.

The Jackson, Tennessee, native moved to Southeast Missouri nine years ago, and since then, he’s been involved in a number of unique projects helping those in need. Three in particular are Radical Christmas, Bulldog Camp and Spread Hope Now.

Several groups provide food and gifts to families in need each Christmas, but Radical Christmas is a bit more personal. McKelvey said the project has evolved over time to become sensitive to each specific family.

“The last few years have been more about meeting the needs of the families,” he explained. “Different groups would adopt a family, and they would go and find what needs there were for the family, whether it was household cleaning items or whatever the need was and try to help them out. The really neat thing is some groups have continued a relationship with those families.”

McKelvey, a loan officer with Farm Credit-Southeast Missouri, said another hallmark of the program is filling unmet needs.

“One thing the organization does is see where the need is and try to meet that, but they also don’t want to duplicate services, especially if someone is doing it well,” he said. “That has allowed those of us who have been kind of on the back end of things to ask, ‘What could we do different, or what needs could be met differently?’ That has been the unique part about it.”

While McKelvey plays a role with Radical Christmas, Bulldog Camp is his baby.

He organized the baseball camp four years ago with one target audience in mind — youngsters who couldn’t afford to attend fee-based camps or perhaps even the equipment necessary to play.

“The idea isn’t to teach kids just the basics of baseball but to show them opportunities, to show them things that they’ve never been exposed to,” he said. “Baseball is kind of an expensive sport, and for families that maybe resources are tight or finances are tight, it’s just not an option for them. So this teaches them the basics and allows us to have a relationship with the kids and the community.”

McKelvey said about 50 children attend the camp each year. Each receives equipment, including a glove, thanks to donations from individuals and corporate partners, which have included Wilson.

At the end of the two-day camp, organizers set up a water slide to practice sliding — a big hit with the youngsters — and sponsor a communitywide barbecue.

“There’s just something about being able to connect over food,” McKelvey contended.

The umbrella organization for McKelvey’s work is Spread Hope Now, a charitable group that serves a number of audiences from its location at 915 S. Kingshighway.

The facility includes a warming shelter and Storehouse, which includes furniture and appliances. McKelvey said the organization is truly helpful for families in crisis.

“It is really there to meet the needs of folks, a lot of times, in transition — maybe from a fire or disaster,” he said. “It started as a ministry to provide people with furniture so that’s one less thing the family has to think of.”

When asked how he came to volunteer on such numerous projects, McKelvey said his family’s history is rife with civic-minded ideas, and his involvement began at an early age. Today, he’s happy to play any part required to help those in need.

“It’s just been a real blessing to say I’ve been a small part of it.”