Faces: James Koenig gets involved by volunteering
If you attended C.C. Meneley Elementary School’s Earth Day play “Colors of the Tide,” you may have noticed the 35-foot long, 9-foot high backdrop with a detailed painting of fish, whales, dolphins, sea lions and other sea creatures.
The man who helped create that backdrop for the school – working 20 to 25 hours a week since February – is James Koenig.
Although he has lived in Carson Valley only about eight months, Koenig never passes up an opportunity to help youths.
“I enjoy doing it. It’s a hobby,” Koenig said. “My kids go to school there, and I like being around kids, working with kids.”
Painting the backdrop is not all he has done. Working with C.C. Meneley students, he helped create an 18-foot long corral reef for the play out of papier mache and chicken wire.
Last fall, when C.C. Meneley students were reading a book called “Boxcar Children,” Koenig worked with students converting a refrigerator-freezer box into a train boxcar like the one in the children’s book. A few months later, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Koenig and students converted the same box into a gingerbread house.
“I do most everything I do at the school for the children of the community. They don’t have to be my children,” Koenig said. “I think if more people would get involved in their kids’ activities, kids would have a lot less problems growing up.”
Koenig should know, too.
Before moving to Douglas County, Koenig lived his entire life in Texas – where he worked the last 17-1/2 years as a correctional officer in the prison system. During his time there, Koenig said, he saw many youths in prison – not juvenile detention or jail, but prison.
“I saw lots and lots of kids going to prison. They said their moms and dads didn’t care about them,” he said. “It’s hard for me to fathom how kids, or young adults – it doesn’t matter if they’re 16 or 21 – even can be allowed to go unnoticed for so long that by the time they are finally noticed it’s by the courts. But it happens every day.”
Parental involvement can help, Koenig said.
Although working with children is something Koenig loves, it is not all he does. As an RSVP volunteer, Koenig helps the senior center from time to time.
In March, the senior center had an auction and fund-raiser where Koenig cooked a large barbecue for the event. Starting to cook at noon on Friday, March 20, Koenig served 130 pounds of beef brisket and 50 pounds of potato salad at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“They got a good barbecue,” Koenig said. “I didn’t have any complaints.”
The county’s senior games begin May 15, and one of the volunteers at the week-long event will be Koenig.
Koenig is on medical retirement, while undergoing physical therapy for work-related injuries which were aggravated by years of playing sports, but he does work part time for Douglas County Parks and Recreation. He hires and trains umpires and referees for the county’s adult softball leagues.
If he is able to again work full time, Koenig said he plans to do one of two things, “to become totally involved in parks and rec or to open my own barbecue house.”
For now, however, he is content to volunteer and help the community as much as he can.
Koenig and his family moved to the Valley in August 1997. His wife M.J. had lived in the area about 20 years ago, and with Koenig retiring, they put a lot of thought into coming to the Valley. They ordered a subscription to The Record-Courier, called up the Chamber of Commerce and real estate offices and, basically, tried to decide whether it was a place they wanted to live.
Koenig, his wife and his daughters Jennifer, 10, and Amy, 9, do not regret the decision.
His children enjoy the area because there are more recreational activities available to them than in Texas, his wife recently started working at Caesars Tahoe and enjoys the community, and Koenig simply enjoys living in the Valley.
“I love the community. The one thing I’ve noticed is that people here remind me of where I grew up, in a small town in Texas,” Koenig said. “Everyone is courteous and friendly to people like us, who just moved here. The climate is wonderful. The scenery is beautiful. Being here is kind of like a new beginning for us. It’s really nice.”
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