Top three 2020 PROUD Volunteers, from left, Kevin Cooper, Lead Technician in Water Production; Lawrence Strawn, Manager of Corporate Analytics & Planning; and Michael Stephens, Manager of Security. Cooper and Strawn volunteer with Scout troops while Stephens volunteers with Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and Eau Gallie High School football team.
In observance of National Volunteer Week, April 18-24, OUC is recognizing the top three 2020 PROUD Volunteers ― Kevin Cooper, Lead Technician in Water Production; Lawrence Strawn, Manager of Corporate Analytics & Planning; and Michael Stephens, Manager of Security. The PROUD Volunteer program encourages and rewards employees for their volunteer work in the community.
Amid the socially limiting effects of a pandemic, employees and retirees contributed more than 3,345 hours in 2020 as part of OUC’s PROUD Volunteer program. Cooper, Strawn and Stephens contributed over a third of the company’s total volunteer hours to their special causes. They were honored at the January Board meeting, and each received a plaque commemorating their volunteerism.
Cooper led all volunteers with 481.5 hours, time well spent as the Assistant Scoutmaster of Scout Troop 507 in Lake Mary. He has been involved in Scouting since his son, Griffin, joined Cub Scouts in first grade. Now in seventh grade, Griffin, 13, has earned the rank of First Class as a Scout.
Being involved in the leadership development of youth is very rewarding, says Cooper, who wasn’t a Scout in his youth. “It’s really, really cool to watch them go from one step to the next and the next and see how they grow and turn into leaders.”
Cooper says Scouts lead troop functions, including campouts, with involved adults like himself working in supporting roles. He organizes appearances of the troop’s flag corps and leads orientations for parents who want to participate in camping trips, teaching them outdoor skills, like how to use knives and build a campfire.
With Scouting activities going on almost every week and campouts taking entire weekends or longer, Cooper quickly racks up volunteer hours. He’s logged 180.5 in the first three months of 2021.
“I love it; that’s why I do this,” he says. “It’s a wonderful experience watching a young man who may be timid come out of his shell and lead other Scouts.”
Strawn volunteered 399.5 hours as the Scoutmaster of Scout Troop 23 in Orlando. Scouting was not something he experienced as a boy, but he is making up for that omission with his involvement in the troop and as the father of two scouts. Robert, 17, and Teddy, 15, are pursuing Scouting’s highest rank, Eagle Scout.
Strawn has participated in Scouting for 11 years, since Robert joined Cub Scouts. This year is his fourth as Scoutmaster.
“I think it’s important to give back to the community,” says Strawn, explaining his motivation for volunteering. “Initially I got involved because of my sons, but as I saw how Scouting benefitted them and others I got more involved in it.”
As Scoutmaster, he is responsible for training and guiding the youth leadership in the operation of the troop as well as supporting and developing the assistant scoutmasters. He attends weekly troop meetings and accompanies Scouts on monthly campouts throughout Central Florida and a weeklong summer camp either in Florida or out of state.
Strawn says his late-in-life Scouting experiences have helped him develop as a manager at OUC. “I’ve learned to be more patient, recognize people when they do things well and share opportunities and learning experiences,” he says.
Stephens’ volunteerism is an extension of his pre-OUC career in law enforcement and his loyalty to his high school alma mater. He volunteered 365 hours in 2020, with 296 hours spent serving as a Reserve Deputy Sheriff leading the Dignitary Protection Unit in the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. He gave 69 hours as the lead volunteer of the Eau Gallie High School football team’s pre-game meal program.
In his role with the Sheriff’s Office, Stephens oversees a team of reserve deputies who provide security to official VIPs, such as U.S. Rep. Bill Posey. The congressman represents Florida’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Brevard County.
“We make sure the site is secure and post our team according to the needs of the site to protect the congressman,” says Stephens, a lifetime resident of Melbourne. “The Sheriff’s Office Reserve Unit volunteers thousands of hours a year with the sheriff’s office, and that saves taxpayers a lot of money.”
From 1975-2007, Stephens worked as a Special Agent with the Criminal Investigation Division of the U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service. During that time, he also assisted the U.S. Secret Service with candidate protection details. Stephens joined the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve in 1985 and was stationed at Port Canaveral conducting Search and Rescue missions. While with the Coast Guard, he became a Special Agent in its Investigative Service under the Department of Homeland Security. As a Coast Guard Special Agent, Stephens was activated for Operation Iraqi Freedom and served several months on active duty in support of this operation.
His involvement with Eau Gallie High’s football team began in 2015 with him and a classmate splitting the cost of a dinner for players on the day before each game. After his friend died last year, Stephens enlisted the help of two other classmates in sharing the weekly cost of 30 large pizzas and Gatorade.
“We not only feed the football players but send home extra food with the players in hardship situations, so their brothers and sisters will have something to eat,” he says.