I like a nice summer night – relaxing with the windows open and a cool breeze gently swaying the blinds. The kind of night where the crackle of a storm echoes through the radio and the soothing sound of a train whistle reverberates through the valley below. It provides a calming effect that declares all things are good in and around small-town Tipp City.
And speaking of trains, I′ve come to know a man who is weII-versed in trains. In fact, so well-versed that he′s spent his entire life “working on the railroad.′′ His name is Mr. Tim Drake. I got a chance to sit and chat with Tim and his wife Mindy in their cozy kitchen nook recently where they walked me through how their pursuit of a greater picture of community began. l was intrigued and got the sense of a strong bond, not with each other, although that was apparent, but with the community of which they are a part. While their bond with each other started in the late ’60s as childhood sweethearts at Tippecanoe, it culminated in a greater way when they spoke their vows in 1976. It was then that the bond with their beloved community became an active part of the Drake family.
As their story unfolds, I sense a Iot of excitement to the beginning of a worthwhile story, akin to sunflowers in the field rising high to an early morning spring sun. Soon after vows were spoken, Tim began his lengthy career as a civil engineer on the NorfoIk & Western railroad, now known as NorfoIk Southern railroad. Their Iife’s journey quickly took them away from small-town Tipp City with a move to Roanoke, Virginia. This move was the first of many for Tim and Mindy, as they moved eleven times in just over 14 years, spending time in areas such as Roanoke, VA, then Bellevue, OH, on to Portsmouth and Cleveland, OH, next to Atlanta, GA, and then off to Ft. Wayne, IN.
Through the first 14 years, their family grew as well. With the addition of four young ones along the way, this kept the Drake home alive and active. However, after so many moves with their children in tow, Mindy noted that ′’the kids were starting to show some “wear and tear’’ from all the moving. It was now 1990, and as Mindy went on to explain, both she and Tim decided “it was time for some stability in their lives,” with their oldest daughter Jennifer starting 7th grade. That′s when they put down stakes and built their home, where they still reside today, in Tipp City.
When it comes to railroads, Tim has covered a lot of ground. His knowledge of railroad supervision and infrastructure from being a Division Engineer and in charge of 2,500 miIes of tracks and a staff of more than 400 to a responsibility of managing 7,500 empIoyees and 21,000 miIes of track, he′s pretty much done it all. From maintaining a complex web of tracks, bridges, signals, right of ways and everything else in between, he puts the meaning behind “l’ve been working on the railroad.” To put that in perspective, that is the area from Buffalo to Chicago, Detroit to Cincinnati, and ultimately the entire eastern United States east of the Mississippi.
Meanwhile, Mindy, honing her skills as an LPN, began working at the Hyatt Center in Tipp. But her biggest responsibility was raising the children since Tim was often gone. As Tim modestly shares, she’s the “glue that held things together” with his travel schedule being as it was. But this didn’t sIow their vision for a better tomorrow for their community.
While the tracks have taken the children in different directions through the years and with a few of their children moving away, the family stays in close contact. Daughter Jennifer lives in Smithville, Missouri, with her husband and son. Another daughter Jessica lives in PIeasant Hill with her husband and two children. Youngest son Aaron, the “movie star/singer” lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. And across the street is son Andy who is, as Tim states, his “savior”, handling the day-to-day functions of the Drake’s, as well as assisting with their raiIroad consulting company, known as TDCU.
Tim and Mindy Drake always held a spot in their heart for Tipp City and sought a way to give back, but figuring out the best way to impact the lives of fellow residents took some time. As Tim states, “peopIe are special here” and the thought held by both Tim and Mindy was “how can we give back to this place we have a passion for and love?” They decided to give back through the Tipp City Foundation and reached out to Mike LightIe, the Tipp City Foundation board president at that time. It was here that Tim and Mindy’s gift began to change lives – making broad strides in earIy-testing for peopIe with Parkinson’s and helping identify warning signs that are key to recognizing this terrible disease. The couple feIt that Parkinson’s was not getting the attention it deserved, and after Tim’s dad passed from Parkinson’s, they elevated their desire to help to a much higher level. Through meeting with officials at the state Ievel, along with Jenny Jones, they further strengthened the “Delay the Disease” program, an exercise program aimed with those afflicted with Parkinson′s. That is where they felt was a perfect place to start making an impact.
With this thinking, the Drake FamiIy Fund was born. As part of this, all funding of enrollment costs towards this program and related testing costs are covered, with more than forty individuaIs last year alone taking advantage of these resources. “We feeI blessed to be able to provide through this commitment to the community.” But their giving doesn′t stop there. Through an innovative outreach, they also support Miami Bucks. This program provides trikes and bikes for special needs children, where bikes are custom made for each individual, thereby making the lives of these sometimes forgotten little ones much easier. But not only that, this outreach aIso bridges the gap for seniors and disabled aduIts, providing for mobility solutions needed to make their lives more fulfilling and rewarding.
Still feeling the need to fund additional outreaches, the Drakes have been involved lateIy with Heart & Soul, a community outreach in Pleasant Hill. This program assists those with the growing financial burdens related to dealing with medical issues. As Tim states, “we′ve seen the need of those type of difficuIties come to the forefront” with their son-in-law, who was recentIy diagnosed with cancer. That’s when Tim and Mindy felt a calling to do something more than what they were doing. Mindy is all too familiar with this disease, as her mother’s life was shortened by cancer. The Drakes′ goal is to eventually bring a similar program to the Tipp City area.
“The heart of our intentions is knowing what it’s Iike to deal with Parkinson’s and someone battling cancer. There are people in our community who are in dire need of help and those diseases test each family’s ability to stay resilient under the pressure.”
So, the next time you hear a train in the distance or are waiting at a railroad crossing, stop and think of the work of Tim who just started out by working on the railroad. Through both he and his wife’s consistent message of always giving back to their community and the feeling of making a difference in the lives of so many, you can do the same.
In fact, if you listen cIoseIy I think l hear a distant whistIe. Do you? All aboard!
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