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Jefferson Award: Kevin Ryan gives back to veterans and charities

Posted at 6:25 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 18:25:26-04

LAWRENCE — The Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good honors the unsung heroes in our neighborhoods who are making a difference.

Today's honoree is a man who has reached out across the state, literally, to help families, veterans, the hungry, and the homeless, as well as those who want to do better for themselves.

When RTV6 showed up to the Financial Center First Credit Union in Lawrence, CEO Kevin Ryan had no clue what was about to happen.

Kevin is one of those leaders who seeks to raise up those around him. Just ask the guy who nominated him.

"A natural born leader," Russ Dowden Jr., a friend and colleague of Ryan, said. "And he is subservient to the rest of the world. He goes and does what he thinks is right."

The top boss at the credit union, but a man of service, too.

With Kevin leading the way, the Financial Center has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through its annual golf outings to donate to organizations feeding the hungry, including the Mozel Sanders Foundation, the Salvation Army Food Pantry, and Gleaners Food Bank.

"We just have a real focus on trying to give back to the community, so the ability to be involved with those organizations you mentioned and others is a blessing for us," Ryan said.

Kevin uses his passion for financial literacy to build-up local households — offering free classes to arm people with the knowledge to turn their finances around and provide for their families.

"They've been able to rearrange their budget, lower their payments, pay off credit cards at a lower rate, and free up money and for one person to be able to shop for groceries in a grocery store instead of a food pantry," Ryan said.

Helping feed the hungry. Helping families budget and build their savings. And Kevin's doing good list goes on — with a passion to honor those who sacrificed for their country.

In some way, Kevin wanted to pay tribute to Hoosier veterans, so he launched an effort traveling around the state to credit unions raising more than $300,000 to building the Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame, which is open to the public.

The Hall of Fame in Lawrence features historic artifacts and recognizes Indiana veterans and their families. So far, 99 Hoosier veterans have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"And we have, so far as I know, the only free-standing Hall of Fame in existence in the United States," Dowden said.

"Really, it was just so many people's effort," Ryan said. "It wasn't me. I was so many people."

Ryan is the July recipient of the Jefferson Award for Multiplying Good for all of the work and all of the way that he makes the community a better place.

The Indianapolis east side native and Ball State grad lost his dad to illness at an early age and grew up as an only child, raised by his single mom who put him on a path to leadership and service.

"I had this like dynamo mom that was serious about this project called Kevin," Ryan said. "I'm the first college graduate in our family, and she made me pay for it by the way, but she pushed me through those things. I'd say listen to your mom. Listen to your parents. Find people in your life that will tell you where the boundaries are and they'll keep you inside of those."

Kevin's leadership has helped Financial Center First Credit Union win six national awards for its adult financial literacy program.

The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame is located at 5360 Herbert Lord Road in Lawrence. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.