Air Mechanical of Ham Lake, Minnesota selected Lyle and Ramona Engel from Wyoming, Minnesota as their 2016 Bryant Community Heroes winner. Nominated by their daughter, Lyle and Ramona have led by example, giving endless hours of their time to the community since the 1970s, including taking in over 70 foster children! Below is the nomination that led Air Mechanical’s panel to select Lyle and Ramona as their 2016 Community Heroes recipient:
“I would like to nominate my parents, Ramona and Lyle Engel because all our lives they have been leading by example and volunteering for a variety of things. When we were young, Mom sewed costumes for everything from school plays, baton class, parades, Sunday School Christmas programs, Mom also taught Sunday School classes for many years. Both Mom and Dad volunteered for Scouts, Dad was the assistant Cub Scout leader. He helped plan outings and help run the Pack meetings, while Mom was more “behind the scenes”. She kept the records, drove down to St. Paul to purchase the Pack’s pins and badges, then came home and attached them all to cards with the boys’ names on them so they could be awarded on Pack Night. They both worked hard to gain donations for a much needed PineWood Derby car track. And once they had the money in hand, talked my uncle into building the track. Boy, back in the late 70’s, that track was spectacular! Of course, I suppose it’s been retired now that regulations insist on one with electronics to record the winners.
Mom was always cooking and serving food, sometimes at church for funerals, sometimes for treats to be had at meetings, and many treats for us kids for school parties, choir practice, etc. They drove extra kids to all kinds of activities and then delivered them all back home again! Even with all their volunteering, we kids were able to lead normal, active lives with our parents cheering us on. We sampled and played just about everything; gymnastics, base/softball, wrestling, football, basketball. You name it, we tried it, but with three brothers, wrestling was the longest running sport!
And when we kids were mostly grown and into our own lives, mom and dad up and chose to take in and raise foster children for several neighboring counties. They’ve fostered a total of 73 extra kids and adopted one of them before calling it quits this past February, as dad’s health problems started to mount and were exasperated with the past two years with nothing but the hard-core “problem” teen boys that no one else would foster. They’ve been foster parents for the past 12 years, having a few six-month old babies on up to 22 years old. They always had an extra kid for every holiday. For the most part they were able to see major changes in the kids by the time it was time for them to move on. That was the most rewarding feeling! But the last two years were really hard, they had kids that damaged their home, stole from them, were constantly running away, getting into trouble involving the police and calls at all hours of the night, there was the drug use and worse.
They worked just as hard with the kids as they did with their own. Mom worked with them on their “inside” stuff, teaching them the importance of math in order to cook, worked with them on doing the simple cleaning tasks, helping with school, showing that most families work, eat and play together harmoniously. Dad showed them the “outside” projects, car repair, cement work, hanging cabinets, making useful things in his shop in the garage. Then showing them how to pack their bag and driving north to the seasonal camper and again showing and exposing the kids to a lot of their “firsts”. Most of the kids had never been camping, on a boat, catching a fish, making a campfire, learning how to cook over it. They went snowmobiling, ice fishing, some of the more daring would even go tubing behind the boat, they’d sample 4-wheeling, stopping to learn about plants and animals along the way. Then after all the fun, the kids learned and helped to pack up to come home and unpack and put everything away until the next trip.
Because of Dad’s ensuing heart and lung problems, Mom’s been trying to find a way to get air conditioning to help his breathing. She did find a central AC unit complete with the A-frame on craigslist, but has not been able to get it installed. Their home has huge windows so a window unit would not work, next she tried a standing room AC unit, but their open plan with very few doors to close off made the unit work too hard that it was blowing circuit breakers all the time. I think my parents have spent their entire lives volunteering and serving others and made the biggest impact with their fostering. I hope you think so too!”