By Sarah Plummer
When asked about his work in the community, Charlie Houck is quick to point his finger at Raleigh County’s strong philanthropic organizations, like Raleigh County Make it Shine, Beckley Area Foundation, the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of Southern West Virginia.
“It is not really about me; it has to do with where we are and what we have going for ourselves that makes people want to get involved,” he explained.
“The reason we are able to accomplish great things is because everyone pitches in and no one seeks credit. We just get it done.”
Houck cites the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex as an example of this.
A member of the fundraising committee for the project, he remembers the president of the U.S. Soccer Federation flew in from Seattle.
“He told us, ‘In Seattle we have the headquarters for Microsoft. We have this and that, but there is no way we could get together and create a complex like this.’ It started out at $1.8 million and ended up a $4.2 million project and the key was having such a wonderful community,” he explained.
He points out that even projects as simple as getting out and picking up trash draw out the community.
He noted that Sherrie’s Sweep, in which he participates, brings out more than 2,000 volunteers to show their pride in the community.
“I can’t imagine another community in the state that has ever had close to 2,000 volunteers for trash pick-up, and the majority were school children and college students from Mountain State University,” he said.
“Business people do have a responsibility to give back to the community, whether it is their treasure, their time or their talent. But in their own way, everyone has that responsibility. Everyone has that obligation. The businessman and the high school student,” he explained.
One reason that obligation exists, he continued, is because we owe it to ourselves because there is so much potential for our area.
He explained, “I grew up in Charleston and moved here in ’88. This is my home. I love it, but when I was young and my family went to the beach in the ’50s, people would ask me where I was from. I would look down and mumble ‘West Virginia’ and they would say, ‘Well, those people don’t have teeth or shoes.’
“Now I go to the beach and I hold my head up high and tell them I’m from Beckley, West Virginia, and they say, ‘Oh, it is so beautiful through there when we drive up 77. What a wonderful state,’” relayed Houck.
“We have so much going for us. We are located within 500 miles of 60 percent of the population in the United States and we are intersected by Interstate 77, 64 and state Rt. 19. The prospects we have for business, tourism and economy are wonderful,” he explained.
But don’t let Houck fool you. He may be serious about the community’s potential for growth, but he has an equally strong belief that “you can get things done and have fun.”
Undoubtedly his rowdy laugh filters from his office at City National Bank on Park Avenue and he has even been known to make some serious wagers, like one made with Heart of God Ministries.
Houck said that City National financed the construction of the church.
“They had a mortgage burning, but when they paid it off I went to a service and told them I had never seen anyone pay off a loan more quickly and commended them.”
Later on they wanted to enlarge the church with another loan and Bishop Fred T. Simms and Houck made a wager that “if they paid it off by the end of the year, they could shave my head in a church service,” Houck said, laughing.
Needless to say, the loan was paid off by Dec. 28 of that year.
But Houck said he would not be able to do the things he does without the support of his employer, City National Bank, his wife Terri, son Cutter, daughter-in-law Emily and the new addition to their family Anna-Neale, he said. They put up with him.
“My wife is very tolerant,” he said, laughing.
Most of all, Houck explained that serving the community makes him happy.
“I guess it sounds corny, but I enjoy it and it makes me feel good. It just makes you feel good when you do something positive.”
— E-mail: splummer @register-herald.com
By recognizing City National Bank Executive Vice President Charlie Houck as this year recipient of the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce Community Service Award, the chamber is taking the rare opportunity to award one of its own.
In addition to his long list of philanthropic work, Houck is very proud that the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce is the second largest in the state. He has served as a chamber board member in some capacity since 1993.
Houck has also worked tirelessly with the Beckley Area Foundation, the Beckley Rotary Club, as a member of the Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital advisory council and Physician Recruitment Committee, as board member for the Salvation Army since 1986 and as a past campaign chairman for the United Way of Southern West Virginia.
He is a past vice president of Beckley Renaissance, the chairman of the 2009 Raleigh County Board of Education School Levy Approval Committee, committee member for Pinecrest Industrial Park since 2003, post campaign chair for the YMCA Spirit of Beckley Award and is extremely involve in his church.
The Community Service Award will be presented to Houck at the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner on April 27. Anyone wishing to attend can contact the chamber, 304-252-7328, for tickets, which are $55 per person.
The social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6:30 p.m. at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
— Sarah Plummer