MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

April 21, 2013

Construction veteran helps kids build lives

— Dan VanKirk begins each workday before 6 a.m., then drives dozens of kids to school. Each afternoon, he drives the kids home, usually finishing before 4:30 p.m.

Between those times, he can be found helping out at the Muskogee Teen Center, 322 Callahan St.

As a school bus driver and Teen Center helper, VanKirk, 66, observes that it “seems like everything I do I do with kids.”

His wife, Eileen VanKirk, is the director of the Teen Center and Muskogee’s Youth Volunteer Corps.

“I’m always promoting this teen center,” Dan VanKirk said. “A lot of these kids came here as bullies, but they’re not bullies anymore. I’ve seen a lot of kids change.”

However, involvement with kids isn’t the only thing that keeps VanKirk going. He also enjoys gardening and doing things on the computer.

“I’ve got to have something to do,” he said. “If you don’t have something to do every day, you’re going down the wrong road.”

 VanKirk has been keeping himself busy ever since he graduated from Muskogee’s Central High School in 1965.

“Right out of high school, I went to work at a lumber yard and when that was over — when my day was done — I would go do construction,” he said. “I had several houses going. I’d work to dark every day.”

He stayed in the construction business for 35 to 40 years.

“I worked for Ricketts. We did a lot of telephone work and school work,” he said.

He also worked for a restaurant chain and built Taco Bueno restaurants in Enid, Sand Springs and Sapulpa.

VanKirk uses his construction experience at the Teen Center. He has helped the youths build cardboard boats for the annual River Rumba Regatta and a picnic table for the YVC.

Meet Dan VanKirk

AGE: 66.

HOMETOWN: Muskogee.

CAREER: Bus driver, Muskogee Public Schools; former construction worker.

EDUCATION: Central High School, 1965; some college and technical courses.

FAMILY: Wife, Eileen; seven children, 12 grandchildren.

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION: Presbyterian.

HOBBIES: Gardening.

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