Volunteer Spirit: Rexroat making a difference here and abroad

Dariel Rexroat holds a child on a recent mission trip. (Photo submitted)

Volunteer work for some takes them across the street or perhaps the town. For Dariel Rexroat, one of his primary volunteer sites is a 14-hour plane ride to the country of Romania that borders on the Black Sea. He also gives of his time in Haiti and Ethiopia — and as close as Cedarmore in Shelby County.

The longtime Franklin County 4-H agent and veteran Vietnam helicopter combat pilot takes his world-class woodworking skills to help people better their lives around the world and in our country.

“Whether it was in 4-H or other countries, I like teaching people life skills,” he said. “If they learn how to do something themselves, then they don’t have to call people in when they need some help.”

Rexroat, 73, retired as 4-H agent in 2003. After his years in the active military — Vietnam combat in 1970-71 — he completed his degree in agriculture at the University of Kentucky and joined the Cooperative Extension Service.

“I could have gone to Owen County as ag agent or come here for 4-H. I chose 4-H.”

Rexroat guided the program — and thousands of young people — across the next three decades. He says it was a rewarding career, particularly when he encounters adults who were kids in his program.

“I always hoped I could make a difference in the lives of people,” he said.

In 2005, he had the opportunity to travel on a fact-finding mission to Romania with the late Rev. Bob Jackson, then pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church. What grew from that was the Romanian America Mission (RAM) and trips the next five summers to the far-distant country to help people and to start churches.

He’s since traveled to many countries around the world teaching woodworking skills to people and quietly sharing his faith. Last summer he went on his ninth trip to Haiti to build picnic tables, bunk beds and cubbies at an orphanage.

“I want to train skills to young people so when they grow up perhaps they can apply them and be able to make a living,” Rexroat said.

He got his start in volunteer work while at Fort Knox, where he was the base liaison for the Boy Scouts.

“I found out then I enjoyed working with youth, so I went into 4-H.”

After leaving the active military, Rexroat served 16 years in the National Guard, where he met Rose, his wife-to-be. “I took her on a helicopter ride for our first date,” he said.

They have three children: Reed, who wants to become a full-time missionary; Kelly, who’s a 4-H agent in Alabama; and Jacob, who teaches here at Frankfort High.

Rexroat said mission work around the world is an eye-opening experience. “When you’ve been to Haiti as often as I have and see those people living day-to-day, it makes you realize what you have seeing those who have nothing.”

He currently doesn’t have any mission trips on the docket, but that’s likely to change.

“My heart is willing, but my body won’t let me do what I once did. I’m just glad to be in the shape that I’m in!”

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