MONETTE, AR (KAIT) - His faith in God is the single most guiding force for nearly everything he does.
Rickey Copeland works daily to help others and the way he approaches life is—well, music to your ears. If music is the melody of life.
"She'll be coming around the mountain when she comes," Rickey Copeland sings as he plays chords on a well-used piano at Monette Manor. Residents sit in wheelchairs and at tables throughout the nursing center's dining room area.
Copeland has the perfect way to share his enthusiasm for life. He often entertains at the Manor with his friend, Robert Chambers.
"We go there to sing and we try to sing songs that they (the residents) know," Copeland explained.
"He comes in and he will do anything that he can to help the elderly to help me and to help the staff," Wendy Carpenter, Monette Manor Activities Director, said.
"When we're singing and you'll see them either mouthing along or tapping their foot," Copeland said. "You know they know the song. It brings joy to them. It brings a smile to their face… so it brings a smile to us."
Smiles and laughter filled the entire parking lot of Copeland's home church, the Monette Church of Christ, earlier this month. That's where we went to surprise him with the Gr8 Acts of Kindness. Our grand entrance is so large into the office where Copeland is that we can't all fit and he is amazed at the never-ending line of people still entering the church.
"Blessings come back to you," Copeland said. "Well, look at all of your blessings," I said to Copeland still eyeing the long line of people gathered to surprise and congratulate him.
"Do you have any idea why we are here today," I asked Copeland. He shakes his head. "You are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness!" I announce.
The room full of friends, family, and townspeople erupted into applause. Then, they start serenading him with a verse of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."
"We have $408 for you winning the Gr8 Acts of Kindness," I tell Copeland. The crowd counts the money in unison starting with the $100 bills.
"Thank you so much for what you do for the community," Allen Williams, Community President of First Community Bank said. "Thank you so much for what you do for the community. You make it a better place for everyone."
"Thank you, Mr. Rickey, for everything," a young man in the crowd said as he shook Copeland's hand.
Many hugs and much admiration for the man who has spent a great deal of his life working on this church—painstakingly painting its interior, arranging flowers and tending to the upkeep outside.
"When you become a Christian, you become someone other than yourself. You have a goal. You have things you need to do for Christ," Copeland explained.
That philosophy has led him to do mission work thousands of miles away in southeast India. He teaches at the World Bible School every year. His picture hangs on the banner outside the school.
"I teach the students there how to learn the Bible so that they can go out and preach also," Copeland said.
Here at home, Copeland's students still remember the impact he had on them.
"I found a Titanic book that he had bought for me," Chris Honey, Copeland's former elementary student said. "I still have it and on the inside, it says have fun exploring. Signed, Mr. Rickey."
The former Science fifth and sixth-grade teacher reminisces about his former students.
"The students are now grown up and they have children of their own," Copeland said.
And still, Copeland is guiding their way and others.
Recently, the bypass was completed around Monette.
"I just put up these little signs that say, "Drew Avenue," and "Reeves Avenue," so that I could find a way home."
Locals had trouble distinguishing where roads were off the new highway at night.
From serving in Vietnam to encouraging young people to follow his passion for music, to helping with a project that sends clothing to the Ukraine, Copeland has a hand in it.
"Maybe I'm trying to be the hands of Christ and the feet of Christ to go and do things for Christ," Copeland said.