EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Ondra Berry never lost sight of the lessons he learned growing up in Evansville and being a part of the Carver Community Organization.
As a former “Carver kid, Berry’s participation in the community-based organization helped mold him to become the man he is today. All that has come full circle as Berry, now an inspirational speaker, is coming back to speak about that impact at Carver’s annual meeting and luncheon Friday.
“(Carver) created that safe haven,” he said. “It gave me options other than being on the street, and there was food there, too. All those pieces were important in helping shape who I am and how I look at community, giving back and mentoring.”
What’s drawn Berry back to Evansville is his mission to inspire others to lead and serve their community, just as he did in his youth and continues to do as a frequent motivational speaker.
David Wagner, the Carver Community Organization’s executive director, reached out to Berry about being the guest speaker for Carver Community Organization’s 74th Annual Meeting and Luncheon.
“He brings a trifecta with him for sure,” Wagner said of Berry. “Being able to bring the growth and knowledge base that he has back to Evansville, and bring that from both a corporate and community perspective will be very interesting. He’s a phenomenal gentleman we should all be proud of.”
After looking at Wagner’s contributions to Evansville and the Carver Community Organization, Berry accepted the offer to headline the luncheon.
“I am honored and humbled to be selected to lead such a fine organization,” Berry said. “I live by the motto that, ‘To whom much is given, much will be required,’ and I am ready to deliver.”
Berry said having the experiences at Carver instilled values he’s carried throughout his personal and professional life.
Berry, a 32-year veteran of the Nevada Air National Guard, attended Harrison High School and the University of Evansville, where he played running back on the football team. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in secondary education from UE, he moved to Nevada in 1980 where he began his military career.
In late August, Berry was appointed as Nevada’s Air National Guard 30th Adjutant General. The adjutant general serves as the state’s highest- ranking military officer. In that role, he’ll oversee more than 4,200 Nevada Army and Air Guardsmen and women.
Since officially taking office on Sept. 1, he’s now the first African American to hold the position in the state’s 154-year history.
Through his accomplishments, Berry always reflects on his memories at the Carver organization and the people who helped him in his life’s journey.
“Say what you want about Evansville, but it has some great people,” he said. “A lot of phenomenal people have come out of there. You have churches, neighborhoods and nonprofits that took care of their people.”
During his speech at the annual meeting and luncheon, Berry hopes to encourage organizations and others like him to make continued strides to build up the community and its children.
“The community has to understand we have to be relentless about not giving up on our young people,” Berry said. “What can best support them is organizations like Carver because it’s a safe haven for learning, development, care, love, support and coaching. All the things you need in your formative years. That’s why you need organizations like that. It’s critical they’re supported.”
Berry wants people who attend Carver Community’s annual event to leave the event with them knowing how valuable serving can be for them and others.
“You have to believe that your worth as a person is measured by the impact and willingness to serve and uplift those around you,” he said. “Everyday you’re writing the chapter and pages of the history in your life. You don’t want to waste an opportunity to make an impact in some kind of way in someone’s life.”
If you go
What: Carver Community Organization’s 74th Annual Meeting and Luncheon
When: 11:30 a.m. Friday
Where: Deaconess Orthopedic Neuroscience Hospital, Pavilion Room, 4011 Gateway Blvd., Newburgh
Tickets: $50 through Monday, email David Wagner at email@example.com or call him at 812-423-2612.