‘Moo’–tivated to Serve
Sentenced for having ‘Animals at Large’ leads to Eric Reip’s service to others.
For Eric Reip, it truly was a blessing when the cows didn’t come home.
Reip, who owns a 100–acre farm outside New Philadelphia, Ohio, often had trouble with some of his 10 cows wandering off and going on his neighbor’s property.
“My fence isn’t that great,” Reip says with a laugh.
This happened three or four times before Reip was finally charged with a crime called “Animals at Large.” His sentence was to perform 10 hours of community service. Reip chose to do his time at the Dover/New Philadelphia Salvation Army, where he had come for lunch a few times.
That was two years ago and Reip, who is 62, is still faithfully washing dishes five days a week at the corps.
“I enjoy it and I enjoy meeting the people here I wash dishes for,” he says. “I get a lot of value out of talking to everyone who comes here to patronize the soup kitchen.”
“They come here and they get assistance and they don’t get judged. This is a place where they can come for comfort.”
Reip’s 1994 Dodge minivan was not working last winter, but nothing could stop him from his dish–washing assignment. He rode his bike seven miles—one way—sometimes in subzero temperatures and with snow and ice covering the roadways.
“I had to dress for it,” Reip said. “I wore gloves. I wore boots over my shoes and insulated overalls. I was a little cold, but there are ways to plan for it with layers of clothing.”
Reip, who was raised in the Moravian church, said his motivation for showing up every day is simple.
“Jesus was a servant and there are people who are servants,” he said. “I rode my bike in cold weather to be of service and to be a servant.
“It fulfills me to be of help. It goes back to the people who eat here. I don’t mind talking to them and I don’t mind sitting at a table with them. A lot of these people are homeless and they’re not welcome at restaurants. The reason I come here to wash dishes is because I have empathy for the people who come here to get a meal or assistance.”
Besides washing dishes, Reip often helps bring donated items into the church and he also attends a nearby auction, where he buys products for the lunch program and then donates them.
Reip also offers up his farm to the homeless and those who need help.
“I let them come out to my house to stay,” Reip said. “I call what I do ‘safe parking.’ They’re poor and they might have only a $600 or $700 income every month and can’t afford a place to live.
“There’s a lot of people in my area who live in their cars and vans and I let them park on my property. One time I had four people living out there. Christ, to me, means being a servant to people in a whole bunch of little ways.”
For example, when someone from the lunch program needed a lamp, Reip had a couple of extra ones at home and was more than happy to bring a little light into the person’s life.
When someone else had a rusty chain and a flat tire on their bike, Reip helped them fix both problems.
“I get inspiration from the New Testament stories about being a help to people,” he said.
Reip has seemingly always had a giving spirit, according to people at the corps. He served 14 years in the U.S. Army before returning to Ohio, where he has held a variety of jobs, including mowing yards, renting canoes, and helping an Amish man with his business installing solar panels.
Patterson said Reip also finds time to mentor a mentally challenged man who comes for lunch because that’s his nature.
“He is a kind person and very thoughtful,” Patterson said. “The people who come for lunch often like to talk with him. He’s a patient person who takes the time to do that. He’s very willing to help people, besides volunteering here.”
Martha Mays, the receptionist at the Dover/New Philadelphia Corps, said Reip is “people-oriented” and looks for ways to help everyone without judging them or their circumstances.
“He is super-dedicated,” she said. “He’s here every single day, no matter what the weather is like. He genuinely cares about everyone and is always worried about the people we serve here.
“He tries to help out however he can and wherever he can. I have to believe some of that is the love of God showing through him.”
by Robert Mitchell