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CP&L retiree O’Neil Stout named Volunteer of the Year by Keep Texas Beautiful

by on May 12, 2011

UTOPIA, Texas — O’Neil Stout makes his home here in Utopia. And he spends a considerable amount of his time making sure that Utopia looks and operates like a utopia should.

Central Power and Light retiree O'Neil Stout has been named Volunteer of the Year by Keep Texas Beautiful.

And because of that, this Central Power and Light (CP&L) retiree has been named the Volunteer of the Year by Keep Texas Beautiful. He will officially receive his award at a luncheon next month in Austin.

Stout was instrumental in the start-up of a recycling program in Utopia that’s proven to be highly successful. “A friend of mine told me they needed volunteers and urged me to attend an organizational meeting,” he recalled. “As it turned out, I agreed to oversee the construction of our recycling center.

“Construction of our 24-foot by 50-foot recycling center took about six weeks,” said Stout, who spent 39 years with CP&L before retiring in 2003. “The county let us have some land at the local landfill to build the building, and we received a small grant that helped pay for the construction.

“When we were building the recycling center, I was there eight or nine hours a day, five days a week,” he said. “And now that the center is up and running, I’m usually there at least 20 hours a week.”

Stout admits he was a bit of a skeptic about the recycling program in Utopia when it first started. “I thought that the initial enthusiasm would probably wear off and it wouldn’t last more than a year, but it’s grown and grown and we’ve been at it for two-and-a-half years now. We recycle paper and cardboard, plastic bottles, aluminum cans, steel cans — all the usual stuff.”

Utopia’s recycling center is open three days a week, and there is a loyal group of about 20 volunteers who keep the program going, Stout said. “It’s truly amazing how well the community has responded to this. I think practically everyone in town is recycling now.”

Despite all the hours and all the effort that Stout has invested in the recycling program, he was totally surprised when he learned he had been selected as the Volunteer of the Year by Keep Texas Beautiful.

“I said, ‘You’re kidding!’ In fact, I probably said it two or three times,” Stout said with a laugh. “I just couldn’t believe that I had won a statewide award — just think of how many volunteers there must be statewide. Claudia Rogers, the coordinator of our local Keep Utopia Beautiful program, had nominated me, but I didn’t have any idea that all of this was going on. I don’t know how they kept it quiet, but they certainly did.”

Is Utopia truly a utopia? “Utopia is a very small town — only a couple of hundred people live here, but the scenery is beautiful,” Stout replied. “We’re at the southern end of Texas Hill Country, and the Lost Maples State Natural Area and the Sabinal Canyon attract a lot of visitors. We’ve noticed people moving here from Houston and some of the other cities because the pace of life is better here.

“My wife, Rita, is originally from Utopia, and I’m originally from Sabinal, which is about 20 miles to the south, so this is where we love to be,” he explained. “While I was working for CP&L, we moved around some. My first job was as a truck driver for the company’s Western Power Division in Laredo.

“After that, I worked on a transmission line crew. My last job with the company was as a supervisor of the distribution system for the Uvalde area, which was the largest area CP&L had in terms of square miles. It was more than 100 miles from north to south.”

The recycling center is not the only community activity that this 68-years-young retiree is involved with. He’s president of the board of directors for the Utopia Emergency Medical Service Association, and noted that the board recently voted to put a third emergency squad into service. “We provide service to the Lost Maples State Natural Area, and unfortunately, we’ve had a rash of motorcycle accidents in that area lately,” he said.

Stout is also president of the board of directors of the Waresville Cemetery, which was the original name of the community before it was switched to Utopia. Historical accounts say local residents wanted to name the community Montana, but changed the name to Utopia once they discovered there was already a town in Texas by that name.

“Waresville Cemetery was founded in 1852, and it’s one of the oldest cemeteries in the area,” he pointed out. Being president of the board of directors carries no special favors, though, because Stout handles the grass mowing chores for the cemetery.

In his leisure time, Stout enjoys fishing, boating and spending time with his two sons and six grandchildren. He and Rita occasionally make trips into San Antonio, which is about 75 miles away, for dining and shopping.

“One of the things that makes Utopia special is that people in our town get involved and volunteer their time and energy for worthwhile causes,” he concluded. “It’s somewhat unusual for a town this small to have a library, a museum, a senior citizen center and a recycling center, and it’s all because we have a good group of people who volunteer to work at these places. We have a fire department and an emergency medical service, and they depend on volunteers, too.”

Assuredly, there are lots of volunteers throughout Texas who are working to preserve and protect the state’s natural beauty. But for this year, at least, O’Neil Stout is No. 1.

From → Retiree Profiles

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