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Kalispell pastor, bus driver is KCFW Local Hero

By Rebecca Vogt, KCFW Reporter, rvogt@kcfw.com
Published On: May 07 2013 09:33:26 PM MDT
KALISPELL, Mont. -

Raymond Powell says he doesn't feel like a local hero, but rather someone who loves to reach out and help people whenever possible. But from the outside looking in, you'd never know Powell came from a dark past.

"When I got out of Vietnam I was anything but a nice person," recalled Powell. "I actually became suicidal."

He was an alcoholic, his mother was murdered, and he was a troubled veteran. But Powell said he found religion and cleaned up his act.

"I made a decision that I was going to help people rather than be mad at them, angry at them," said Powell. "I was going to try to help them get through all of these things and understand where they're at because I knew where I was at."

He's a pastor now and also counsels inmates at the Flathead County Jail. Pat Logan nominated Powell because he's not only her pastor, but a friend and hero when she needed him most.

"He's literally been there and understands," explained Logan. "I think that's what makes him such an awesome man."

His generosity soon led him to drive buses for the Kalispell Public Schools. He works closely with students from Hedges Elementary and Linderman.

"Raymond is basically a grandfather to our kids," said Hedges aide Jackie Norenberg. "Sometimes the kids come to school without money for different functions we have here. Raymond always steps up and gives them quarters, nickels, dollar bills."

"He has a big heart. These kids are just like his kids," continued fellow aide, Patricia Carlon.

Sixteen years later, Powell tells NBC Montana driving the bus is more than just a job to him, something he looks to continue as long as he can.

"When you actually work with these kids and put input in their lives... it does keep you young," said Powell.