On the Road Hometown Hero: Mike Cargill of Stafford
Every small town seems to have one. A person who just seems to have a hand in everything that's going on. In Stafford, that person is Mike Cargill and that's why he was nominated to be Stafford's Hometown Hero.
He helps clean up the community, teach kids, and run the movie theater. But he's also got one special set of skills he said is a God-given talent and he's using it to help his students and veterans across the country.
As a teacher of students, and of dogs, Mike Cargill has his hands full.
"I've been training dogs and animals all my life and dogs I started when I was very young and so we used to go to dog shows and train professionally," Cargill said.
He's a high school science teacher, but his real love and talent he said, belongs to the dogs.
"I can't sing and I can't dance but for some reason I was given the God-given ability to train a dog and so this is the way we give back," he said.
Through a program called Training to Lead, Cargill adopts shelter dogs, trains them and then gives them away.
"We primarily work with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, post-traumatic brain injury, mobility issues, we also work with first responders and then once in a while we have a dog that works with an autistic child, with young folks," Cargill explained.
But he's not doing it alone. He's getting his students in on it, too.
"I joined the program two years ago because I love animals and I'd have the opportunity to bring a dog to school and who doesn't want to do that?" said Brooke McNickle, one of Cargill's students.
"It's a lot of leadership skills as well as learning that there's a bigger purpose behind the things that you do," added Casey Cargill, Cargill's daughter and one of his students.
Cargill said the students learn leadership skills, the dogs learn to be led and the best part he said, a veteran's life is changed.
"We're helping save dogs out of the pound and we're also helping those who can use a good service dog and it changes their lives," he said. "It literally changes their lives."
It takes about one year for Cargill to completely train a service dog. After that, Cargill helps deliver them to the veterans in need anywhere in the country.
"My dad was a vet, I had friends that were veterans and I know there are lots of dogs that need homes and so it just seems logical," Cargill said. "And this isn't a talent that I developed, this is just a talent I have."
A special talent and a selfless heart, worthy of a hometown even if the hero himself doesn't realize it.
"It's just who we are and it's not just myself, the entire town is willing to work in a general direction so that makes it very easy," Cargill said.
All of the Cargill and his students do with the dogs is done for free plus he donate them to the veterans for free. Cargill said the only way he continues to do this program and train service dogs is through donations from the community.
Of course, anyone who talks with Cargill finds out very quickly he's involved in much more in town that just the service dog program.
They say it takes a special person to be a teacher and whatever it is, Cargill has it and loves it.
But he's no ordinary science teacher. Cargill helped his students create a greenhouse behind the school where they learn about sustainable food sources.
"Our goal is to help people who are starving in third world countries," Cargill said. "The students, when they leave here, they have the ability to literally go out and change the world if they want to."
While he's helping his students help the world, Cargill hasn't lost sight of the needs right at home in Stafford. He's also a part of a local group painting and fixing up the downtown area.
"We work downtown trying to make our town more presentable," Cargill said.
"Mike is just one of those guys that has his hand in everything and will go out of his way to make sure that if something needs to get done, it'll get done," said community member Julie Lyons.
If that's not enough, in his so-called spare time, Cargill also helps run the town's movie theater, The Ritz. It's a small town jewel community members said has played a big part in bringing the community together.
"In our area, we have to provide some form of entertainment for our kids, so we decided the Ritz was the best way to go because it involves the whole community," explained Deana Eisenhowur, Ritz Theater booking agent.
But even with his involvement in the theater, Cargill has found a way to make it not about him.
"We run the theater, now it's a paid position but all the money that's generated goes back to the dogs," he said.
A cycle of giving back that never seems to end and a lifestyle that, for people like Cargill, just comes naturally.
"We do a lot of different things and all of them are really looking at people who are less fortunate than we are," Cargill said. "We live in the greatest country in the world and we have all the blessings you can possibly imagine and there are people out there that need help and that's what we try to do is help those folks."