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2007 Oldham County Day

Eldridges contribute to community
in many ways besides business

The couple will serve as
grand marshal of this year’s parade

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (July 2007) – When Karen and Kevin Eldridge consider this year’s Oldham County Day theme, “Planning for a Better Tomorrow,” they really take it to heart. Extremely involved in community activities, this couple exemplifies what it means to give 100 percent back to the community.

July 2007 Kentucky Edition Cover

July 2007 Kentucky
Edition Cover

“I could not imagine not giving back,” said Kevin, 47. “It’s just natural.”
Karen, 44, agreed. “So many people have challenged us to step up to the plate” and become involved in what’s going on in the county. “Since we weren’t blessed with children, we’ve put our energy into the place we love.”
The couple has been selected as the grand marshals of this year’s Oldham County Day Parade on July 21. A Grand Marshal Luncheon to be held in their honor is scheduled for noon Tuesday, July 17, at the John W. Black Community Center in Buckner.
Most residents have become familiar with Karen through her business, Karen’s Book Barn. The bookstore has been a staple on Main Street in La Grange for the last 20 years. Karen took over the business in 1998 when owner Shelly Ryan decided to downsize her five stores and move out of state.
The Eldridges, both natives of Oldham County, had been customers of the store, and Karen said she had “always loved reading.” The couple had just recently married, and Karen was working on a college degree through night school while holding a job at a local bank at the time.
From her focal point on Main Street, Karen became highly vocal and active in the Main Street Program for La Grange. This program was instituted by the La Grange Business Association, which became known as Discover Downtown La Grange, of which she is still a vital member today.
“Through the operation of her book store, Karen is like a poster child of how to run a business in downtown La Grange,” said Jennifer Watson, director of Discover Downtown La Grange. “Every customer that walks through the door is made to feel welcome. She constantly seeks to improve her services and the operation of her business.”

Oldham County Day Schedule

2nd Street Stage
• 9 a.m.-10 a.m.: La Grange Assembly of God
• 11 a.m.-Noon: Crestwood Baptist Praise Band
• Noon-1 p.m.: Rockin Country
• 2:15 p.m.-3 p.m.: Kentucky Gold Cloggers
• 3:15 p.m.-4:15 p.m.: Revelation
East Lawn Stage
• 9 a.m.-9:30 a.m.: Children of Victory
• 11 a.m.-Noon: Beulah Land Baptist Church
• 12:30 p.m.-1:15 p.m.: Broadfield Marchers
• 2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m.: The Moon Dogs
• 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.: Bands from the Louisville School of Rock & the Oldham County Arts Center

Courthouse Lawn
• 11:30 a.m.-Noon: Kentucky Tae Kwon Do
• 1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.: Oldham County Community Band

Watson said Karen is a devoted professional, embracing every customer who walks through the door and is often very generous with her time. When a customer once asked when the next train would come through town, Karen has gone so far as to actually walk outside with them and explain the trains’ lighting system and what it signifies, said Watson.
Karen is always thinking in terms of connecting people and opportunities, Watson continued. She takes it all in and places it in a larger view of how it relates to the community.
At the same time that his wife was embarking upon her new business, Kevin had taken over his father’s business, Eldridge’s Service Center.
A familiar site to locals in the community at the corner Fifth and Jefferson streets since 1964, the gas station was one of several the family operated.

Karen & Kevin Eldridge

Photo by Helen McKinney

Karen and
Kevin Eldridge
will be honored at a
luncheon on July 17.

Kevin’s father, Milburn, founded the business and eventually sold the La Grange location to his son. Kevin remembers bicycling to work from his home, which once stood where Papa John’s Pizza is now located on Hwy. 53. The family owned five acres and was surrounded by farmland while Kevin was growing up.
At the time, there was “no interstate, one red light, three elementary schools, one junior and one high school,” said Kevin. “There has been unbelievable growth in the county.” There is no doubt the community has changed and the “majority of what has happened has happened in our lifetime.”
While Karen said they want the county to grow, she would still like to see it “maintain a warmth and friendliness.” She sees the county becoming closer knit, while Kevin said it is “enhancing things it already has.”
From his 10 years of service as chairman of the Oldham County Planning and Zoning Commission, Kevin has seen change within the county firsthand. Appointed to the commission by former Oldham County Judge-Executive John Black, Kevin recently stepped down from this position to become more involved in taking care of his parents.
Before current Oldham County Judge-Executive Duane Murner would accept Kevin’s resignation, he said, “I need you to do one more job for me,” said Murner. Murner was reluctant to let Kevin go because of his outstanding work as chairman of the commission.
The job Murner wanted Kevin for was a position on the six-month “Vision” council that ends in July.
“The Eldridges are two of Oldham County’s most involved citizens,” said Murner. He has known the couple for the last 15 years. He has become acquainted with Karen through the CSX Railroad repair project, and Kevin through the Oldham County Historical Society and his appointment as chairman of the Growth Management TASK Force when Murner was a county magistrate.
While Karen’s activities have focused more on La Grange, Kevin’s have been countywide, said Murner. In everything they touch, they have the future of the county as one of their main goals, he said.

2007 Oldham County Day Map

Map of the 2007 Oldham County Day booths and locations.

The Eldridges are very involved with the Oldham County Historical Society and Oldham County History Center events. Kevin has served on the Board of Directors for the society for the last eight years and is the current treasurer.
Karen is the chairperson for the annual gala event and “is instrumental in holding weekly meetings with committee members to see the overall success of this annual fundraising event, which is instrumental to our annual operation,” said Nancy Theiss, executive director of the historical society.
The Eldridges volunteer to run the silent and live auctions for the gala, checking receipts and tagging an endless number of items. “Both add prestige and community trust to our organization since they have participated in numerous volunteer activities throughout our county,” said Theiss.
It’s hard to estimate how much time the couple devotes to the History Center. “They believe community history enriches our lives and helps endear new visitors as well as new residents to the aspects of community preservation that make our county so special,” Theiss said.
Kevin said of their work with the History Center and other community projects, “It’s a good chance to interact with so many good people working in Oldham County.”
The couple has a long list of accolades to their credit. Karen was a founding member of the H.O.S.T. House, on the board of the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce and Baptist Northeast Hospital, and participated in the Oldham County Leadership program. Kevin has also served as chairman of the YMCA, president of the Rotary Club and named Oldham Countian of the Year in 2001 by the chamber.
They attend Sligo Baptist Church, where Kevin is a third-generation deacon. He is treasurer for the Oldham Trimble Baptist Association.
In their spare time, the couple enjoys scuba diving, and Kevin puts his mechanical skills to work restoring cars and motorcycles. Kevin’s favorite restoration was a red 1969 Norton Cafe Racer motorcycle. They have done quite a bit of traveling, having journeyed to Mexico and Key West, Fla.

• Luncheon tickets can be purchased for $10 per person by calling Nancy Crass at (502) 222-9021.

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