During her tenure with Centra Credit Union, Karen Owens presented several oversized checks to local causes.
Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry, Girls Inc. of Jackson County and the Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108 Cops and Kids program have been among the recipients.
All of those causes have one thing in common: Kids.
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On Dec. 4, Owens died after battling COVID-19. She was 61.
Following her death, people could donate to Cops and Kids in her honor at Centra Credit Union or Voss and Sons Funeral Service in Seymour.
So far, more than $400 has been raised through the funeral home.
And recently, Centra presented an oversized check for $8,457.41 to FOP President C.J. Foster to benefit Cops and Kids, which pairs local law enforcement with kids for a shopping trip at Walmart Supercenter in Seymour each December. Owens worked for Centra for 25 years and served as branch manager in Seymour.
Owens’ stepdaughter, Shelley Turner, and brother, C.D. Kinney, were joined by Centra staff members for the check presentation.
“We were blown away,” Turner said of the total raised. “That’s a lot of money, especially now with people out of jobs, haven’t been working. To us, that just goes to show how her character, how her heart was, how she touched other people that are reaching out wanting to show their appreciation and to honor her.”
Owens’ stepson, Bill Owens, said she continues to touch people’s lives even after she’s gone.
“It’s really special to have somebody in your family that can get out there and reach that many people from all different walks of life,” Bill said of Karen, who was involved with Girls Inc., Anchor House, Cops
and Kids, the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce, Schneck Foundation, Jackson County United Way and other local organizations.
Foster said he always appreciated Owens’ fundraising efforts for Cops and Kids, which formerly was known as Shop with a Cop.
“She was an avid supporter of that program, and she never wanted to see a kid do without,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about Karen. I don’t know how to put it other than it’s just heartbreaking that she’s gone.”
Despite Centra’s lobby being closed recently due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, Assistant Branch Manager Sehrish Sangamkar said people still found ways to donate in Owens’ honor.
“She has been in the community for this long, and she has built up great relationships with the community, local businesses and members, so it was just overwhelming to get the response from the members,” she said. “Everybody just loved Karen. If you knew Karen, you were to love Karen.”
Every year, each of Centra’s markets lines up with a nonprofit that helps children as part of the Holiday Giving Program.
John Finney, vice president of retail sales for Centra, said when the company started the program, Owens already was supporting Shop with a Cop and suggested it be the Seymour branch’s organization to help.
This year, he said Centra donated a little more than $40,000 to different community projects through its Holiday Giving Program.
“Our members love to get involved, they love to help these kids in these communities,” Finney said. “Then when you add on the real loss that we had here in the Centra family with Karen’s passing, it made a pretty easy choice and people were lined up (to donate). … Overwhelmingly, people came with such love and admiration for Karen professionally, personally for her community involvement.”
Turner said her stepmother was drawn to Cops and Kids because of her “mother’s heart.”
“We were her stepchildren, but we were her children,” Turner said. “She really had a heart for kids, and she wanted children to be taken care of.”
Turner also noted Karen’s involvement with a local mission team that led and participated in many missions throughout southeast Asia.
“I think the Shop with a Cop program was honestly her desire to help children,” Turner said.
“She always wanted kids to have an opportunity to succeed,” Bill Owens said. “You can’t really change grownups, but you can change kids, so that’s where she would reach out and try to make a difference in every kid’s life that she could.”
Karen often was present on the Cops and Kids shopping day to see the kids interact with local police officers.
“She enjoyed watching that part of it, too,” Turner said. “She would just talk about how it warmed her heart, and she would always take pictures and send them to me. It just made her happy to be able to help children.”
This year, Karen died eight days before the shopping day.
Her husband of 42 years, Jerry Owens, tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 10 and was admitted to the Schneck Medical Center intensive care unit Nov. 14. Karen got sick and passed out Nov. 13 and went to the hospital two days later.
Turner said Karen was put on a ventilator Nov. 23, and Jerry also was on a ventilator in the next ICU room.
“It definitely changed our immediate family’s life,” Bill said. “Nobody really takes the virus seriously until it hits somebody that you love, so sitting there watching it happen firsthand was really kind of surreal because you hear things and nobody wants to believe it until it affects you personally.”
Jerry is slowly progressing after coming off of the ventilator Dec. 14.
“Dad is doing better, getting stronger every day,” Bill said. “We project getting him out of the hospital sometime at the beginning of the year and getting him started on rehab to get his strength back.”
A private family funeral service for Karen was Dec. 12, and a celebration of life service will be conducted at a later date.
Memorials in Karen’s honor are still being accepted at Voss and Sons to benefit Cops and Kids.
“We seriously appreciate the love that they have shown her,” Turner said of those who have made donations so far. “Anything we can do to honor her, that’s what we want to do.”
Centra’s Seymour branch plans to carry on Karen’s legacy of supporting Cops and Kids.
“We love being part of our community. It’s kind of who we are as a credit union, and certainly this will continue. I think Seymour will take on a little different spin with more of a memoriam to Karen,” Finney said.
“She would be so excited,” Turner said. “She would be so proud.”
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To make a donation to the Fraternal Order of Police Donald M. Winn Lodge 108 Cops and Kids program in Karen Owens’ memory, mail it to Voss and Sons Funeral Service, 316 N. Chestnut St., Seymour, IN 47274 or stop by the funeral home.
Make checks payable to Cops and Kids and put "Memorial for Karen Owens" in the memo line.