Craig resident Randy Looper is the owner and operator of the Elk Run Inn and president of the Craig Rotary Club. He said life is about making a difference, and that's what he tries to do through various community service activities.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Craig resident Randy Looper is the owner and operator of the Elk Run Inn and president of the Craig Rotary Club. He said life is about making a difference, and that's what he tries to do through various community service activities.

Helping people a normal part of life for local man

— By his own admission, Randy Looper shies away from the limelight.

Still, he's busy enough to be noticed, at work or at play.

There's work, where he co-owns and operates the Elk Run Inn with his wife, Cindy. A place more than a business, but a place he sometimes gives those who need the much-needed second chance, just that.

There is his service and philanthropy work, where he plays the role of den master for Cub Scouts as well as president for Craig Rotary.

And there is play, where he doesn't completely shy away from the public eye. After all, he's a man who has gotten on stage to entertain the masses in several of Black Mountain Theatre's productions.

Life, as Looper says, is about "making a difference - having fun, but making a difference, on somebody or something, whether they know it or not."

And if someone doesn't know, that might be for the better, Looper said.

"If I give money, or do something for them," he said, "I feel better when something happens and they think it just happened or they did it themselves.

"I think if something opens up for someone, and they don't know how or why, it's better for them. They're more likely to keep doing what they've been doing."

It's nice to get a pat on the back, Looper said, but that's not the reason for being active and working for positive change.

Again, it's just what life - for him - is about.

"If I didn't like to do it, I wouldn't do it," he said.

As Craig Rotary Club president the past two years, Looper oversaw an expansion to the book buddy program, which now reaches more school children than before.

The program entails Rotary giving books to area sceond-graders, and Rotary members taking time to read to the students' classes.

"Originally, we just did Ridgeview (Elementary), but we've been able to expand to all three elementary schools," Looper said. "We now do it three times a year instead of just once."

Craig Rotary's annual Diamonds and Spurs event, hosted this past weekend, raises money for the program.

Rotary allows Looper to be involved with local issues and to help people around the world, he said. It's why he joined Rotary instead of other organizations around town.

"This club is nice because it's a small club and it's local, but what makes it special is the international arm," Looper said.

Craig Rotary is working with the help of other Rotary clubs and Rotary International to start a technical school for underprivileged and disabled adults in Brazil.

"One of the neat things about Rotary is it ignores nationalities," Looper said. "There is no bureaucratic red tape with it. And Rotary does that all over the world."

Rotary projects do not occupy all of Looper's time.

In addition to serving the needs of hotel guests, Looper finds time to watch over a group of young boys as their den master.

About a year ago, the local Cub Scouts had a void with no den master.

Enter Looper, who became an Eagle Scout at 15. He said he likes teaching the first- to fifth-graders and enjoys watching them learn.

"Dealing with that many boys is something else," he said. "I was never a Cub Scout when I was young. Boy Scouts is fun because of the camping and all the things you get do on that end of it.

"Cub Scouts is fun because of the thing you get to teach the boys. It's a good thing for the kids to learn respect for adults, respect for each other and have fun at the same time."

Meeting people, and forming lasting friendships, is a large part of why Looper stays so active, he said.

"People are fun," he said. "That's what makes life so interesting."

Looper has shown he will make time for anyone, even if casual society might have put him or her out of the way.

He and Cindy hired a woman out of the Correctional Alternative Placement Services program, which helps parolees find work.

The woman is the best employee the couple has, Looper said. The hotel has gone through about 27 others in the past year, but this woman has been there for about three years.

Everyone deserves a second chance and help standing, Looper said.

"Most people need it," he said. "You screw up, it's not a big deal as long as you don't do it over and over again."

People develop from mistakes, he added. If someone has to be taken out of a situation, they can move on to be more successful somewhere else.

Craig is full of people who help their neighbors, Looper said. He didn't know that when he drove all over the country to find a hotel property four years ago.

But having been here, Looper said he doesn't feel special, doesn't feel different from any of the people he's met through this organization or that one.

"They all care about this town," Looper said. "They care about that more than they care about themselves."

The only thing that makes Looper feel special is his wife.

Although he doesn't want to be recognized for his efforts around town - indeed going so far as to compare his philanthropy to his acting with Black Mountain Theatre Group ("I can stand up and do whatever I want and it's not me," he said) - Looper wanted to recognize his wife.

"The only reason I can do the things I'm doing is because of Cindy," Looper said. "If it was just me alone, I wouldn't be able to do an eighth of the things I'm doing.

"There's no way I could do anything without her."

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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