Kenneth and Doreen Agrey: 'Everybody wants to leave some kind of legacy'

They've been married almost 63 years, and since shortly after their nuptials, they've been helping to change lives by sponsoring children in poverty.

Kenneth and Doreen Agrey have sponsored approximately 15 children through World Vision.

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"We became Christians when we were teenagers," says Kenneth, "and had the idea everybody wants to leave some kind of legacy."

Ken and Doreen live by the adage, "The lord didn't put you on this earth to make a living, he put you on this earth to make a life."

What better way, they say, than to help a child who otherwise has little chance in life.

A child has his or her whole life ahead of them, say Kenneth and Doreen. They know from the reports they receive about the children they sponsor that, once they have gone through the sponsorship program, they usually do well for themselves. Some even become doctors or other professionals, and they want to help others because somebody helped them. So their gift keeps on giving.

The Agreys became involved in World Vision even before it was World Vision, through its founder Dr. Bob Pierce.

"We were supporting orphans through him," says Kenneth, having been introduced to the possibility by Doreen's sister.

"We look into things before we start anything," he said, and they found Pierce to be trustworthy and honest. They also appreciated the fact that only a small percentage of the funds raised went to overhead.

World Vision says its donors expect administrative costs to be kept as low as possible; over the past five years 81 per cent of all revenue supported programs that fight poverty and help children and communities in need. Its management and executive-level position roles are paid well below industry standards for roles that require the same skills, experience and education level.

Then, the families of these children are asked if they'd like to be part of the child sponsorship program, with the understanding that the benefits will be shared by everyone in the community, bringing long-term changes to that child's community.

"It helps the whole family," says Doreen.

They also sponsor orphans through WOW (Women for Orphans and Widows) which targets areas of Africa characterized by extreme rates of HIV and AIDS, a lack of nutrition, poor education and high unemployment rates.

Helping them become self-sufficient is the goal, says Doreen.

Another of their causes is the World Literature Crusade, now called Every Home for Christ, which was founded in Saskatchewan by Rev.Jack McAlister.

The Agreys were both raised in Saskatchewan in the Parkside area. They met in their home community and were married. For the next 12 years Kenneth worked as a grain buyer in Belbutte, 22 miles west of Glaslyn.

Then, he pastored churches in rural Saskatchewan for 20 years before they moved to Alberta, where there was more employment opportunities for their children.

Kenneth drove a school bus, taking children to special schools in Edmonton, for 20 years.

Throughout this time Doreen worked in various offices, having gone to business school.

When it came time to retire, they returned to Belbutte, where they bought an acreage that was home for the next 20 years.

Their oldest child, Margo, is 62, a retired school teacher in Saskatoon. She is the only one of their five children to live in Saskatchewan, says Doreen.

Cheryl works at a government job in Penticton, B.C., Janice is a lab tech in Red Deer, Alta, Brian works in the oilpatch in Alberta and Roger is a welder at Fort McMurray, Alta.

The family members are all singers, say the parents. For many years, they travelled as a family country western gospel band. They even recorded two albums at the urging of their fans. Margo was the pianist on the first one, and a second one saw all the children involved. At the time they ranged in age from Margo at 16 to Roger at six.

"We had a lot of good reports on it but we don't know why," laughs Kenneth.

They also enjoyed profitable sales of their albums, with many going to the United States and many more to northern Alberta. Some people who would buy packages of 15 to give to people for Christmas presents, says Kenneth.

The albums were recorded in Saskatoon and Calgary with the assistance of steel guitar player Don Thompson, who once had Tommy Hunter in his band. After a successful career in music, Thompson turned his attention to missionary work and now operates a gospel coffee house in Willingdon, Alta.

The Agreys haven't played for the last few years due to health issues, but they are glad they made the albums, especially for their kids' sakes.

Kenneth says, "If we have done any good in this world, I give credit to the Lord because he changed our lives."

They became Christians as teenagers, he said, and the previously mentioned adage "The lord didn't put you on this earth to make a living, he put you on this earth to make a life" includes fellowship and helping others.

They put store in the words of C.T. Studd, missionary and founder of the Worldwide Evangelisation Crusade, who wrote in one of his poems, "Only one life, twill soon be passed. Only what's done for Christ will last."

They also hold dear a passage from John 14:6, "I amthe wayand the truthand the life.No one comes to the Father except through me."

World Vision's Saskatchewan Campaign for Children kicked off Oct. 1 and runs until the end of November. In Saskatchewan, 17,000 people already sponsor more than 20,000 children but the need is great and tens of thousands of children around the world still need sponsors. The goal of the Saskatchewan Campaign for Children is to recognize the generosity of Saskatchewan residents and to inspire 1,500 more to sponsor children in developing countries by the end of the campaign.

There are already 320 sponsors from the Battlefords who sponsor a total of 382 children through World Vision.

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