WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — He’s a research and development project manager by day and a superhero, “of sorts,” in his spare time — Mike Denning has worked for Protobox, LLC in the Air Force Research Laboratory of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base for the last 40 years. Although he does not wear a cape or mask, he is an “unsung hero” who wears many hats in his community and there are many who consider him and his wife, Julie, the “Dynamic Duo” of community service.
“The Dennings are amazing people,” said local resident Dan Ryan. “They really care about people and they know how to build community and get people involved. They are the unsung heroes in our community that just keep giving back year after year, putting in countless hours of volunteering and community service to make our neighborhoods and surrounding communities better for everyone everyday.”
“It’s just want they do,” Ryan added.
The Dennings are so respected and known for their kindness, giving nature and leadership to get things done that after the recent tornado in Dayton, people just started randomly dropping off food and supplies in front of their house knowing that they would make sure those in need would get it.
This energetic couple met 28 years ago at the Riverside Jaycees “volunteering” for a community cause. It clearly had to be fate for two such caring people to meet while giving back.
“At first Mike and I we were just good friends and then it blossomed from there, and we now have seven grandkids and one great granddaughter,” said Julie Denning.
Julie is a community resources coordinator and recruiter for the National Youth Advocate Program, a non-profit Foster Care Program. She also volunteers at the Riverside Jaycees where she once was the President of the Ohio Jaycees. Julie also serves on the school board for Mad River Local Schools.
The Dennings live in Riverside.
In addition to working on at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Mike also volunteers with the Riverside Jaycees and has also served on the Riverside City Council for the past 10 years. His efforts to pass necessary merger measures helped to form the City of Riverside. He could be considered by many as the “Father of Riverside.”
He is also running for mayor of Riverside this Fall.
“I believe we need someone who has the heart of this community in their heart,” said Denning.
Julie has worked hard as a school board member in her local Mad River school district working on curriculum improvements to creating a program to help struggling families obtain school supplies. In a grass roots effort Denning teamed up with local Pastor Dan Powell and 20 other churches to help create the “Hope4Riverside Program” which supplies free school supplies to students in need.
For the Dennings, volunteering and community service is a part of their daily lives.
“It’s just kind of what we do,” said Mike.
The list of community service efforts that the Dennings have done for their community and neighboring communities ranges from organizating food and clothing drives, as well as disaster relief efforts to Desert Storm Vigils and community festivals. They were instrumental in the creation of Memorial Park and the and Police and Firefighters Memorials and the non-profit Jaycees Haunted House.
“Community comes first for us,” said Julie. “We work, live, play and serve in our community. Both Mike and I grew up in families that didn’t have a lot, so we have been there and we try everyday to give back a little to the community and try to make things better. Our lives revolve around our community.”
“For us, making a difference is more important that making money,” Mike added.
That’s just what they do.
“These folks Mike and Julie are not just givers, they are doers. They get things done in the community and know how to get other people involved,” said Ryan, who added that he was inspired by the Dennings to become active in the community. “When a local resident was struggling with the upkeep of his house and property, Mike teamed up with me and we personally went out to helped that neighbor pick up his trash and clean up his property. We ended up walking the whole neighborhood with a ladder volunteering to assist anyone else who needed help with painting, mowing and other home repairs.”
Both Dennings also teamed up weeks ago with the Riverside Jaycees and the Mad River Lyons Club to help the victims of the Dayton tornado disaster.
“After addressing the tornado relief needs of our community, we then set up a recovery tent in the heavily hit Northridge area and supplied hot meals, water, clothing and many other supplies,” said Julie. “We served approximately 120 to 150 fried chicken meals that day and handed out many supplies and necessities to those in need.”
Some may call the Dennings the Dynamic Duo of Riverside and refer to them as community superhero’s, but the Dennings won’t have any of it. They don’t do it for recognition or pats on the back — they are “boots on the ground,” hands-on doers and givers.
“Both Mike and Julie Denning are truly incredible people,” said Ryan. “I can’t express in words all the great work they do. They are so full of fire. In fact, they are often referred by many as the ‘fire and brimstone and oil and water couple.’ Mike and Julie really just kind of piggyback off of each other bouncing their great ideas and efforts back and forth with the net result yielding something really good and beneficial for the community. They really inspire others like me to get involved.”
“It’s just what they do,” Ryan added.
Ron Brahm is a contributing writer for Greene County News.