When Poland resident Bob Popa was asked to be master of ceremonies at this year's Men's Rally in the Valley, it was more of a dream come true. Popa will be handling the MC position from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 3 at the Covelli Center in Youngstown.
For Popa, being an MC is nothing new. Also known as ''The Pope,'' Popa has spent close to 30 years in radio. He started locally with WHOT AM in 1979. As his radio career continued he served as a disc jockey for Hot FM 101, Oldies 93, and then moved to Clear Channel, finishing up his career with news talk radio at WPIC in Sharon, Pa.
''I was part of a layoff in 2009 when cutbacks were made,'' Popa said.
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He found himself out of work and was struggling to find something in the area. He attended a Men's Rally in the Valley and was impressed with the spirit that filled the Covelli Center. He had a close friend who was involved with a group called Promise Keepers, who put on the rally.
Nine days after the event, he got a call from North East Ohio Corrections Center. It meant a big career change from radio to working in a private prison.
''I believe God put me there for a reason,'' he said. ''I got this job 16 months after my layoff. I saw it posted on a career builders website and headed to One Stop to apply. I was told the prison gets 3,000 applications a year from One Stop and I often asked how I got the job at age 60.''
Since beginning work at the prison, Popa said he has not had one day where he was fearful of working in such an environment. He said the lack of fear came from a talk Pastor Brent Allen from Old North Baptist Church in Canfield was giving.
''Pastor Brent was talking about Joshua 1:9 and it lit up a bell in my head,'' he said. ''After reading Joshua and working in the prison, there has not been one day I felt afraid.''
When he was asked to MC this year's rally, Popa didn't hesitate to say yes. As he got more involved with the May 3 event, he said he was amazed at the way it has come together and of the men who help make it happen.
''It is amazing how God has blessed us with men who have come together to donate their time,'' he said.
When the event was being planned last year, Popa said a group of 25 men had come together to plan it. They had to come up with $2,500 to reserve the Covelli Center. The money came together in one night.
''We held a fundraiser with the 25 men,'' he said. ''They were also sitting around and decided to take up a collection. All but $185 of the amount needed was raised. God had made the down payment for us.''
He said there are others involved in the May 3 event that are just as amazing. This year's event will feature Cross Walkers. These are groups of men from north, east and west of Youngstown, who will carry heavy wooden crossed all night long and reach the Covelli the day of the rally.
As for guest speakers that Popa will be introducing, the event will feature Phil Robinson from Duck Dynasty and former Chicago Bear, 1998 Football Hall of Fame inductee, and present coach with the Minnesota Vikings, Mike Singletary.
Like all the men involved with Men's Rally in the Valley, Popa is a volunteer.
He said, ''I'll take my reward later, in Heaven.''
Popa is a Brookfield High School graduate and a Korean War veteran. He and his wife Brenda live in Poland.