Community Organizer; founder of Hunger2Health
Retirement was looming, and I was feeling … nervous? I loved my job as a vocational rehabilitation counselor working with disabled veterans, and I couldn’t imagine how retirement could top it.
I’d ask other retirees what they did, because I had no idea what I was going to do. I’d already traveled everywhere I wanted to go, and I don’t golf, but I always knew I wanted to retire to something, not from something. In 2011 I read a newspaper article that said Winston-Salem led the nation in the number of families with hungry children. It seemed like a dubious stat to me; I personally didn’t know anyone who was “hungry.” But after a little research, I learned there were entire neighborhoods in town that I had never visited, and the children there were suffering.
I felt called to do something and created a plan. But I wondered, ‘How does an outsider become an insider and build trust?’ ”
I visited Second Harvest Food Bank and learned that a local elementary school, Ashley Academy, was approved for a feeding program that would deliver food to hungry children for the weekend, but it had no sponsor. I began laying the groundwork for what would become Hunger2Health by meeting with community leaders in and outside the school. This led to the creation of a coalition through my church, Ardmore Baptist, which became Ashley’s sponsor.
Hunger2Health delivered its first backpacks of food in January 2012, and today the program delivers 125 backpacks each week. Many church members are also involved in mentoring programs at the school, including my wife, Susan, and I who read to students weekly.
In addition to my work with Hunger2Health, I also serves a number of other causes in town. They include Love Out Loud’s Gift Mart, which provides an opportunity for parents to purchase discounted holiday gifts for their children; Experiment in Self-Reliance, where I served on the board of directors; Ronald McDonald House, where Susan and I make bedside visits with families who have kids staying at Brenner Children’s Hospital; and Samaritan’s Feet, which donates shoes to children both locally and across the globe.
Since 2018 I have collected bikes that are no longer needed by families and children to repair and tune up to provide to families at Christmas. I found people very willing to donate gently used bikes for a good cause. In the past two years at Gift Mart we have provided 253 bikes to families in need. I’m always looking for men and women who enjoy working on bikes. Many of the bike shops in town donate trade-ins to me. I also collaborate with individuals and nonprofits all of town.
At the core of all my volunteer duties is one common theme—helping children. God called me to step out to do things far beyond my expertise or comfort. I find it humorous that God asked me to coordinate a bike ministry when I haven’t ridden a bike in 45 years nor have I ever changed a tire. Now I’m know around town as “the bike guy.”
The best thing we can do as adults is to build relationships with kids. I believe the greatest job I have in my life as a retiree is to see a door that God has opened and know I need to go through it.