It never even occurred to me that I would one day receive an award for the volunteering that I do. I simply do it because at one point, someone took care of my wife while I was deployed with the United States Marine Corp, and I just wanted to try and pay it forward.
Volunteering my time takes many shapes and sizes – It can include cutting lawns for friends next door after the husband had been sent to Afghanistan. Hedge trimming, cleaning driveways and mulching. Some jobs are as simple as filling holes made by a dog, and other times a project entails leveling the ground in order to install a pool for a neighbor with children.
Only after joining Sodexo in 2004 did I turn a large part of my attention to collecting food for the hungry. I was asked to participate in the Jacksonville Soup Kitchen food drive at that time. It made sense for me to tap the network of people who benefited from my home and landscaping work, so I asked them to donate food items in exchange for the things that I was doing for them.
The response was amazing. People gave so much food that it seemed unreal. In a way it was that spirit of giving by others that made my award recognition as a Hero of Everyday Life by the Sodexo Foundation possible. The food drive and giving back to the community is reward enough, however, having the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. and share my story with my Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, and my Representative, Walter Jones was the icing on the cake.
Not being the suit and tie type, I confess that there were moments when I felt a bit out of place. I’m much more at ease when I’m working with people to improve the places where they live or to relieve hunger in our community. Speaking of which, it is something that will be lot easier to do, thanks to the $5,000 grant that the Sodexo Foundation awarded to the Jacksonville Soup Kitchen in my name.
It is a source of great pride for me to work at a company where giving back to the community is demonstrated in such a real and tangible way. I was so inspired after my trip to Washington that I volunteered the very next weekend and raised an additional $400 and 1235 pounds of food. I just wish there were more hours in the day!