from Jeff Proctor, volunteer for neighbor chores
“I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t moments when I feel totally tapped out, like I can’t possibly do one more thing,” admits Jeff Proctor who started Service with Purpose – Cooke County (Texas) three years ago…on his own, alone. Jeff is a dad of three kids, husband of a horse-trainer wife, and has a full-time marketing-sales job. The family lives on a small ranch.
“Yeah, there is no end to the chores, but I know that when I am going out to do good for someone else, someone who can’t do for himself, then I know there will be a way.” Jeff grew up in a very close family that believed that giving of yourself is more important than giving money. “Maybe that is because we didn’t have much money, but we helped our neighbors and they helped us.” So pitching in, giving a hand wherever and however, is a big part of who Jeff is. No surprise, then, that the mission statement for Service with Purpose is “Building character in word and deed.”
The Obvious Step to Take
About three years ago, Jeff was sitting in church when he had a powerful moment. He actually had a physical feeling of warmth all over. And then a strong, conscious thought: “You have to help MORE people in Cooke County.” How? “It will come.” He says he has always felt a connection to who he calls The Man Upstairs, but he has never had an actual conversation like this! “You need to do this.” So Jeff thought, who am I to say no?
Cooke County is a non-urban area of about 50,000 people with very few social services. It occurred to Jeff that he could offer to do things for senior citizens – 50% of them do not have insurance – so that they could stay in their homes. Do things for them that they couldn’t do for themselves: mow the lawn, change light bulbs, fix the water heater, whatever – at no charge so they could use the money to pay for food, medicine, taxes. He went to a local Senior Center and told them he was available and they passed the word to their friends and families. Jeff then connected with Vista, United Way, Red Cross, local police and fire department, the LDS Church – lots of organizations call him when something is out of their mission. Jeff explained, “We are kind of a last resort or catch-all for help, no matter what. We are also a clearinghouse or 211 for people and organizations to call – we know where you can go and what you can do.”
Often, it is Jeff who answers the call. A few weeks ago Meals on Wheels called Jeff for help. Their delivery people couldn’t reach one of their senior clients because the stairs to the house had fallen apart. Could Jeff help? On his way home from work he stopped at the lumber yard for materials and built the stairs – in dress slacks and button-down shirt.
The Spiritual Support
When asked if he was developing spiritual qualities in his service, Jeff replied with a laugh: “The Lord is teaching me patience and humility! While I was building the new stairs for the senior, her grandson comes out to sit on the porch, smoke a cigarette, and watch. I thought, what? You can’t help your grandmother with meals or house repairs? And then it came to me so strongly that my work is all about showing him what compassion, service, good deeds is all about. I am an example to him of how to build character. I was really grateful for that lesson too.”
More Helpers, More Ways to Help, More People to Help…More Prayer!
Four months ago, Jeff got some community leaders together to form an advisory group. This has expanded the pool of resources to help more people. Which is a good thing because Jeff started a turkey drive for Thanksgiving called Turkey Roundup where over 30 families (about 150 people) each received a cooked turkey dinner complete with the whole works right in their own homes! “I want to be able to give every family in Cooke County at least one day a year to give thanks together, to keep families together for this special day,” said Jeff.
Finding folks to help isn’t the hard part, but getting donations is always a challenge. But every time they have asked, usually at the last minute, the money has been there. “On the 20th of December, we had 12 more kids who needed presents and we ran out of money.” Jeff explained the importance he feels in providing presents: “It isn’t the actual gift that is important, it is that feeling of love and joy that kids feel with every offered gift. It’s a terrible time of year to lose faith, regardless of your religion or no religion – there needs to be hope and love. When kids see that other people are helping them, that builds character for them.”
“So here we were, 12 kids without presents and only a few more days. My prayer was that I know we are doing the right thing. These kids are innocent and need to experience the excitement, blessing, and outpouring of love from Christmas. I was just so sure this was the right thing and that we would have what we needed. And we did! Someone stepped in and covered the cost.”
Building Neighborhoods of Good Samaritans
Setting the example of the Good Samaritan in word and deed is very important to Jeff and his mission of Service with Purpose. It’s how to build an entire community of helpers. One of the ways his work got to be known was through mowing so many lawns in neighborhoods. “I was doing 12-14 lawns a week after work. And this is Texas, these yards are BIG! I would grab one of my kids or a friend and go mow lawns. There was one single mom whose lawn needed regular mowing. Four or five neighbors came by to ask me who I was. When the kids in the house were asked what I was doing, the kids said ‘These strangers are helping my family more than you are!’ Pretty soon we lost half of our customers in the neighborhood because all the neighbors stepped in and took over mowing!”
“That’s when I know it is right. Love your neighbors as yourself. I am not a smart man…but this I know: When I am helping others I know I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.” Jeff went on to say, “When someone looks at me and says ‘Thank You’ – wow, that really is it for me. I can keep going.”
Jeff hopes that his county-wide model of neighbors helping neighbors can be adopted by other nearby counties. And Jeff knows just the man to help them do it!
Help Service with Purpose-Cooke County
Contact Jeff via Facebook or email at servicewithpurposecookecounty@gmail to see what he needs. Money is appreciated but so are gift certificates at hardware stores for lawnmowers or Amazon-delivered turkeys for Turkey Roundup – or be inspired! Everything helps these neighbors.
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