Says Joe Maddon: “The volunteers are the unsung heroes. Without them, none of our efforts occur.” Every month, the Respect 90 Foundation will salute a distinguished volunteer from the communities of Tampa, FL, Chicago, IL, Mesa, AZ, Southern California, or Joe’s Hometown of Hazleton, PA. Respect 90 will present a $1,000 grant to that volunteer’s charity. Should you have someone who is deserving, please let us know.
James “Cowboy” Rosier | Project Access (Orange County, CA)
A fall from three stories can mean the end of a life. For James “Cowboy” Rosier, it was a beginning. The fall, some 15 years ago, left him permanently disabled with a shattered right heel.
Unable to work, James began helping out at food pantries and shelters in Oxnard, CA. “I couldn’t sit around the house,” he said recently. “I needed to keep doing something. I’ve been active all my life. I’m not letting this hold me back. I can’t run, but I can walk.”
He can also bike.
Adorned in his ever-present cowboy hat, James, a military veteran who served in the Second Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas during the Vietnam War, is often seen biking throughout the community as part of his duties for Project Access Resource Centers, the latest recipient of this volunteer-resident’s tireless work ethic.
Project Access partners with owners and other community stakeholders of affordable housing communities to provide onsite services that help create strong communities, positive changes, and hopeful futures for families and seniors.
As a resident of Project Access’s apartment complex, James who gained valuable experience from his varied work experiences after his discharge from the Army, began attending the Resource Center’s social hour every morning in 2015. Soon he began helping with the daily ritual of making coffee for the social hour. Gradually, he began expanding his duties to assist Project Access’ Resident Services Coordinator Ivonne Cardenas. Seven years later, Ivonne says proudly “I tell him all the time, you could totally take over my job. He knows all the ins and out of our community. He’s always willing to help, always accessible. James really believes in doing anything he can to make the community better.” No matter how small.
James can often be found setting up tables and chairs for the complex’s grab-n-go events and food pantry, re-organizing storage areas, promoting events and resources all while serving as a positive influence on other residents.
“Ivonne got me involved in a lot of things,” says James with more than a trace of gratitude in his voice. A native of Spain, James was a willing participant after years of experience of assisting shelters and churches around Oxnard often riding his bike miles across town to do so.
Project Access took over a food share and James again stepped up to help becoming a full-fledged volunteer in the process. When Ivonne recognized the need to take the next step – a food pantry for residents and others in the community- she did so with a confidence that came from having James on her team. “He helped me understand how it works because of his knowledge and experience with other food pantries,” says Ivonne. “I felt very comfortable going into it because I knew he would volunteer and help us with that. He was definitely a major part of the growth of the food pantry.”
The venture went from helping twenty families every two weeks to 100 while hitting a peak of 200 during the early months of the pandemic.
As James began to emerge as a respected member of the complex, Ivonne nudged him into a leadership role as a liaison with the Sierra Linda Neighborhood Council. “He has always looked out for everyone’s safety with his dedication and efforts and has gained trust from his neighbors,” says Ivonne. “They look up to him.
James eventually became a member of the council’s board. “That’s something I feel very proud that he’s doing because he not only represents our complex, he also has a role within the city.”
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation