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.
John Rhodes | Charity on Wheels (Anaheim, CA)
Having just lost his mother, Barbara, a nurse, to cancer, John Rhodes’ felt hopelessly lost. No stranger to life’s challenges, John owned a history of drug abuse and had been a victim of gang violence. Now he was about to bury the person that had always loved him the most after serving as her caregiver.
“Once she passed, I didn’t go back to using drugs but I was really low on myself, just felt real down and found myself living on the street,” John recalled.
Fortunately, it didn’t last long. After just three days on his own, John met Zach Southall, founder of Charity on Wheels, in an Orange County, California park. As part of their mission, Zach and his wife, Michelle, host a Wednesday night supper for the homeless and even provide transportation to their Anaheim facility.
Charity on Wheels’ mission is simple: Get people off the street. They take to the streets every week looking for those in need. Their goal is to see people who are struggling with poverty and homelessness rescued, restored, and back on the road to self-reliance.
Recalls John: “Zach invited me to one of their dinners and I began going regularly because I really enjoyed them and I was moved by the message they would give and the music they played.”
And while there, he saw firsthand how Charity on Wheels was dedicated to helping others. “I’ve seen a lot of charities and non-profits,” says John, “but Zach and Michelle really care. They go way out of their way to help people out. A lot of people. Sometimes just being a shoulder to cry on if somebody needs it. You know they really care.
“That’s what made me want to be a part of the charity so much. I knew that once I got my life back together, I wanted to give back to them because they gave me so much.”
John went from homelessness to shelter living to a permanent address and along the way began volunteering. For anywhere from three to five days a week, sandwiched around his new job as a security guard, John is the manager of the charity’s drop-in center. “We use the facility during the weekdays to let those that are on the streets come and hang out and get out of the weather. They can come in and do their resume and we have resources to get them into shelters. They can just come in and get a meal, or just watch TV or just get inside for a few hours a day.
“Whenever they need me, I am there. If someone just needs to talk, I am there. Whenever someone needs us, we try to be there, 100 percent. Zach and Michelle mean the world to me.”
And the feeling is mutual. “Big John has a heart for ‘the lost’ that shines through in every smile, every encouraging word, and every BIG hug,’ says Zach. “John truly understands the challenges our friends on the street are going through, having been homeless himself not long ago. He has come a very long way in a very short time, and it is truly inspiring to watch him help others transform their lives. Our community at Charity on Wheels is beyond blessed to have someone so full of kindness and love for his fellow man on our team. I am beyond grateful to call him my friend.”
Rick Vaughn | Executive Director, Respect 90 Foundation