Two Men Give Back in Wonderful Ways
By Betsy Owens
We’re starting a new periodic feature with this week’s blog post: Why I Give. At Boys & Girls Clubs there are multiple ways to give, and each of them enriches the lives of children. This week we profile two inspiring men who give in different but essential ways–Thaddeus Seymour and Harry Clark.
Why I Give: Volunteer Harry Clark
A man can spend a lifetime acquiring wisdom and valuable experiences, and then spend his retirement on a golf course. Or, like Harry Clark, a man can spend his retirement giving back to the community, sharing this accumulated wisdom with children in need of positive role models. Grandpa Harry, as the teens at the Parramore Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs refer to him, will turn 70 this year. A self-described “Jack of all trades,” Harry’s career included serving in the Air Force (with tours of duty in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Thailand and all around the U.S.), and working as an assistant chef, a nursing assistant, for the labor agency Right Hand Man and in concessions at the Amway Center. These days, Harry shows up at the Parramore Club five days a week to spend time with his young friends. Some days they go fishing. Some days they just sit and talk. Whatever the activity, it’s easy to see the esteem that Harry and the Parramore teens have for each another.
Tell me how you came to volunteer for Boys & Girls Clubs:
Well, my wife died a year and a half ago. We’d been married 35 years. After she died, I was gone. My mind was shot, and I was down and out. I got down on my knees and asked God to bring me out of my sadness. And He did. You know Tasha works here (Harry’s daughter-in-law, Tasha Robinson-Banks, is the Service Director of BGCCF’s Downtown and Parramore branches.) She suggested that I come in and volunteer and now I get up feeling happy every day.
You come here 5 days a week. Isn’t that a lot?
Well, you can only watch so many old Andy Griffith shows before you want to do something else. I thought I’d spend my retirement fishing. But fishing by yourself gets old. For me, it’s important to be around kids. My grandkids are getting older and some have moved away. The kids here are like my grandkids.
What do you offer the children?
Many of the kids here are underprivileged. Some are from broken homes, and don’t get much attention. It used to be that even if the parents weren’t around, the whole neighborhood looked out for each other. It’s not like that anymore. Kids need attention and discipline. I teach them basic manners. Some of them come here not knowing that. We do all kinds of things together. We go fishing at Turkey Lake. We work on pottery. But mostly we just talk.
What was your own childhood like?
I grew up in West Winter Park. We spent a lot of time out on the sandlot. A lot of the boys hung out with each other, and some got into trouble. I liked to hang out with the old guys under the tree. They’d sit there playing checkers and talking. I liked to listen to what they had to say. I learned a lot that way. I learned that you’ve got to treat people how you want to be treated. And that it’s better to give than receive. They taught me life lessons that I now share with the kids here. I guess it’s kind of come full circle.
Why I Give: Giving Society Member Thaddeus Seymour
Since they moved to Winter Park forty years ago, Thaddeus and Polly Seymour have been associated with philanthropy. When there is a good cause to rally around, you can be sure that Thad and Polly will be front and center, lending their time, talent and treasure. Thad is retired from Rollins College, where he served as President for 12 years, and as a member of the English faculty an additional 17 years. In retirement, Thad has been even more active in the nonprofit community, including the Winter Park Public Library (he and particularly Polly have been the driving force behind the New Leaf Bookstore); the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens (he co-chaired the successful campaign to save the Capen-Showalter House); and Habitat for Humanity, which he has served as chairman for 22 years. Two years ago, Thad and Polly became supporters of Boys & Girls Clubs.
What was your first exposure to Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida?
I was aware of the Boys & Girls Clubs, but didn’t have any first-hand exposure, and wasn’t sure of its mission. Then, my friend (Joe R. Lee Board Member) Jennifer Anderson invited me to attend a Faces of the Future Breakfast at the Eatonville Club. It was one of the most affecting experiences I’ve had.
I was immediately greeted by the young people who were the beneficiaries of this tremendous program—they were so hospitable and committed. I was impressed to hear from them directly—they were so articulate and passionate about how deeply they had benefited from their experiences at the Club.
Why did you and Polly become Giving Society members?
As I listened to the presentations, it was so obvious to me that Boys & Girls Clubs doesn’t just improve the youths’ present lives, but their futures. As the Club members spoke, I felt that I was listening to our future community leaders, that these young people would grow up to give back to both Eatonville and to the larger community.
As a retired educator, what do you think young people need to succeed?
I believe that a young person needs sufficient confidence to be willing to take risks. Success in life is about knowing you have something to offer the world, and having the courage to offer it. So many children raised in disadvantaged circumstances lack the support they need to feel good about themselves, and to discern their particular gifts. A Boys & Girls Club provides young people with this all-important confidence. I can’t think of another organization that affects lives in such a meaningful way.