By: Tyler Close

My great grandparents were basically my second set of parents. I spent a ton of time with them and—to this day—recall with clarity their tiny duplex, the waffles that would come off my great grandmother’s 50-year-old waffle iron and some of the other things they loved most. For my great grandfather, those loves were giving back, the Oakland Raiders, and Diet Dr. Pepper.

I’m not sure if that’s the order he would put them in, but I know giving back was part of his identity. He was an early board member with Share and often took me with him when he went to talk with churches and businesses, or to prep and serve meals for those in need. It seemed like he knew everyone we ever encountered, and—regardless of who it was—he would always say hello with a smile and stop to chat.

He passed away when I was thirteen years old, but he stayed with me in many ways. As I grew up and got a job at the Department of Social and Health Services, I ended up experiencing the great need in our community all over again. I love this job because our sole purpose is to help clients transition towards self-sufficiency. It’s tough to see families struggling for housing and food on a daily basis. It can also be a thankless job, but it is always rewarding when I stop and think about how many people I’m helping.

Still, I knew I could do more. Thanks to my great grandfather’s example, I knew there were other ways I could help. I decided to weave service into the work I do every day, and immediately called Share to see how I could help. I started by organizing a Thanksgiving Food and Fund drive at work and have since supported the organization almost every quarter with other friends and family fundraising efforts. It’s been amazing to feel like I can help clients in other ways, and really rewarding to carry on my great grandfather’s legacy.

In fact, last year Share honored me as their volunteer of the year. While the generational connection had always been in the back of my mind, it really hit me that night. But it wasn’t when I was accepting the award. Things actually came full circle when I sat down and a server came around to take drink orders. He spouted off the soft drink options for the night. Now, we all know that Diet Dr. Pepper is not something you usually see on menus, but there it was. That’s when it all sunk in and that tingle set in.

Regardless of whether or not it was a sign, it was at least a serendipitous reminder that he’ll always be with me. It is because of him that I believe everyone regardless of gender, skin color, sexual orientation, religious beliefs or financial status deserve a fresh meal and a roof over their head. His idea was that if there was a way to house the homeless, provide them education and skills to transition into housing and contribute to our society, then we would have the richest community possible.

Because of him I know our community isn’t going to get to where it needs to be without us finding a way to contribute. We have to make our community one that we want to live in. We all have to take it there, and I am very thankful that he gave me the directions.

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