Every month, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected].
Every now and then Bill Franklin likes to read the thank you letter he received from a 10-year-old girl.
It was unprompted and heartfelt and that’s what moves him the most. The little girl, with her sweet innocence, knew that Bill had helped her family in a way that no one else could. And for that she was extremely grateful.
Bill coordinates a crisis management team that operates out of Faith Baptist Church. He doesn’t do it alone. He simply couldn’t. The need in Huntsville is far too great. Bill, along with a team of four other dedicated (and truly selfless!) volunteers, works to help local families and individuals who are struggling to make ends meet.
And in this town, Bill says, there’s a lot of folks who are in that boat. Whether it’s an issue of someone not being able to pay their rent or mortgage or utility bills, a family who doesn’t have enough money to put food on the table, or an unexpected medical crisis that forces someone to have to travel out of town, “whatever the need, we work with them,” says Bill. The crisis management team works closely with other like-minded organizations, such as the Salvation Army, to help make life easier for those experiencing serious financial hardship.
“There’s such a huge need for assistance and direction here,” says Bill. “We try to help people get grounded and get back on their feet. We not only offer spiritual guidance but counselling in finances as well. You can’t do one aspect and let everything else go, otherwise you’ve gained no solid grounding. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he has food for life.”
It’s a job that came to him somewhat accidentally. Nine years ago, Bill, who had retired from a long career as a service manager, was just a regular church member when he was approached by the pastor about the possibility of answering the phone and taking calls from those in need. Always one to want to lend a hand, he agreed. But it wasn’t too long before Bill discovered a harsh reality on the other end of the line.
What I began to realize was the enormity of what was happening in Huntsville. I wanted to be able to do something, so I met with a couple and we had discussions with other churches. We came up with a list of policies and procedures and it just grew from there. The first year we had 12 families we worked with and last year we helped over 30. There’s a big, big need here. It’s just incredible.
This town, says Bill, has a high number of single mothers and in many instances it’s those mothers who are in desperate need of help financially. Lack of affordable housing continues to burden hundreds of local families as well. The waiting list for affordable housing units is so long that it’s not realistic for a family to even be on it when they are in a dire situation of needing a place to live.
“It can be very difficult to separate yourself when you’re standing beside someone who’s being evicted and they’ve lost their place of residence and most of their possessions,” he says.
There have been a few cases where Bill has become personally involved with assisting individuals and families, proof of his heart of gold.
As someone who can easily sympathize with others, Bill is the perfect guy to be in charge of the crisis management team. He’s gentle and kind and has never been one to judge. People make mistakes but it’s from those mistakes that they can learn.
He’s been through his own heartache, including a marriage breakup, and admits there have been times when he should have asked for help but didn’t. But that won’t get you anywhere, as there’s a big difference between needing help and asking for it. He never wants someone to feel like all hope is lost. He is often an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. He’s helped countless people get back on track and turn their life around, but he’s also witnessed a family’s total demise as a result of substance abuse. Bill believes it’s important to have a core of people around you who look out for you, and stresses that getting involved in a church is one way you can have that support.
I look at myself as one individual doing what I can to help ease the load for someone else.
When he’s not fulfilling other duties he has at the church or landscaping in his spare time, Bill holds a bi-weekly chapel service at Fairvern Retirement Residence. Preaching serves as an outlet for him, and it goes hand in hand with mentoring. He coaches and mentors five groups at Faith Baptist Church and he aims to inspire local youth with the concept that choices made today affect the rest of their lives.
“If you’re going to deliver a message of any type, you’ve got to enable someone to achieve it and that’s mentoring. No one is ever sure sure how long this life is going to last and if that’s the case we need to be mentoring others to carry on what we’re passionate about.”
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