Friday, May 27, 2016

Working Hard for Those Who Have Little

Tom Gerdy and the convict book.
When the late Roanoke delegate Vic Thomas left the General Assembly some years ago, his term and his patience at an end, he left a piece of wisdom that should be emblazoned on the Capital Building.

"Don't forget them that don't have nothin'," he said in that unforgettable Virginia twang. Whether or not Vic was grammatically correct, he certainly was morally impeccable.

Tom Gerdy of Lynchburg, the owner of his own construction company and by any measure a notable citizen of the Hill City, has laid claim to that same moral high ground. Tom has been one of the most active members of Habitat for Humanity for years. He once helped build six houses in Roanoke over a weekend.

These homes, as you know, go to people who would never have even dreamed of having a home of their own before Tom and Habitat came along. They aren't given the new homes--built with volunteer labor and mostly contributed materials. They work for them, putting in a lot of hours, which--the philosophy goes--makes them appreciate what they are getting a lot more.

Tom's wife has taken note of his volunteerism to the point of occasionally goading him--in good nature, one assumes--that his volunteering has become his job. But his construction company--which builds custom homes (one, ironically, at the moment is 11,000 square feet for "some very good people") and renovates spaces for businesses--has been quite successful of late. "After several down years," he points out, smiling.

Tom has several new volunteer projects going on at the moment, one of them a book written by convicts that is directed at troubled high school kids. It is titled Insights from Inside. The book has been entirely self-financed and is making its way into the hands of those who need to read its warnings from people who know what consequence is.

Tom wants to save the world. He says so. He plans to do it, one house and one wrecked life at a time. And the fact that he believes he can is why I admire the hell out of him.

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