The Who’s Who of The Paralyzed Veterans of America Central Florida Chapter
Central Florida Chapter Executive Director
John was born in Newark, New Jersey nine minutes before his brother. The second of five children John and his twin brother contracted polio when they were eight months old and spent six weeks in isolation (which he says explains why he is often accused of being insensitive). “I was very fortunate in that, for me, polio was not crippling as it was for so many other people. My brother and I wore braces for a while and went through intensive hot water therapy but basically survived polio with only a few lingering problems. My left leg is atrophied, I had a knee replacement in my early fifties and I deal with post-polio syndrome fatigue but consider myself lucky.”
John never served in the armed forces even though he had hoped to do so as a teenager. “My nick name was “Hero” because all I would talk about was joining the army and going to fight in the war. I spent my teenage years watching news clips about the war in Vietnam and when I turned 18 years old, in December, I registered with the draft board. It was 1969 and the country had just gone to the lottery draft for the first time since World War II. My lottery number was 311 and it was clear to me that I would not be drafted. I later learned that it really didn’t matter what my lottery number was because the military would not take me due to the polio and its effect on me. As a result, I spent my years in college fighting for our servicemen and women against groups such as Students for a Democratic Society. “I consider my time as the Executive Director of the Central Florida Chapter as my way of serving now and I don’t take it lightly. I have a great deal of respect for every veteran and especially those in our organization who continue to advocate for veterans benefits and help veterans get the care and opportunity they need to live a healthy, quality life.”
John has spent the past 31 years in non-profit senior management. He was senior pastor of Baptist Churches for 14 years, Executive Director of a Human Services Organization providing free health care and pharmaceuticals to the poor and indigent for 2 years, Executive Director of a Boys & Girls Club for 6 years, Business Administer/Operations Director for the Salvation Army for 6 years, Operations Director for a food packing company that provided free food to the hungry both nationally and internationally for 1 year and Executive Director of our chapter for the past 2 years. Throughout his career he has been successful in program development, grant writing and fund raising. While with the Boys & Girls Club he took a faltering program with less than 30 kids and within a few years had a program that was reaching over 2,000 kids. During that time John was personally responsible for raising over 2 million dollars for the organization. When he took over as Business Administrator for the Salvation Army in Western NC the organization had an annual budget of less than 2 million dollars and 6 years later the annual budget was over 5.2 million dollars.
John has been married to his wife Pamela for nearly 16 years and between them they have 6 daughters and 9 grandchildren (two of whom are deceased). John’s oldest granddaughter is 19 years old and is a pre-med student at North Carolina State University. His youngest granddaughter is 19 months old and has her “papa” wrapped around his finger. In between are another granddaughter and four grandsons. “The greatest part of growing old is grandchildren. Each of mine give me joy unspeakable.”
“I was recently asked what part of my career was the most important and rewarding to me and I can honestly say that what I am doing now with PVA is just that. My work now is a combination of everything that I have a passion for, veterans, country, family, people in need.”