“You likely don’t remember me,” began a letter by Jim Gourley to Pam Landwirth a couple of years ago, “…but I work at Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated, and was led to the Village by your website (and the Princess!) and thought it would be a great opportunity to enhance my servant leadership abilities through helping the families at GKTW. Little did I realize that it was I who would be receiving the help, not the other way around. You have allowed me to become a better person as a result of the two weeks I have spent there thus far, but I am still a work in progress.”
Jim’s poignant words were a wonderful reminder of our mission, and a great illustration of the transformative power of volunteerism – not to mention the start of a remarkable journey of giving back. Since then, Jim has traveled to the Village from his home in South Carolina to volunteer nearly 1,700 volunteer hours, in virtually every capacity possible. Humbly, passionately, and with an infectious smile, Jim has made an enormous impact at the Village during weeks-long volunteer visits. Despite his own battle with cancer, Jim has continued to devote his time and talents helping to brighten the lives of those facing the most devastating challenges a family can endure. Most recently, Jim returned this summer and fall to help prepare the Village for its eventual reopening.
A more recent letter to Pam underscores Jim’s selfless devotion to giving back: “I believe that I was sent to GKTW in October and December, prior to my mishap, to give me the perspective I needed. If I felt a little pain, I simply thought of the truly amazing kids I had met and what they lived with on a daily basis…and my pain was diminished. I never once asked ‘why me’ or worried about ‘what if,’ and that would not have been the case if this had occurred before my GKTW service. You see, those families showed me how putting others before self and having strength against the odds is possible even in the direst circumstances. I realized just how minor my situation was in comparison, and it kept my compass centered. It allowed me to focus on what tomorrow may bring versus what a single today might have in store. You have given me purpose along with a new measure of success far more important than anything any career accomplishment could ever bring.”
Jim continued, “The parents of these children are the most incredible servant leaders. It is a parent who has been chosen by God to care for a special child. A parent who has unconditional love and gives and gives and gives to the point where taking, even something as simple as a hot meal placed in their hands or a shuttle ride that welcomes them to their new “home,” seems foreign to them. A parent who unselfishly serves others for 20+ hours a day, then sees the simple act of being able to design their own banana split as something they are hesitant to ask for. A parent who spends five hours getting that special child out of bed and into his chair and ready to ride to Towne Hall for lunch, their first real meal of the day. A parent who is so humble, so loving and so giving they then say, ‘I don’t know what we’ve done to deserve all this.’ And all I can do is smile and ask, ‘Who deserves it more? Nobody, and I am so glad to spend a little time with you today.’ And I was. And the memories of those families continue to touch and teach me every day.”
Jim continues to make a difference for wish families. He is currently working on creating six lending libraries that will be located throughout the villa neighborhoods at the Village. On behalf of everyone at Give Kids The World, we’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Jim for his tremendous devotion to our mission. He’ll always smile and tell you, though, “I get 100 times more than I give from our families and the Village.”