Before coming to the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) at age 18, Billy was a drug addict, an alcoholic, and was being held in jail on two counts of burglary, two DUI’s, fleeing an officer, and five other misdemeanors. Statistically, Billy’s future was a life of incarceration, addiction, unemployment, limited education, and unhealthy family patterns. Instead, almost 25 years later, Billy is now a husband, father of three, college graduate with an MBA, and an Owner/Operator of a Chick-fil-A. That is a radical change from the young man who ran away from his home at the age of 16.
When Billy ran away from home, it was because he never really felt loved by his parents. He never believed anything good about himself nor was confident that he could accomplish anything. His actions followed his beliefs. He became a high school dropout, lived on the street, and literally slept on the side of the road for four months. It seemed that if he drank enough, he could sleep anywhere. He would rather be high and hungry than sober and full. The only joy he knew came from drugs and that was okay with him. He believed this about life: in this world, you have to take what you want.
Looking in the mirror
Coming to the PAYH was a radical departure from the life he had been living of breaking into construction sites so that he could find buildings to sleep in, stealing food and living with no authority but his own. From his first morning when he woke up at 6am to run, along with new rules, expectations and strict discipline the transition was not easy. Slowly he began to change in ways he had not expected. One night, after he had been in the program for several months, Billy looked at his reflection in the gym mirror.
At the Home he had been exercising, working out, eating right and had a brand new wardrobe. Seeing himself in the mirror that night, for the first time in his life he thought, “I might go to college.” He had a new sense of hope. After all, he had changed physically in ways that he had never dreamed possible. He was in the best physical shape of his life. He was off drugs and alcohol. He felt like a new man.
As he began to consider all the things the PAYH provided for him, the opportunities he had for change, growth and hope, he realized that everything the staff did with and for him was for his own good, and it was working. Instead of a lengthy jail sentence, he had learned to work, study, get in shape, act socially, and become disciplined in every aspect of his life. What he had been taught was making him better and he liked himself for the very first time. So he began to really pay attention to what the program offered him and what the staff was saying to him. He began to ask questions. Soon, he accepted Christ as his savior. On July 25, 1990, Billy graduated from the Paul Anderson Youth Home and headed off to college.
The ripple effect of change
The year and a half at the PAYH made an eternal difference in his life and others. Going from a high school dropout to a college graduate with a Master’s degree is by all definitions, a radical change. Certainly the long-term financial value of rescuing one life is significant. A Vanderbilt study places the value of rescuing a youth like Billy between $3.1 and $5.2 million dollars. While that number is staggering, it doesn’t compare to the real impact that one changed life can have on others. Billy is a sterling example of this truth. For all those who Billy knows and loves, they understand his real value far more than any number can adequately measure. While working at Chick-fil-A in Boston, he met and eventually married Christine. They have been married since 2002 and together they have three beautiful children; Aron, Roby, and Paige. As a father, Billy intentionally raises his children to know they are loved. He works to maintain a feeling of safety and confidence in his home so that his wife and children never have to experience the insecurity he felt growing up. His life is motivated by love.
Those he leads at work see the same motivation in his actions. As an Owner/Operator for Chick-fil-A, at any given time, he has around seventy employees working for him. It only takes a few brief moments with his team members to realize Billy is an exceptional man. More than just a boss, Billy knows and cares about his employees. More than fifteen years after he began managing employees in Boston, many of those he hired, only sixteen or seventeen years old at the time, still keep in touch with Billy. They still call him the greatest boss ever. Recently, when he moved to a new store, many of his employees from his old store followed him. To them, he is much more than just a boss. He is a father figure and a friend, someone they depend on for advice. Someone they trust to care. Those Chick-fil-A team members have families. Some who have wives, husbands, and children regard Billy as being a part of their family. All of them are impacted by his generous spirit.
It is seeing Billy through their eyes that gives you an idea of just how significant his impact is on others. When you begin to look at the ripple effect that took place in Billy’s life, both within his home and those with he works, you truly get a sense of the immeasurable value of one redeemed life. After having received so much through the kindness of others, Billy knows no other way to live his life than in service. To Billy, caring for people is the ultimate expression of that service and how he lives his life. Billy epitomizes what the PAYH desires for all our young men: that they would be assets to society rather than liabilities. Givers rather than takers. What Billy has learned from his experiences is something he himself feels fortunate to have learned when he did; that it is far better to give than to receive. Change starts with one! One that did not become a statistic, but a husband, father, employer, friend, and mentor.
Together, we can create more opportunities for change for young men like Billy. Make a contribution today that will provide another young man with the opportunity to change his story.