“You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give.”

See that quote in the title? Winston Churchill once said that. He may have actually been talking about this guy we know named Bernard.

See the photo of the guy on the right? That’s BVolunteer 2ernard.

Bernard Heyward, also known as “Ice,” is originally from the Bronx. He came to Florida after serving nine years in the Air Force. Bernard is now a volunteer with our program called Legacy Corps. He gives a lot of time to Goodwill Easterseals, but more importantly, he gives a lot of time to other human beings. This is his story.

Before we tell it, here’s some background on Legacy Corps: Goodwill Easterseals has a partnership with AmeriCorps funded through the Corporation for National and Community Service and administered by the University of Maryland. The Legacy Corps program recruits and trains volunteers to provide weekly respite relief to families of veterans in the Florida Panhandle. It gives the caregiver a break and allows time for errands, date nights, or just some time off while trying to keep the veteran in their own home as long as possible. The volunteers receive a monthly stipend for travel, and if they are interested in receiving an education award (worth over $1,400), they must give a minimum of 450 hours per year.

The vast majority of our volunteers are veterans or come from a veteran background.  “Many of them aren’t interested in the education award,” said Program Manager, Caroline Dixon. “They give 9-10 hours a week, and they just want to spend their time helping out a family. They don’t care about the benefit to themselves. The time they spend giving back to a family, that’s what’s meaningful.”

On to Bernard…

When Bernard came to Florida, he didn’t know anybody after he got out of the military. “One day, I was driving and saw a sign for a Boys and Girls Club. I grew up in a Boys and Girls Club in New York City,” he explained. “I walked in and one of their staff happened to be interviewing for a Teen Coordinator position. I had almost finished college, but I didn’t have a degree. He hired me anyway because of all the years I had spent at the club, and I immediately became very fond of this man.”

Bernard spent 15 years working at the Boys & Girls Club Teen Center in Fort Walton Beach. His supervisor, who had become a mentor to him, is now in the early stages of dementia. Bernard kept in contact with and continued to visit him. His friend’s wife told Bernard about the Legacy Corps program and how he could benefit just for spending time with him and providing companionship a few hours a week, which he was already doing anyway.

“For me, it was never really about the education award,” said Bernard. “I feel like I’ve been put on this Earth to make a difference in the lives of others. This man was like a father to me. When I found out what was going on with him I said, okay, I have to be there for him because he’s been there for me in more ways than I can mention. I know he knows me and remembers me, and we talk about the club all the time. Even if he doesn’t remember all the kids, he knows their faces. When they succeed, it brings a smile to his face, and he knows that what he did for this community really, truly made a difference.”

The volunteers meet once a month to gain training and come up with solutions to any issues they may be having in the caregivers’ homes. “It’s a lively group, and we piggyback off each other,” said Bernard. “We talk about things we’re going through. We are dealing with humans, and it can be emotional. Sometimes we run into things such as, this person doesn’t need to be driving anymore, it has become a dangerous situation for him. But it’s difficult for a grown man to give up his independence. We give the family the support and guidance they need to make those kind of decisions.”

Through his service to hundreds of Florida teens and now to his friend during a difficult time, Bernard’s selfless, giving spirit continues to touch lives in immeasurable ways. The social benefits that occur when we lift up those around us is proof that caring for our fellow man is important. People like Bernard are leaving a lasting impact on this world.

Interested in volunteering or know a caregiver who needs a break?

If you would like to learn more about becoming part of the respite programs for both veterans and active duty service members call Caroline at 850-659-7188 (veterans – Legacy Corps) or Stacey Griffith at (850) 474-0030 (active duty respite services). Legacy Corps is currently only in Florida (Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton counties). Our active duty Air Force/Navy EFMP respite program includes Bay county in addition to the four other Florida counties we serve.