Community Leader Helps Opportunity Youth and Adults Realize Their Dreams Through Mentorship Program

Daily Point of Light # 6089 Sep 15, 2017
Dr. James Strong (left) greets children of incarcerated families who are being sponsored by CDC during the holidays as part of their annual Angel Tree Program./Courtesy Dr. James Strong

As the Executive Director and CEO of the Fountain of Life Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Huntsville, Dr. Strong has spent the past 10 years inspiring hope and empowerment for both young people and adults in his community. His mentoring has encouraged people to complete degrees, open businesses and advance their careers, bettering their families in the process. This kind of grassroots commitment builds better communities, one individual at a time.

What inspires you to volunteer? 

I just want to give back to the community. I saw children struggling in school, needing help to get better grades, creating a tide of despair that contributes directly to high dropout rates.  These young people need help and encouragement.

Describe your volunteer role with the Fountain of Life CDC.

We try to target at risk individuals who don’t have sufficient means to get the help they need. We run an afterschool facility in rented space from our church. CDC is a wing of the Fountain of Life Ministry, where I am the pastor. But the people we help don’t have to be involved in the church. They come from all backgrounds and religions. We give annual scholarships to at risk seniors going into college. We have an annual Thanksgiving feeding program, and we have a Christmas party with gifts for children whose parents are incarcerated. As executive director I try to encourage everyone and help us all stay on target.

Why is it important to you to support your community in this way?

It’s important because I remember what it was like growing up and not having, not being able to do some things I wish I could have done. My father died when I was 11-years-old and my mother just didn’t have the means.  It touches my heart to see children, anybody really, in need of the basics, [receive] the necessary things for a good quality of life.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your volunteer service? 

We are always challenged by not having the funds available to really do what we want to do. We’d like to give out more scholarships, help more kids after school, but sometimes we hit obstacles. 

Local children attend CDC's academic enrichment program, S.O.A.R./Courtesy Dr. James Strong

How have you grown personally through your service? 

I think it has helped me to continue to focus and understand what Jesus said at Matthew 25:40. “When you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” That’s what it means to be a servant to the community.

Share a rewarding moment with us.

The joy I feel when I see a child, who came to us with challenged reading skills, walk across the stage at their school to receive a certificate for the most improved reader. That’s a proud moment.

Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?  

I would say to anybody whatever background, don’t be selfish. Don’t just think about yourself. Helping somebody else to be successful is powerful. We live in a country that has more than enough. There shouldn’t be anybody hungry and without life’s basic needs.

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

I think I’ve learned that the more you give the more you get back. It’s almost like an investment.  If you give love, love will come back to you.  If you give joy, joy will come back to you. These things help mold our character.

Are there any future partnerships, programs, or events that you are excited about?

We’re starting a building program for the church, so eventually the CDC will have a bigger facility and more opportunity to expand our outreach in the community. We are in the process of negotiating and hope to get started next month.

What do you want people to learn from your story?

Get started. Don’t wait to get all you need, start with what you got.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Dr. Strong? Visit All For Good to find local volunteer opportunities.

Jia Gayles