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"How can you not be inspired by my pops?" asks Tracey Blackwell, the owner of T Blackwell Insurance Group in Garden Ridge, Texas.
"He came from humble beginnings, served in the Air Force for 26 years, and taught ROTC at a high school for another 15 years. Service to others and his country is a way of life for him."
That's no exaggeration. And today, at age 76, John Blackwell's commitment is as strong as ever - and so is his impact, thanks to the John's Kids nonprofit he founded in San Antonio.
It started in 1997, when he simply wanted to help the school his daughters attended years before. To purchase supplies for children in need, he donated money he had saved for a hunting trip. Then, he got a part-time job at the local minor-league baseball park - and used that money for supplies, too. His wife even began donating her Social Security check.To help build student confidence, T Blackwell Insurance Group delivered a washer, dryer and detergent to a local elementary school to allow the school to wash student clothing in order to have a clean uniform for learning and playing.
"My dad earned just $35-$40 a week," John said, noting that he knows what it's like to be in school with barely enough supplies to get by. "If I can help make a kid successful, I will."
Tracey Blackwell shares that determination. "At first, we didn't understand why he was giving his money to this school," she said. "Then, he showed us the need. It was humbling."
Now, the entire T Blackwell team (including Tracey's sister) is involved, helping to support seven economically disadvantaged schools. John's Kids also provides more than 100 families with a Christmas dinner each year, and collects peanut butter and jelly so other students have food during the holidays. Last year nearly 1,700 jars were distributed.Jerry Allen Elementary School gets a delivery of holiday food and peanut butter and jelly. John and Tracey Blackwell get help from teachers, administrators, and school and T Blackwell Insurance staff to help unload the donated food.
"Tracey's agency really put new energy into John's Kids," John said. "People know her for her caring and giving attitude, and her team helps with sorting and delivering supplies, holiday meals, and more."
Those efforts have been honored with a 2017 Safeco Insurance Make More Happen Award - which comes with a donation of up to $10,000 for John's Kids from Safeco on behalf of T Blackwell Insurance Group.Two teachers, John Blackwell and Elisabeth Tennant unloading school supplies at Ed White Middle School.
"This is a dream donation," Tracey said. "It could allow us to supply two more schools for the next year, and expand our holiday-meal program as well."
It also means John Blackwell is far from done serving - and inspiring - others in Texas.
"When you throw a stone into the pond, there are ripple effects," Tracey said. "And my father has definitely created ripple effects!"
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