Even while quietly giving of your time and money, people are going to notice if you do it long enough or get enough people helping you. Both are true of Payette High School alum Robert “Rob” Strong, according to the Jefferson Awards Foundation. The organization presented Strong with a Certificate of Excellence: In recognition of Outstanding Community Service, at the WICAP offices in Payette on Oct. 31.
Strong said the award was truly out of left field for him.
“I didn’t have any idea that it was taking place and really didn’t have any idea what the Jefferson Award was. I don’t know exactly how it all transpired I do know that it takes somebody to nominate you and a lot of people to back that nomination.”
For more than 50 years, Strong has given to his community wherever he’s lived, in Payette and in Nampa.
Strong said he began gathering items to donate to local charities after graduating from Payette, as a means of returning the favor given him in his own hard times.
“I’m from a poor family; My dad died when I was 12 and mom was functionally illiterate. So she couldn’t work, per se.”
As a result, he and his family had to leave Portland and soon found their way to Payette.
“Some of the churches, different people, different years would make sure that we had food to eat at Christmas. And there was at least one wrapped toy for each one of us.”
Strong says the idea of mobilizing his classmates from Payette came to him after one of them approached him for an idea 11 years ago.
“It started out with the first time was a classmate by the name of Dan Crosswhite; He got the gears turning, he got me thinking and that’s where [the class effort] comes from. Without him, who knows whether I’d come up with this idea or not.”
Today, approximately 50 members of the Class of 1962 are alive today, with 25 actively contributing to Strong’s efforts, according to his wife, Marie.
Since mobilizing his classmates, Strong said the group has spent a total of $30,000, just at Christmas.
“This all comes from my classmates, and people that just trust me with their money.”
He also makes certain families have an enjoyable Thanksgiving. This year, Strong says “we’re going to furnish Thanksgiving for 24 families.”
At the award presentation, Kip Moggridge of the Jefferson Awards Foundation said recognizing Strong’s efforts is a reminder that not all news is bad news.
“If you stop and think for a moment... and look, open your eyes. There are thousands of things going on that are just absolutely heartwarming,” said Moggridge. “On his own started collecting things and giving it to people that were having a hard time in life. That’s those little things if you open your eyes they are going on in our, in our country.”
Refreshments, including cakes, were provided by Albertsons.
As Strong received his award, he made sure to point out to those present that Santa is real.
“I believe in Santa Claus, I did and I still do.”
Those interested in giving of their time and resources this holiday season are encouraged to reach out to Tammy Hirchert at WICAP by calling (208) 642-4436 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.