People in the News

Published on April 24th, 2018 |

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Buckhead Rotary presents comedian Jeff Foxworthy Humanitarian Award

By Mary Welch

If you’re the best-selling comedy recording artist and elite comedian, dedicated to public service and recently awarded The Rev. Robert Ross Johnson Humanitarian Award by the Buckhead Rotary Club … you just might be Jeff Foxworthy.

Jeff Foxworthy (right) is presented the Buckhead Rotary’s Humanitarian maward by Sam Alston, president of the Rotary Club.

Foxworthy accepted the humanitarian award “very humbly. Frankly, I’m a little embarrassed. I can’t believe it. I don’t do this for recognition. Everything I do, I do from the heart.”

Foxworthy, in accepting the award given to a non-Rotarian who exemplifies the Rotary motto of “Service Above Self” and who has made a significant contribution to humanitarian efforts in the community, gave a heart-warming inspirational speech, with several spot-on comedic zingers thrown in for good measure.

Jim Breedlove, the luncheon’s chairman, set the tone with his introduction. He told the story of Foxworthy’s father abandoning the family when he was eight leaving his mother to struggle financially with three children. “He grew up an underdog with no daddy,” Breedlove said. “But instead of hardening his heart, he grew up with compassion. And he has lived his life with compassion for others.”

Foxworthy, worked as a computer repairman (“a career not known for its wit,” Breedlove said) and then on a dare entered a contest at the Punch Line and came in second. But he was a winner because it was where he met his wife of 33 years, Gregg, and together they reared two daughters.

Of course, his career took off and he sells out comedy clubs and has written 28 books. His board game, “Relative Insanity,” was introduced earlier this year. “Through it all, Jeff Foxworthy has kept his eyes on the “check engine” light to ensure his life is one of love, joy and peace.”

Foxworthy humbly accepted the award by saying he didn’t have any great words of wisdom. “I hosted “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” and I didn’t know half of what they were talking

Rotary Club president Sam Alston (left) and Jeff Foxworthy (right) make a presentation to Jim Reese, CEO of the Atlanta Mission.

about. My daughter said just Google what you don’t know but you can learn facts about life from Google but you can’t learn about living life from Google.”

Even though he has a “blessed life,” Foxworthy still says he thinks of himself as an underdog. Growing up in Hapeville, he recalled coming to a Northside [“wealthier”] school and knowing that the kids were judging him based on his old uniform. They were basing my value on the basis of my shirt and they didn’t even know me,” he said. “Today people look at me and judge me. I’m wearing a different shirt — but I’m still the same person.”

He knew the pain of growing up without a father and that helps him connect with many of the men and women at the Atlanta Mission, where he goes every Tuesday (bringing Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits) to read the Bible and talk. A Mission supporter asked him to come down and speak about the Bible.  He thought they wanted publicity and money.  “I’m the kind of guy who will give $5 to the homeless person at the light to go away.”

But he showed up one day at the mission and spoke to a 21-year-old white man named Jason. “I asked him why he didn’t have a job. I didn’t understand it.” Jason’s mother committed suicide

Rotary luncheon chairman Jim Breedlove introduced Foxworthy.

when he was 11, his brother a few years later and his father’s suicide shortly thereafter. “I just got tired of hurting,” he told Foxworthy.

“And you know what, I got it. I’d get high too. Under those same circumstances, I’m Jason to me. But we talked and he became a person and I so did that homeless person at the stop sign.” They became real people to me.”

Today, his involvement went from speaking with about a dozen to more than 350. “All I did was say ‘yes’ and then starting loving on people. If God loves anything, it’s seeing his broken people restored. All you have to do is encourage people; it doesn’t cost a dime.”

The business community can take on the challenge of building relationships, doing what it takes to fix things. “I want us to fix our city because we do a better job of it. We do it with more compassion and more dignitary.”

But in the end, Foxworthy was still the underdog from Hapeville a bit in awe of the packed room at Maggianno’s restaurant and of his own good fortune.

“I looked at the17 people before me who received his honor. Ambassador Andrew Young, Bernie Marcus.” he said. “Then there’s Dan Cathy. I grew up in Hapeville, the home of the first Chick-fil-A. Mr. Cathy used to go around and he’d have a bunch of coupons for free sandwiches in his pocket and pass them out when I was a kid, and I got some.

A few years ago, I saw him and he gave me a coupon for a sandwich. I thanked him but said ‘I can buy my own sandwich these days.”

 

 

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