Johnny Jennings is 86 years old, but he first visited the Georgia Baptist Children’s Home when he was 18, and the visit changed his life forever.
A child ran up to Jennings begging to be adopted, and it was in the moment Jennings realized his life's mission.
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“When we went to leave, these three little boys grabbed me by the knees and said, ‘Will you be my daddy?’” Jennings told TODAY. “And I said I’ll do what I can. That took my heart, right there.”
From that day forward, Jennings did everything he could to help, and that turned out to be quite a lot.
Since he wasn’t ready to adopt a child of his own, he decided to contribute financially. Since he wasn’t independently wealthy, he did so by collecting paper and aluminum products and cashing them in for money.
That may not sound like it would amount to much, but Jennings has donated more than $400,000 over the past 30 years.
That’s a lot of paper products, folks.
Over those 30 years Jennings has become a cornerstone of the children home’s community.
"Johnny Jennings is one of the most gracious individuals I have ever met,” Georgia Baptist Children’s Home President Dr. Kenneth Thompson told TODAY. “I have always admired his quiet, humble spirit, his commitment to helping others and most of all, his love for the children in our care.”
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But how does he get all that paper? Now that people know about his efforts, the paper pretty much comes to him. People drop it off at his house after collecting it through churches, organizations or in their own lives.
Jennings also collected pennies, and as they say: A penny saved is a penny earned. Well he’s saved 24 miles worth of pennies… seriously.
“84,480 is a mile of pennies,” Jennings said. “We finished 24 miles. We had most people from church collecting pennies.”
Each and every mile was a donation to the church.
One of Jennings' favorite events is the church's annual meeting, which is when he presents his check each year. During this time, the kids who live in the children’s home are also in attendance and he loves the opportunity to spend time with them.
Jennings has served on the board for four five-year terms.
“I’ve been a trustee for 20 years,” Jennings said. “I’m just part of the family.”
And what a special family it is, thanks in large part to Mr. Johnny.