2016 Corpsmember of the Year: Timothy Gunn - The Sustainability Institute
Timothy Gunn’s tumultuous past may have stopped him from accomplishing his goals, but for Gunn it created an unwavering sense of hope and determination to transcend his current situation.
In 2009, Tim became the first male in two generations of his family to graduate from high school. Following graduation, he attended college in North Carolina. What started as a positive experience, however, quickly took a turn down the wrong path. Tim began skipping classes, indulging in alcohol and drugs, and partaking in the party scene with little concern for the harmful effects it could have on his future. Having so much freedom and not having his family members present to encourage him to make the right choices was quite overwhelming for Tim and perpetuated his misguided behavior.
Tim was arrested for cocaine and a gun charge before he reached the age of 20. He recalls, “A couple of days before I went to jail I was doing community service at the jail. It was so ironic because the same unit I was cleaning, would later be the same unit I would be housed in for the next couple of years.”
Tim awaited trial in jail for a period of 24 months, and then went to prison for a term of eight months in addition to the two years of his life he had already given away awaiting trial.
Despite his harsh circumstances, Tim was still optimistic about making a change in his life and having a bright future. During his last couple of months of his incarceration he met Ladine “JR” Daniels, one of The Corps Network’s 2012 Corpsmembers of the Year, at a Bible study. During the Bible Study, JR shared his testimony and exchanged contact information with Tim. JR explained how his Corps experience with The Sustainability Institute changed his life, thus creating that same sense of hope in Tim.
“[JR] touched my life in ways no male figure ever had through his warm encouragements, story of his life, and the potential he saw in me,” said Tim. “I knew immediately this was my moment, blessing, and opportunity to be successful – as my prayers were answered.”
Upon his release from prison, Tim contacted JR and enrolled in The Sustainability Institute. Now in his third AmeriCorps term of service, Tim is an Assistant Site Supervisor and leads Corpsmembers in home energy retrofitting projects. He also schedules energy retrofitting projects, identifies and organizes the needed materials and interacts with homeowners to educate them about energy efficiency practices.
Tim was identified early in his service as having the potential to be a great leader. He mentors new Corpsmembers as they enter service, while also mentoring youth within the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. Mentoring with SCDJJ has enabled Tim, along with Sustainability Institute staff, to identify “future” Corpsmembers who would benefit from Corps service. It is very evident that Tim has made a huge impact on his mentees; prior to them beginning orientation they have already heard of Tim and his dedication to AmeriCorps service.
Tim has used his AmeriCorps Education Award to take college classes in the evenings. He also operates his own lawn care and pressure washing business on the weekends. Though he has been pursued by energy efficiency industry employers and has all the skills he needs to get a full-time job, Tim has chosen to continue his service with The Sustainability Institute. He wants to have the opportunity to mentor others and ensure that what he learned as a Corpsmember – both in terms of technical skills and life skills – can be shared with others. Especially with the untimely passing of JR in 2014, Tim feels the desire to continue his mentor’s legacy of service.
“I am learning the pathway out of poverty includes enriching your mind, embracing opportunities and allowing positive role models to walk alongside you on the journey of life,” said Tim. “…I was set apart and saved from possible death, given an opportunity to serve others while enriching my future. I began living for myself, to make a positive impact in others, to share the joy of JR’s inspiration in my life while reaching others so that we don’t lose another youth prematurely to bad choices. Not only am I going to continue to be successful, but to bring others along on the journey. I will continue to use my skills acquired to make differences in the lives around me.”