published Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

'Empty the bucket,' former UT Vol urges United Way volunteers

Inspiration speaker and former UT Vols football player Inky Johnson addresses the United Way of Bradley County 2014 campaign luncheon at Whirlpool in Cleveland, Tenn.
Inspiration speaker and former UT Vols football player Inky Johnson addresses the United Way of Bradley County 2014 campaign luncheon at Whirlpool in Cleveland, Tenn.
Photo by Paul Leach.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — More than 300 volunteers and supporters were asked to be a blessing for someone else in everything they do during the United Way of Bradley County's 2014 campaign kickoff Friday.

During the event at Whirlpool Corp.'s Cleveland division, the audience responded with applause and murmurs of understanding while listening to inspirational speaker Inquoris "Inky" Johnson, a former University of Tennessee football player.

"Somebody is depending on you," Johnson said. "You are the source of somebody's hope."

He talked about how a life-threatening accident on the playing field in 2006 left him with a paralyzed right arm and ended his dreams of a sports career.

However, that challenge did not mean an end to his life or his commitment to serving others, said Johnson, who described a life rooted in the toughest area of Atlanta's inner city.

"Empty the bucket in everything you do," Johnson said, adding that his father also encouraged him to "pull that other person outside of you today."

That "other person inside" is more committed to life and the people around you, and it is only by living for others that one can really be strong and a part of God's plan, he said.

Johnson commended the group on the work it achieved in United Way's second annual Day of Action Friday, which put 230 volunteers into the service of 20 local nonprofit organizations.

More than a dozen businesses, educational institutions and clubs provided volunteers for the event.

Day of Action offered volunteers a chance to give some hands-on help with nonprofits that may need manual assistance with things such as painting, landscaping or roofing, said Matt Ryerson, president and CEO of United Way of Bradley County.

"The event helps to make these organizations more effective and more efficient, but more importantly, it engages supporters with these nonprofits," Ryerson said.

Some of the community projects benefiting from the 2014 Day of Action included the Learning Trail at Taylor Elementary School and the playground equipment at the Blythe Family Support Center, said Allen Mincey, vice president of communications for United Way of Bradley County.

"We only asked the volunteers' teams [to work] this morning, but a number of them said they planned to go back to do more this afternoon," Ryerson said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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