While “Parker” would have been the perfect surname for former City of College Station Parks & Recreation Director Steve Beachy, Texas A&M football coach Jimbo Fisher’s last name seems to fit perfectly his professional calling.
Given the national championship he won at Florida State and the immediate impact he’s had with the Aggie football program, Coach Jimbo appears to be a true “fisher” of men—at least those possessing top-tier college football talent.
Another local man—the mission director at Christ United Methodist Church in College Station–also was named just right at birth.
Steve Godby is one of the godliest men you’ll meet. He grew up in Bryan, son to Cabble and Gladene Godby, and from an early age, he loved to tinker on projects with his dad.
Now after retiring from Phillips Petroleum Company in 2011 and returning to College Station in 2014, Godby is putting his tinkering skills to good use.
In addition to his duties at Christ UMC, Godby is also the local executive director for Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit organization whose main mission is to provide no-cost home repairs for low-income elderly and disabled home owners.
“Rebuilding Together has affiliates in more than 150 cities nationwide,” Godby says. “Throughout our organization, we rely heavily on the support of volunteers to achieve our mission.”
Godby says finding that assistance in the College Station area is never a concern.
“Given that ‘selfless service’ is one of the core values of Texas A&M, we get a lot of help from both students and former students living here.”
Godby himself is an A&M graduate, Class of 1977. During his career with Phillips, he moved 13 times. In 1996, while living in Lake Jackson, Texas, he had an experience on a summer mission trip that changed his life.
“Growing up, I built tree houses with other kids in our neighborhood,” Godby says. “Ever since then, I’ve been a ‘do-it-yourselfer.’”
At his church in Lake Jackson, Godby discovered U.M. ARMY. That’s an acronym standing for “United Methodist Action Reach-Out Mission by Youth,” a 40-year-old ministry which began in Athens, Texas.
U.M. ARMY enables young people, mostly high school students, to experience “Christian growth through service to others.” That service is typically home repair and maintenance for low income, elderly, and disabled homeowners. U.M. ARMY has a sizable presence in College Station and Bryan each summer.
“At my church in Lake Jackson, I was asked to get involved in U.M. ARMY,” Godby says. “I think they wanted me to help because I had an SUV to transport the youth.”
Godby drove a group of Lake Jackson high school students to Victoria, Texas, to do U.M. ARMY work there. What he witnessed changed his life.
“There is so much need in the world,” Godby says. “Turning someone’s tattered and torn old house into a home again is one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever done.”
When Godby moved back to College Station in 2014, his aim was to continue his involvement with U.M. ARMY. To do that, he made frequent trips to Houston, where U.M. ARMY worked alongside the Rebuilding Together affiliate there.
“The two organizations do about the same thing,” says Godby. “Rebuilding Together identifies the homeowners in need, and U.M. ARMY is one of many organizations which provide volunteers to do the necessary work.”
It didn’t take Godby long to realize that starting a Rebuilding Together affiliate in the College Station area might be a way for him to broaden his efforts to help others.
Godby’s first Rebuilding Together assignment locally was one he called “Project Donna” on the north side of Bryan. He names his endeavors for the owners of the homes at which he and his volunteers assemble. In just two weeks, Godby and his team completed Project Donna, as well as another major home-renovation task, as well as three minor home-repair assignments, thanks to some 340 local volunteers who contributed an average of four hours of time each.
By the end of 2018, Godby projects Rebuilding Together will have completed more than 100 local home-repair projects, with the total number of volunteers approaching the 1000 mark.
Many of those who lend Steve Godby a hand are Texas A&M students. And while A&M is known for its “Big Event,” the largest one-day student-run service project in the country, Rebuilding Together outings happen, on the average, about two weekends per month, enabling people like Emily Pearson to give of her time and talent.
Emily is a member of the A&M Class of 2018. She hails from Dallas and intends to use her degree in psychology to become a child-life specialist.
Emily is also a “Maggie,” Texas A&M’s oldest women’s service organization.
“We’re a group of strong and empowered women looking to do good for each other and the world around us,” Emily says.
On a recent fall morning, Emily and a dozen of her fellow Maggies were busy tending to “Onie Mae’s Community Garden” on M.L. King Blvd. in Bryan. The garden rests next door to the home owned by Rickie Wayne Johnson, a beneficiary himself of Rebuilding Together’s spirit of altruism.
“Rickie and I went to Bryan High School together,” Godby says. “I didn’t know him then, but I consider him a great friend now. He lost his arm in an industrial accident and so he’s been disabled for some time. His home was in dire straits and at risk of being condemned when Rebuilding Together arrived on the scene.
“Rickie is really proud of what we did for him—and he was right there helping us do a lot of the work that he couldn’t afford to get done himself. In gratitude, he offered land on his property for a community garden and he volunteered to take care of it.
“So we help him with that from time to time. And in return, he helps us do work on other people’s homes.
“He’s a heckuva volunteer,” Godby adds, “despite his disability.”
The Reverend Sam Hill, pastor of the North Bryan New Birth Baptist Church, and his two daughters also volunteered at Rickie’s garden.
“I think doing work like this is important,” Rev. Hill says. “It shows there can be unity within the community. All of us have a vested interest in all of our communities. It’s not just one person’s community, it’s everyone’s.
“We talk about walking by faith,” Rev. Hill adds, “but that’s not always easy.
“We see people on television or in another city or state lending a hand to others, but when it’s in your own community, your own next-door neighbor, and you see the help first-hand, and how much impact that help has, that’s something very special.
“Rebuilding Together makes that kind of difference in our communities.”
When the need is great elsewhere, people like Steve Godby and dozens of other local volunteers are willing to go the extra mile—or miles—to lend a hand.
Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas Gulf Coast in the late summer of 2017, causing catastrophic flooding throughout much of Houston, affecting hundreds of thousands of lives.
Recovery is still ongoing.
Through his work with Rebuilding Together, Godby mobilized College Station-area volunteers to assist in Harvey recovery efforts. Godby took eight different groups over eight different weekends in early 2018 to the west-side Houston suburb of Katy, where he had lived before moving to College Station.
“We lodged in Katy in my old church, Grace Fellowship Church,” Godby says. “They had been involved in recovery efforts since Harvey first struck, housing rescue and repair teams from all over the country on their campus.
“It meant a lot to me to be able to help in the area of town where people were affected that I used to know,” Godby says. “What struck me most about the experience, though, was that the rising waters treated everyone equally.
“What I mean by that is whether you lived in a $100,000 house or a million-dollar mansion, the devastation for the families who lived there was the same.”
Dick Nelson and Steve Godby have become friends through Christ UMC. Nelson is a former Naval aviator—“I flew fighter jets off and onto the decks of aircraft carriers”—and while he did not graduate from Texas A&M, he retired to College Station because his son is an Aggie who chose to stay.
“Kids and grandkids,” Nelson says, “that’s why my wife and I are here.
In retirement Nelson seeks both to stay busy and do meaningful work. Working with Godby and Rebuilding Together in the aftermath of Harvey accomplished both tasks.
“I do a lot of work with Steve,” Nelson says. “I’m not always sure what’s for the church and what’s for Rebuilding Together, but that’s okay.
“When we were in Houston, we got to help one woman who lost not only her car, her home, and her at-home business, but also had recently lost her husband. We did mostly demolition work on her house. I remember the debris pile we stacked at the curb in front of her house and then looking up and down the street to see more of the same.
“By the time we got there, some of her neighbors had been waiting for months for that trash to be removed.”
Of his volunteer activities, Nelson says, “I have other things I could be doing, but I would prefer to help people with my ‘handyman’ skills. I’d do that every day if I could.
“A lot of people just don’t have the means to repair or fix up their homes. They wait and they wait and sometimes, if they’re lucky, people like us show up.
“Time and again, I’ve seen the look on the faces of the people whose lives we touch,” Nelson says. “Whether it’s someplace like the Houston area or in one of the poorer neighborhoods in North Bryan, the need is always the same.
“And the gratitude is boundless. Through what we do, we can ease someone else’s burden, restore their home, and elevate their life to a better place.”
Steve Godby’s dad used to tell his son there were only two things in life he couldn’t fix: a broken heart and the crack of dawn.
Thanks to people like Godby, Dick Nelson, the Maggies, and countless other local College Station residents just like them, some broken hearts can be mended with a few nails, a fresh coat of paint, and a caring spirit.
For more on Rebuilding Together, visit their local website at www.rebuildingtogetherbcs.org