Light a candle, make a difference, pass it on

“The Buddha teaches that ‘a thousand candles can be lighted from a single candle.’ You lit mine. I endeavored to light theirs. I believe in earnest that they will light others and so on.”

Those are the words Stuart Cohen wrote to Volunteer Odyssey after he attended a graduation at Advance Memphis.

Stuart contacted Volunteer Odyssey (via Jeremy Park at Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club) because he wanted to get connected with a cause in Memphis, one that he felt passionate about. We introduced him to Advance Memphis, a non-profit organization that serves the 38126 zip code in Memphis.  They work with people in that community to empower them to change their lives and their community.  They do so with programs that bring hope, knowledge, resources and skills.

Stuart was paired with Johnny, one of three men he mentored for six weeks.  Johnny had been incarcerated through December and he was looking for a way to gain skills and get a job.


Stuart and Johnny at Advance Memphis Graduation

On Friday, February 26th, Johnny graduated from Advance Memphis.  Stuart was there too and got to meet Johnny’s son, wife and sister.  And as he put it, was his ‘champion work-like mentor.’

“His next goal is to complete his GED. He is now guaranteed work and fair pay thanks to Advance Memphis.  The money he earns will go towards cooking school.  His dream is to become a chef at his own restaurant,” Stuart told Volunteer Odyssey. “I promised to be his first customer.”

Stuart went on to say: “Today he completes one huge step towards a better life and good works.  He and all the men and women who completed an intense 6 weeks, plus passing a drug test, are the biggest winners.”

Johnny spoke at graduation.  He told his class that he was full of gratitude, joy, and hope and he specifically thanked Stuart for helping him through the program.

 “I have never in my life been so moved. Tears were shed. They held their certificates high,” Stuart said.

 Stuart began with a question: Where can I volunteer?  And how can I make a difference in the process?

 “Those men know that I am ‘in their pocket.’ What’s more, they surged forward knowing that God is there too. What a wonderful foundation to build upon,” Stuart said.

 This is really only the beginning of Johnny and Stuart’s story.  And we thank Stuart for saying “yes” to Volunteer Odyssey, Advance Memphis and most importantly, Johnny.

 If you have a story like Stuart and Johnny, we want to hear it.  E-mail us at    

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