On my day 1 post about Appreciating Your Parents, I mentioned that I am an only child. Several times growing up I was fortunate to have my cousins (Denise, Stacy, Kim, Jenny, Ricky, and Jason) treat me like their little brother. In turn, I looked to all of them like my older brothers and sisters. I even had Ricky and Jason in my wedding party, and Courtney and I turn to my cousin Jen for life advice all the time. It’s been great having my cousins around, but as we get older it is tough to stay in touch and see each other frequently.
That’s where one of my best friends, Russ Bloodgood, enters my “How I Found My Niche” series.
I look up to Russ like a brother. We have the same taste in beer and food, love golf, and we both have very big ambitions for our lives.[wc_row][wc_column size="one-half" position="first"]
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Just like my friend John, I met Russ through sports and we became great friends in high school playing on the golf team. We traveled to Wales together our senior year, have held the same group of friends since high school, and both hold masters degrees. We have something else in common as well and it’s very unique. See, Russ is always helping others, has very strong ties to his family, and is a very hard worker.
Throughout college - Russ at Villanova, myself at FDU - we would visit each other almost once a month and get our group of friends together every break. However, our junior year, Russ said he wouldn’t be home because he was going on a trip. This wasn’t just any trip - he was dedicating his break from school to travel to Las Vegas, New Mexico to volunteer with 14 other Nova students as part of Habitat for Humanity (yes, there’s a city named Las Vegas in New Mexico) .
When Russ returned, I could see he had grown, just like I did after my summer as an orientation leader. He told me about the new group of friends he made, the big picture perspective he now had on life, and the difference he made in the community. I was hooked and had to learn more.
Returning to school that Fall semester I immediately asked around to see if there was a trip like this that existed or if a Habitat for Humanity club was established. At the time, I turned to Sarah Azavedo and Michelle Luff, FDU’s new Assistant Director of Student Life. I said to them “my buddy Russ went on this trip, he’s now leading another one and FDU needs something like this.”
It turns out, Russ has inspired and influenced me more than anyone knows (including him). He wound up going on 3 other trips and leading one as an alumni. However, Russ made a bigger impact: he inspired me to start an alternative breaks program at FDU where we went to Opelika, AL in ‘06 and Grand Rapids, MI in ‘07.
Russ indirectly changed at least 50 people’s lives.
At Centenary College, I volunteered to help out with their Hurricane Katrina Relief trips to NOLA in ‘07 and ‘08. I contributed a lot of what Russ shared with me on those trips.
Russ indirectly changed at least 250 people lives.
At Rutgers, I served as Habitat for Humanity’s staff advisor for a year and half and again shared several pieces of advice and knowledge that Russ passed down to me. This helped more than ever because they run four trips a year. In addition, they are also raising $100,000 to build and dedicate their own house to a family in Plainfield, NJ.
Again, Russ indirectly changed 50-100 Rutgers Habitat for Humanity members and is helping another family get into a house.
What they taught me:
At the time, while we were in college, it was comforting to see one of my best friends going on this journey of experiencing college “outside the classroom.” Overall, Russ has taught me to always lend a hand and help those who need it.
You never know how far your actions can travel and who they can influence.