Humanitarian Award Winner: Communities of Salt and Light Winner Gerald ‘Jerry’ Wilcox
By Cliff Gorski
Gerald “Jerry” Wilcox knows what it’s like to be hungry. He remembers a time in his life when all he had to eat was one bowl of soup a day. It’s not something he shares with many people.
“That left a mark on me that I have never been able to erase, and I hope never to erase,” he said humbly.
His wife of 60 years, Aggie, explains that her husband’s devotion to helping others goes back to his childhood. Jerry’s mother became gravely ill after having her third son and needed to be hospitalized. After living with relatives, Jerry and his brothers spent the next five years in an orphanage until his mother was well enough to return home.
“He was the older brother, so he took care of them,” Aggie said. “Times were tough for him in college. He only had a couple of meals because his parents really couldn’t afford it.”
The experience, Aggie said, ingrained in him the desire to give back because his family was helped in times of real need.
As a volunteer for the Food for Kids Program, Jerry helps pack weekend lunches for school children who are without. At one school alone, more than 50 children are provided weekend meals.
“I am very surprised at the need in this community, which is a relatively affluent community,” Jerry said.
Jerry also volunteers with the Senior Care Ministry at the parish, where he visits with two people. One shares Jerry’s love of reading, and the other likes to talk about sports. While one of his ”clients” is 13 years older, they are able to share the same life experiences and memories of times past.When he received the call from Bishop Larry J. Kulick informing him of the Salt and Light Award for Humanitarianism, Jerry said he wanted to turn down the honor because he believed his contributions to the community were too small.
“If I followed my normal process, I think I would have found a way to say no, but the Bishop was very convincing,” Jerry said. “There are a lot of people who do the work I do, and many of them would deserve this award more than I do.”