By Seth Gonzales
The Texas Catholic
For 69-year-old John Blanks, retirement isn’t an opportunity to regain time for himself. It’s a chance to give even more time to others.
On Jan. 30, Blanks and 160 others from across the Diocese of Dallas will receive the 2016 Bishop’s Award for Service to the Church, recognizing the sacrifice and selfless work done by so many for the sake of those in need.
“It’s an honor, obviously, but it was very surprising,” said Blanks, who for the last two years, has helped manage the diocese’s Mobility Assistive Devices program. “It really came out of nowhere.”
When he’s not delivering wheelchairs, canes and walkers to people who need them, Blanks is collecting more that are donated and fixing those that are broken. As new items are donated, Blanks takes an inventory and stores them in one of two large storage units near his home in Garland.
The program falls under the auspices of the diocese’s Office of Disability and Deaf Ministries, led by Melissa Waldon. Blanks got involved after the death of his friend and fellow St. Joseph Catholic Church parishioner John Aust, who was managing the program for the diocese at the time.
Today, Blanks and Waldon work together to keep the program going, but to hear Waldon tell it, Blanks is single-handedly responsible for keeping the Mobility Assistive Devices program alive.
“We really needed somebody who could, on a volunteer basis, work the ministry full time,” Waldon said. “It exists because we have [John Blanks] filling that role.”
Blanks said his desire to help people in need reaches back to his childhood. His grandmother, Mary Blanks, planted the seeds of charity in her grandson long ago as she tended to the homeless who would converge near the railroad tracks only a quarter of a mile from Mary’s home. From that moment, John said, he knew what it meant to give without concern.
“My mother was afraid because you can’t trust them,” John said. “But my grandmother never thought that anyone would hurt her. She just saw someone who needed help. That was just the way she was.”
A chance encounter with a man suffering from ALS that later developed into a three-year friendship further motivated Blanks to act towards helping the disabled.
“This is something I can do and I enjoy doing,” Blanks said. “People with disabilities face many challenges, and so I think I can do something to maybe make it a little easier for them.”