During a visit to Charlotte on Tuesday, country star and Celebrity Apprentice alum Trace Adkins couldnt help but think of his pre-fame days, including four hard-luck years when money got so tight he lost a car and a wife.
I missed my car worse, Adkins said with a grin.
It was one of many recollections the 6-foot-6-inch-tall singer shared Tuesday as he wandered the Urban Ministry Center in uptown, doing volunteer work on behalf of Charlottes homeless population.
His visit came as part of a series of prizes the Urban Ministry Center won in the Maxwell House Drops of Good program in support of charities across the country.
Among the prizes was a $50,000 grant for renovations to the historic train depot that houses some ministry programs, along with three days of free labor arranged by the nonprofit Rebuilding Together of the Carolinas.
Adkinss stint was limited to Tuesday, when he was coincidentally in Charlotte to do two days of filming for a NASCAR legends series airing on the Great American Country network.
The former oil rig worker was anxious enough about volunteering that he jumped in early, going back and forth between painting, gardening and carpentry jobs that he said reminded him of past careers.
Adkins home in Tennessee burned to the ground last year, but he counts himself lucky that his successful career kept his family from being homeless in the aftermath.
Most of my adult life, except for the past 15 or 17 years, has been labor-intensive, blue-collar jobs, said Adkins.
Ive missed that satisfaction of being able to look back on what Ive done and have tangible proof that I put in a good days work. I still need that evidence that Im making a difference.
Hard work and publicity
Urban Ministry Executive Director Dale Mullennix said Adkins and the other volunteers were changing lives by renovating a site that serves about 600 homeless people a day.
Equally important, he said, is the publicity associated with the event. The ministry hopes to solve homelessness through a community approach, and most of the people who signed up to help were first-time volunteers for the ministry, he said.
More than 200 people volunteered through Rebuilding Together during the three days, and they were joined by about a dozen of the ministrys homeless clients.
Mullennix said one of the most moving moments came when a contractor volunteering for the program noticed a particularly enthusiastic homeless worker, Don Burress, and brought up the idea of offering him a job.
Burress, 59, said he already had the necessary experience, having worked as a subcontractor before the economic downturn. He said hed been homeless about two and a half years and is currently staying at the Mens Shelter of Charlotte.
I volunteer here at the ministry a lot because its a way of paying them back for all the help theyve given me, Burress said, adding that hes familiar with Adkins singing career.
If (Adkins) takes anything from this day, I hope its that there are a lot of people in this country who need help, and we appreciate it when people like him realize it and take the time to help.