Slowly but surely, one Georgia man — now it his 80s — would recycle old newspapers and magazines, and 32 years later, it paid off in a big way.
But it was what 86-year-old Johnny Jennings did with the $400,000 he earned that made him an even bigger man: He gave it all away. Every dime he earns, CNN reported, goes to Georgia Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries.
He started collecting in 1985 as a way to teach his son, Brent, good financial practices. Jennings and his only child would collect the papers, sell them, and put every penny into savings.
“The first memory I have of my Dad is of us recycling,” Brent said. “We did that until I was about 17.”
All the money saved over the years was able to pay for a down payment on Brent’s first home. But just because Jennings’ son is grown now didn’t mean the 86-year-old Georgia native had to stop saving cash.
Johnny Jennings continues to recycle the paper he collects from local businesses and churches. He’s become so well-known around his community that those around him are now involved, sending books, food, clothes, and several other items to him.
Once a year, Johnny Jennings gives the children’s home a check for all the money he’s raised, usually ranging anywhere from $10,000 to $35,000. As it turns out, Jennings has had a close personal tie to the children’s home since he was 18 years old.
“When I was 18 years old, I visited the children's home and we had a meal with the people there,” he told CNN. “As we got up to leave, three little boys grabbed me around the knee and asked me to be their daddy.”
“From that point on, I did all I could,” he continued. “I give them food, clothes — whatever they could use.”
Kenneth Thompson, president of the children’s home described Johnny Jennings as “one of the most gracious individuals I have ever met.”
“I have always admired his quiet, humble spirit, his commitment to helping others and most of all, his love for the children in our care,” he said. “We are so blessed to have someone of his character dedicated to serving our ministry.”
Jennings earned a lot of attention about a month ago, when a Facebook post detailing his charity work was first shared online.
“I hope you see why I think Mr. Johnny Jennings' story needs to be told as it is a good one,” wrote Shay Drennan-Love, who met Jennings at her office, where she and her co-workers recycle paper. “He is the last of a dying breed. Our generation and the ones to follow could learn a lot from Mr. Jennings.”
Brent, fighting back tears, said he is “proud” of his father and described him as “a one-of-a-kind gentleman.”
“He's not only my dad. He's the dad to thousands of children throughout the state of Georgia,” Brent said.
Johnny Jennings said he plans to keep raising money — and giving it away — for as long as he can. He said he’ll keep recycling “until I turn my toes up.”