Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Layton Gilroy wants to pay it forward.
Specifically, the Individual Volunteer of the Year award winner feels indebted to the strangers who provided for him, his wife Lori and their sons, Clayton and Brandon, through several deployments — so he now gives between eight and 14 hours each week to the Hinesville community.
“I have people that I had no idea who they were send me stuff and take care of needs that I had … my wife was left back here, and she became a single mom, and we had other people that we did not know helping my wife, volunteering to do stuff … so, it’s kind of a selfish thing. It’s me trying to pay back for everything that’s been done for me and my family,” the Anderson, Ind., native said.
Since retiring from the Army last year and deciding to remain in Hinesville, Gilroy launched his own handyman business, which allows him to squeeze service into his schedule.
“This is my community now, and in order for it to mean anything, I have to do something in it. I can’t just sit there,” Gilroy said.
Volunteer Liberty coordinator Kathy Lancia nominated Gilroy, who began volunteering as soon as his 12- and 10-year-old sons became old enough to join the Cub Scouts.
He became involved with the United Way of the Coastal Empire Liberty County office last year when he stopped by and asked how he could help.
“I told her a few things that I would love to see and I wanted to get involved in, and just mainly helping those who can’t — either monetarily or physically — can’t do for themselves,” Gilroy recalled.
Since then, he spearheaded Global Youth Volunteer Day in the county, helped with Read Across Liberty book distribution and reading, and volunteered with Toys for Tots. This year, he has logged more than 492 hours.
He schedules his handyman calls around two weekly Meals on Wheels routes and also is an Awana leader at Crossroads Church.
He also takes on odd jobs for the United Way when another organization may not be able to provide, he said.
Gilroy has built a ramp for a handicapped child, replaced a kitchen for a family with health issues, patched roofs for the elderly and replaced water pipes for a woman who could not afford to pay, according to Lancia’s nomination.
“In Layton’s words, his answer to anyone asking what the cost is would simply be a handshake and a smile,” she said.
When asked how he would encourage others to give and serve, Layton provides a list of ideas: grab a mower and tend an abandoned lawn; stop by a school and see if they need help; or, if you’re more pressed for time, pick up some extra non-perishables and deliver them to the Manna House.
“My pastor has a saying that … ‘We have time to do what we make time to do. If it’s important to us, we’ll make the time,’” he said. “But I believe it. I think if we did self-assessment and we looked at how many hours we sit in front of the TV, how many hours we sit in front of the computer on Facebook or whatever, we would find that we have plenty of hours in our day somewhere to do something for our community … and it doesn’t have to be anything big.”