2017-12-06 / Front Page

‘Blessings don’t ever collect dust’

Ledger Staff Writer

Bruce DeWalt dishes out compliments, high-fives and encouraging words as 400 Ewing Middle School students file through the school lunch line every day.

He leaves his house on Serene Drive every morning and makes the 20-minute trek on a motorized scooter for his favorite part of the day — the four hours he gets to spend greeting and talking with students in the cafeteria. DeWalt has been a volunteer coach, mentor and school lunch greeter at Ewing Middle for 22 years.

His school volunteer activities started in 1993 when then-principal Dr. Marcia Duncan approached the football coach to see if he would be willing to mentor kids in a self-contained special education class.

“After I worked the third shift at Pet Dairy, I would come over to the school to spend time with the kids,” DeWalt said. “I would take the kids out to lunch at Fuddruckers, the Beacon, and take them over to different places just to talk and spend time with them. I came to realize it makes a difference to these kids to see somebody is caring about them. I just do it for the blessing. Blessings don’t ever collect dust.”

DeWalt worked at Pet Dairy until he was forced to retire on disability in 2012. He continued with his volunteer duties until both legs had to be amputated above the knee.

He lost the first leg in April of 2015 due to complications from diabetes. He spent the next two-and-a-half years away from the school while he recovered. He returned as a Ewing Middle volunteer when school opened in August.

“The first leg (amputation) was my fault,” he said. “It was too much apple pie and ice cream and not taking my diabetes medication regularly like I was supposed to. I lost the second one because of poor circulation but I don’t get depressed about it. My heart is good, my mind is good, my kidneys are good. I’m still here. I have a good family that takes care of me. I just love being around the kids in school.”

Originally from Philadelphia, DeWalt played college football at Texas El Paso where he was a kickoff and punt returner. He played wide receiver in third-down passing situations.

He spent two years in the Navy on an aircraft carrier in 1972-1973. He moved to Gaffney in 1983 when Stouffer’s brought him here to help train workers.

“My wife and I looked around Gaffney and just fell in love with the place,” DeWalt said.

His connection with Ewing Middle students started when he became a volunteer football coach in the early 1990s. Several ex-players gave him the Gaffney football flag that is attached to the motorized power chair he got last year.

Through the efforts of longtime friend David Parker, a Jerusalem Project team installed ramps at his house so DeWalt can easily get around his home.

“I look forward to coming to Ewing Middle every day so I can be with these kids,” De- Walt said. “The only time I’m not here is if it’s snowing or raining. It’s a blessing to be with kids. It’s like medicine and therapy for me.”

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