Actions are louder than words for well-known volunteer
If it’s for a good cause, Gordon Deal probably has a hand in it. Known around town as the man who belongs to every volunteer committee and appears at all the major charitable events, Deal just doesn’t have it in him to turn down a request for help. “My wife used to say to me, ‘Let me take your jaw and help you say ‘NO,’ ” jokes Deal, who is originally from Savannah but has lived on Hilawards ton Head Island since 1998. “I said to her, ‘But I’m having a good time!’ I work seven days a week because I like to stay active and give back.”
Much of Deal’s community involvement stems from his nine-year membership in the Rotary Club. For example, when a fellow Rotarian mentioned he was also the executive director of the Mental Health Association on Hilton Head, Deal asked what he could do and soon found himself with a Christmas gift wish list in his hands.
Similarly, when the executive director of the Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse (CODA ) came to speak at a Rotary meeting, Deal again asked how he could help and ended up spearheading a program to collect used cell phones, which were then programmed to make emergency 911 calls and given to women in case of a domestic violence situation. Deal has waited tables at firehouse pancake breakfasts, sent water purification apparatus to rural Peru, brought about the donation of a new computer to social organizers on Sapelo Island and put dictionaries into the hands of local third-graders. He even ran the oyster shucking contest for Seafood Jazz & Brew.
Ann-Marie Adams-Arrington of the Hilton Head Area Hospitality Association considers herself fortunate to have worked with Deal, both as a Rotarian and with the association.
“My experience with Gordon has always been the same,” said Adams-Arrington. “He is a can-do person. It doesn’t matter how big or small the job is; either he knows how to do it, or says he can find out. He has never failed to complete any task that he has volunteered for.” The respect Adams-Arrington has for her colleague is obvious when she talks about his enthusiasm, his southern gentlemanliness, and the twinkle that appears in his eye every time someone gives him a new idea to ponder. “I think he’s infectious because he’s so excited about all the possibilities,” said Adams-Arrington.
When attempting to trace the origins of his altruistic instincts, Deal calls to mind the kindheartedness of his mother, and the support he received throughout his youth. Deal grew up without a father, and he credits his participation in athletics with keeping him “solid,” as well as opening doors to his future.
“In high school I was a pretty good little football player and there was a fellow who took me under his wing and said, ‘C’mon, let’s get you a scholarship,’ ” said Deal, adding that this same friend later arranged for a number of people to send him contributions to help with the expense of college. “I was so touched by his caring for me that once I graduated and went to work, I wanted to ‘pay it forward,’ as they say.”
Deal has been true to word. He started his volunteer work in the ninth grade when he began coaching the seventh-grade girls basketball team. His love of coaching, which he would go on to do for years as an adult, was what led him to get involved in other types of volunteer work. “If only we could just get everybody to do one
little thing for their community,” Deal wished aloud. “There is so much potential in people looking around to see what needs to be done. That’s what makes Hilton Head such a great place.”