“Driving home from wherever you’ve spent some time helping and realizing that you had the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, that means so much to me.” This is the way that Skip Bailey sums up his feelings about making positive change in the world through volunteering. Born Charles Roberts Bailey, Jr., Skip got his nickname as an infant when his parents, who had served in the US Navy, decided they had brought a new little “Skipper” into their world, one who determined when they slept, when they were awake and when all hands on deck were needed to address situations that would arise with the tiny captain of the S.S. Bailey House.
The name “Skipper” stuck, and as he grew, it was shortened to Skip, a name he would take with him when he joined the Marines, serving for four years and deploying to Vietnam during the conflict. Skip doesn’t like to talk too much about his time in Vietnam, but credits his experience in the Marines with shaping his character and helping him to mature into a young man. Skip recalls the conditions in Vietnam as “tough,” especially with the extreme heat and heavy rains that caused trench foot for American GIs, a condition that Skip says still flairs up on occasion for him. Skips recalls that the Marines in his squad all had nicknames and that no one used their birth names. Even so, he was able to piece together enough information on some of his buddies to find them after leaving the service, staying in touch over the years with several of them.
After serving in the Marines, Skip enrolled under the GI Bill at the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG), at one point taking a break from school to hitchhike in Europe. He returned to finish his B.A. in English at UNCG. After college, Skip worked two full time jobs for a few months, earning enough money to pursue his dream of traveling across the US. Skip remembers this eight-month hitchhiking adventure in 1976 as both eye-opening and thrilling. He met many interesting people, chanced upon some unsavory characters who offered rides, and gained renewed appreciation for the diversity and beauty of his country. When he returned, Skip embarked on what would become a nearly 35-year career with the US Postal Service. Skip describes being a postal carrier as a, “great job,” and says he loved being outdoors delivering the mail, enjoying both the customers he served and the birds and squirrels he encountered each day on his route. Health issues and a series of surgeries brought Skip to take early retirement from the Post Office in 2003.
Skip says he missed working at first, but soon found structure and company for his days by volunteering with his church, Guilford Park Presbyterian, where he’s been a member for over 50 years. Skip joined the church team for a mission trip to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and traveled with them to Washington D.C. to serve in a high poverty area of town. He continues to assist with the Guilford Park Presbyterian team once a month at the “Hot Dish and Hope” dinners offered at First Presbyterian Church each Tuesday and Thursday evening.
Skip began volunteering with Triad Health Project this past summer at the urging of Clinical Services Director Amy Reese, a friend from his neighborhood. He has since become a regular fixture on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, stocking donations to the client food pantry, preparing grocery bags for client pickup and delivery and assisting the health education team with packaging supplies for events and distribution throughout the community. When asked what he’s learned in volunteering with Triad Health Project, Skips says that working with the agency has opened his eyes to the fact that HIV affects all kinds of people. He also remarks that the dedication of the staff regularly reaffirms his faith in humanity.
Volunteers like Skip reaffirm the THP staff’s faith in humanity! Our mission couldn’t happen without the dozens of volunteers who work with us each month to bring care and support to people living with HIV/AIDS and to prevent new infections in our community. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, call us at 336-275-1654. Ready to sign up to volunteer? Visit us at www.triadhealthproject.com/volunteer to get started.
By Paula Barger, Director of Development