VALDOSTA, Ga. — “Don’t Quit” is a poem that encourages Dr. Richard Carvajal daily as he reflects on his days of homelessness and personal struggles.
Carvajal, Valdosta State University president, said he remembers quite well what it was like to battle homelessness.
“Looking back, I know that the odds said that I was probably going to stay there,” he said. “Far too many do, but I’m living proof that you don’t have to, and I’m living proof that there are a lot of people who want to help you find better if you’ll meet them along the path.”
While Carvajal braved homelessness, he said there were many people who learned of his fight and reached out to provide him assistance.
A “we” story is how he labels his journey, receiving support, and he said people searching for better will have their own “we” story.
“I certainly hope that those who are struggling will pause enough to think about how could we make it better, and again, there are a lot of people who want to help them get there, and I saw that,” he said. “I’m living proof of that.”
Carvajal will speak about his experience in depth during the Changing Lives Dinner hosted by Lowndes Associated Ministries to People, 6 p.m., Feb. 20. The dinner will be located at VSU Student Union Ballrooms A, B and C, and there will be a meet and greet at 5:30 p.m., according to organizers
LAMP Executive Director Feleica Harrington said Carvajal was selected to be the keynote speaker because he is a great representation of the organization.
“We chose him because he is new to VSU, and he also has a wonderful story about how he was once homeless, so we thought that was great showing that someone can go from homeless to success,” she said.
Donations are still being accepted for the silent auction that will take place at the dinner, Harrington said.
Sponsorships are also still being accepted, Harrington said, though the business logo may not be on any print media if the sponsorship is received the day of the dinner.
Harrington said the organization is hoping to raise $93,090 during the fundraiser.
Two awards will be given to committed volunteers and donors, the Lamp Light award and the Stewardship award, Harrington said.
The Changemaker award is LAMP’s newest award and will be given to the resident who has made the biggest change, she said.
Having been a recipient of government assistance, Carvajal said there is no organization similar to LAMP for him to connect with in his community.
LAMP is a homeless shelter housing single men, single women and families from nine counties, including Lowndes County.
Tickets for the dinner are $125 and can be purchased online at lampinc.org or by mailing a check to P.O. Box 3502, Harrington said.
Tickets can also be purchased at LAMP’s office, 714 Charlton St., and guests are asked to specify Changing Lives on the check, according to organizers.
Amanda Usher is a reporter at The Valdosta Daily Times. She can be contacted at 229-244-3400 ext.1274.