When angels fall
By Marie Carrie Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you ever watched a stone drop into a body of water? It is always amazing how one tiny rock can cause so many ripples. Such is the life of Judson Andre. Andre’s life was small by no measure but the amount of lives he touched was enormous by any measure.
On April 10, a memorial was held for the life of a young man whose impact continues to be felt. At the age of 25, Judson was struck down in a motorcycle accident that claimed his life.
Andre was on his way home April 6th when his dirt bike collided with another vehicle. While the accident is still under investigation, friends, family members and loved ones continue to struggle with the reality and finality of his untimely death.
“He was just a people person. I never saw him do anything that was incorrect,” says Betty, a neighbor of Andre’s. Judson was living on his own in an apartment after successfully completing the H.O.M.E.S program.
H.O.M.E.S., which stands for Housing Opportunities, Mortgage Assistance, & Effective Neighborhood Solutions, is a transitional program for foster-care children who have aged out of the traditional foster care system. It was created in 1999 and has assisted hundreds of youth by providing housing and job-skills training to prepare them to function independently and successfully society.
“After they leave foster care or relative care they really don’t have anywhere to go and many of them become homeless; 75 percent in fact. As a result, many get into trouble with drugs and prison and it is just not a good prognosis,” states Kathy Berry, CEO of H.O.M.E.S. Inc.
She goes on to say, “They don’t have role models in their lives or anybody to help them. So the idea is to give them supportive housing and programming to help them become really self-sufficient.”
By all accounts, Judson was not only a part of the program, but a glaring success story. Five years ago, Judson became a part of H.O.M.E.S. as he sought to provide for his younger siblings who were still a part of the foster care system. Judson’s mother died of cancer at 39, leaving him and his brothers and sister homeless and orphaned.
Instead of allowing the tragic circumstances of his life to hold him down, Andre was determined to make things better. Not only did he take advantage of the internship program (not once but several times) that allowed residents to learn valuable workforce skills, he mentored other youth in the H.O.M.E.S. family and pro-vided food and shelter when-ever called upon.
In fact, after leaving the foster care system, his younger brother Kerry found himself in some trouble. “He took me into his home and helped me out. He was very compassionate for people that didn’t have places to live. Like if somebody didn’t have some money or anything and he had it on him, he would give his last.”
Kerry goes on to reflect on the admiration he had for his older brother and the sacrifices he made to keep the family together. “I looked up to him and I looked at him as a father figure. He was the one that would go out and work and help us out. He was the one always on top of everything. He was a leader and he has influenced me so much.”
Kerry wasn’t the only one to reflect on Judson’s leadership skills. According to Linda Taylor, chief operations officer of H.O.M.E.S. Inc., “He was like Muhummad Ali. He walked around with his head held high and his chest out. He just had an attitude that no matter how bad things were, it’s going to be alright.”
A clear example of Judson’s leadership skills can be seen in an idea that was just beginning to take shape in Judson’s mind and heart. Upon waking from a powerful dream several days before his death, Judson told several people, including Kathy Berry, “I think I am suppose to start something for young people called Guardian Angels so I can help them.”
While, Judson will not be able to see his vision manifest, the seed he has planted has inspired his H.O.M.E.S., Inc. and H.A.N.D.Y families to work towards making it reality.
H.A.N.D.Y which stands for Helping Abused Neglected Disadvantaged Youth is a 29-year-old organization in Broward County that provides social and emotional support for foster care youth ages birth to 23. “It is on the frontlines of providing life skills and educational support for young people being raised by relatives other than their parents. They are the population that often times falls through the cracks,” says H.A.N.D.Y CEO Evan Goldman.
In fact Goldman, who knew Andre for six years, best summarizes what everyone who knew and loved Judson Andre feels.
“Judson was the epitome of what I want my sons to grow up to be: athletic, good-looking, loyal (almost to a fault), determined, competitive, but most of all loving and that is what we will remember. And that is what is going to fuel our love of each and together in Judson’s name we will make a difference in our community and in our generation to come.”
Judson’s family and friends encourage all of us to use his life as inspiration to do more and be more because one person really can make a big difference!
Judson leaves behind three brothers, one sister, a one-year old son, a devoted girlfriend, a stepson and countless friends and loved ones.