Friday, January 14, 2011
Remember Mike Jones, the hometown hero who saved the lives of several Florida school board members taken hostage in their own meeting? The dramatic video of Jones thwarting the gunman was all over the internet and TV.
Most people recognize Jones from the recent news coverage of the event, but the more you get to know him, the more you realize he wasn’t just a hero in the moment. He’s been helping change people’s lives for years.
Jones currently serves as Bay District Safety and Security Director, and he’s also served 35 years in law enforcement as a police officer and detective. On top of that, he’s a local Salvation Army Advisory Board member.
While he was still in law enforcement, Jones worked several cases which led him to The Salvation Army. He helped many female domestic violence victims and abused children find shelter and assistance at our facilities.
Though at that time he generally knew of The Salvation Army’s work, he wasn’t fully aware of the many programs and services we offer. But now that Jones is a local board member going on his 4th year of service, he gets to see The Salvation Army from the inside out. His main role is to provide guidance and vote on issues related to finances, procedural policy, or other significant proposals.
“When you’re not a board member, you may not know everything [The Salvation Army is] doing,” Jones says. “But when I got in there and learned what they’re doing, it strengthened my faith even more…I could go on and on about how our community benefits from their work.”
Mike Jones with several refurbished bikes for his Salvage Santa program.
While he gives back through his service at The Salvation Army, Jones also heads another significant initiative called Salvage Santa, a program focused on refurbishing toys to donate to children in need. He started it more than 27 years ago as a hobby when he saw many great toys going to waste. Now he’s known all over the area for the work he and his wife do fixing up bikes, dolls, and games, and community members regularly drop by with donations. It’s gained so much attention that Jones was interviewed on Oprah in 1995! Check it out here under the video section. Jones is now serving 800 – 1,000 kids a year through Salvage Santa.
But for all these admirable things that Jones is known for, being forced to face off in a deadly gunfight is not the way most people would prefer to become known as a hero. I asked him how such a life-changing situation has affected him, especially his outlook on this new year.
“All the credit and glory goes to the good Lord. I’ve been through a lot of training in 35 years of law enforcement, and all of that kicked in, but Somebody guided me,” he said, describing how he was supposed to be on vacation that day, the seeming-coincidences that led to him be at the building at the right time, and narrowly avoiding the gunman’s shots in the meeting room. “I’m fortunate to be here today so I give all the thanks to God and what he does.”
During our phone conversation, Jones praised many of his colleagues on The Salvation Army Board and described them as “pillars of the community. ” While he probably wouldn’t say it about himself, it seems clear that those words easily describe Jones as well – not for a single heroic act highlighted on the evening news, but for the heroism he’s displayed through decades of service to others. The Salvation Army is extremely grateful to have him as a part of our organization.