Motivational speaker Brene Brown says, “Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is show up.”
From that perspective, 64-year-old Rickie King is one of the bravest and most important people in Sulphur Springs. Mr. Rickie, as he’s fondly known, shows up -- for the United Way Suncoast Resource Center on 12th Street, for the Sulphur Springs K-8 School on 13th Street, for the community.
Even though he’s retired and could easily choose to sit at home and watch reruns of The Andy Griffith Show, Mr. Rickie shows up -- over and over again.
As UWS prepared to open the resource center in 2009, Mr. Rickie showed up and started helping with the landscaping, putting down mulch, sprucing up plants. No one asked the 23-year Sulphur Springs resident to help. No one had to.
“That’s how I was raised,” Mr. Rickie said. “When I see something that needs to get done, I’ll just go ahead and do it instead of waiting around to be told to do it.”
Since then, Mr. Rickie has been a mainstay at the center. He’s served as the “grill man” for resource center events, cooking up hot dogs and hamburgers. Along with his group, the Senior VIPs, he’s handled set up and clean up. He’s shown up on a daily basis to help with general maintenance of the center. He’s helped close up the center, grabbing the vacuum and/or wiping down the computer monitors.
United Way Suncoast senior manager Kimberly Miller says if Mr. Rickie can’t handle a certain task, he finds someone who can. He always “knows a guy.”
“He’s been a blessing to have here,” Miller said. “He’s a big part of the center and a big part of the community.”
Rickie Don King Sr. was born and raised in Tampa’s Jackson Heights neighborhood. He describes his childhood as exciting with days filled with sports: football, basketball, baseball. He attended Chamberlain High and eventually landed a job working in housekeeping at the University of South Florida.
Along the way, he married Mayola and raised nine kids -- four sons and five girls. Rickie and Mayola now have 11 grandchildren, but Mayola doesn’t mind Mr. Rickie’s volunteer work. It gets him out of the house and he’s not sitting with her all day, he says with a laugh. Mr. Rickie says he’s living a good life, always looking to help people and always referring people to the resource center. The good life for Mr. Rickie is a good life for Sulphur Springs.
“Mr. Rickie is a true pillar in our community,” said United Way Suncoast senior manager Eduardo Feliz. “Be it leading the local group of Seniors as President (VIP Seniors), delivering meals to the homebound, or connecting strangers with community resources, his selfless nature shines through time after time. We are grateful for the hundreds of hours he’s volunteered at the center, but even more so for what he does for the betterment of our community, day in and day out.”
The challenges in Sulphur Springs require the commitment of people like Mr. Rickie. With limited access to social services and financial stability, the community can sometimes seem as cold as many of the neighborhood’s Alaskan street names. Thankfully, Mr. Rickie and the Sulphur Springs Resource Center are there to lend warmth. It’s a place where people get help and get a chance to, as Miller says, sit a spell.
“It makes a whole lot of difference,” Mr. Rickie said of the resource center. “They help people pay their rent, pay their bills. They help solve problems. If this center wasn’t here, where would people go? It’s needed here.”