For Algonquin resident Paul Fivelson, 59, volunteering to help children and those less fortunate is a way of life. He doesn’t ask for recognition – it was his employer Protection 1 that contacted Patch regarding a potential story.
“I’m not rich. I’m really nobody. I just enjoy giving back,” Fivelson said.
Two recent years of personal hardship, as one of the unemployed, didn’t stop Fivelson from continuing to help others.
“When I was unemployed, I did what I could, but it was frustrating at Christmas time because I couldn’t buy all the gifts I wanted to buy,” he said. Athough, he and his wife, Leslee, still did buy some Christmas presents for children in need.
Fivelson, was hired as sales manager for Protection 1, the nation’s second largest security company, in February.
Even though some of his volunteer efforts haven’t had a “happy ending,” Fivelson would do it all over again. One of his regrets in life is leaving his job as a Highland Park police officer when he was 27.
“ When I left the police at 27, I was a rebellious punk. I didn’t think ahead of what it would be like to be retired at 50. If I would have stayed, I would have been retired and could have been volunteering full time now,” Fivelson said.
Fivelson recalls starting volunteering in his youth in Skokie when he kept score for bowling teams and coached other kids in the sport. When Fivelson’s son and daughter became involved in sports, he started coaching their teams. He coached bowling leagues as well as Little League baseball. He was also on the board of directors for Hoffman Estates Community Baseball Association.
In the mid ‘90s, Fivelson got involved in Junior Achievement and helped teens understand how to run a business.
While working on his master’s degree in 1997, he met a representative from Youth Outreach Services in Chicago. He became the first volunteer in the program and that started a long relationship with the organization and with underprivileged Chicago children.
That Thanksgiving he asked if there were any families in the program in need of a holiday dinner. He was given the names of two families, so he and his wife went shopping.
“One family just wanted the food and for the other we cooked the whole meal for a family with six kids,” Fivelson said. The Fivelson started a tradition of buying Christmas gifts for the family on the near west side of Chicago, and spending Christmas with them.
The Fivelsons took the kids to sporting events, the circus and even had the older children spend occasional weekends in Algonquin. Unfortunately, the oldest boy got involved with street gangs and is now in jail, the second oldest survived a gang-related shooting, and the 14-year-old daughter is already a mother.
“I kind of understood eventually that was going to happen,” Fivelson said. He said, due to the distance from the family, he couldn’t be there all the time to watch out for the children.
Regardless, he still keeps in touch and has visited the incarcerated son in jail and has good memories of times spent with the family.
“The memories of being involved with the Garcia family, that was important to me. I look back on those years and think of the good times, bringing presents and seeing the kids’ eyes light up, because they had nothing,” he said.
Fivelson now has four grandchildren, one named after his inspiration – Presley. A big Elvis fan, Fivelson says he enjoys visiting Graceland.
Fivelson continues to be involved as a volunteer in many realms. One of those is Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly in Chicago. He visits and brings meals to elderly people who are isolated and without family.
“I like meeting and talking with people and giving them some time. They are lonely. You can fall in love with all of them,” he said.
As Thanksgiving season nears, he and his wife have offered to make Thanksgiving meals for families through Youth Outreach Services again this year, and he is open to where that act might lead.
“Volunteering can be very satisfying. I enjoy seeing people smile and I try to help others when I can,” he said.