August 15, 2012 - With every epic story, comes an epic hero who has battled with opposition and in the end overcame the trials victoriously.
Nonprofit group EPIC (Every Person Involved Cares) stands in front of ‘The Angel Center’ where they have been cleaning up around. They hope to use the building as a communinity outreach center. Photo by T. Keiser (click for larger version)
Having overcome his own battles, Oxford resident Jeff Gibbs is looking to empower others to overcome their own issues.
Gibbs is the founder of the non-profit organization EPIC (Every Person Involved Cares) that coaches and mentors people to help get them from where they are to where they want to be by using three pillars of connecting with local business sponsors, affiliating with other organizations who add value and help others and working with residents who give and not get.
"We take the fundamentals that work and we add innovation and meet the needs of today for every man, woman, child, senior and we help them," he said. "We empower them and give them the tools and the resources we need because the people who are part of EPIC are the very best resources available. They're the ones we have right around us. We utilize them and have them teach and coach other people."
For the past few months, the EPIC team has been cleaning up "The Angel Center" located next to the Lake Orion Community Schools Administration building at 55 Elizabeth Street. They are hoping to turn the 1927 building into a place for community outreach where lives can be changed.
"I would like to see the building end up with people, pillars in the community, organizations who give and not get," he said. "Maybe churches or schools, where there is some type of collaborative partnership, so they can help other people."
Gibbs who went to school to be a strategic interventionist, relationship and life coach said he always knew he wanted to pay it forward. Growing up in the city of Pontiac where his parents were both heavy alcohol and drug users, Gibbs was the last of his brothers to be taken out of his home at age 12 and sent to Camp Oakland, where eventually his eighth grade English teacher Cindy Kwiatkowski and her husband John decided to take Gibbs into their home as a foster child.
"They went out and got their foster care license so I could live with them. They never became a foster family for anyone else, just me," he said with tear filled eyes. "That's my mom and dad."
After graduating Oxford High School in 1996 and becoming a successful engineer, Gibbs said he lost focus along the way. While out on a date one night and driving home from the bar, Gibbs was busted for drunk driving. Being brought before a judge and having to serve probation time, Gibbs said he had an "awe moment," where he realized he was using hanging at the bar with friends to meet his basic human needs.
"Once I realized why I was doing it to meet certain needs I was able to choose better vehicles that would fulfill my life long term," he said. "Not just in the moment to avoid the pain and get the instant pleasure."
Upon reflection Gibbs had realized he had "settled" where he was in life and had lost his drive.
"I didn't have any more goals and didn't know what I was going after anymore because once I got there, no one told me I was to set new goals," added Gibbs. "How many years went by meeting all my needs with vehicles that didn't empower me, that didn't fulfill me, or inspire other people?"
He found his inspiration once again after seeing a video of a local pastor who moved to Africa to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity. Gibbs said he thought when he was going to pay it forward, it would just be fostering a child like him, but after seeing the video his vision became much bigger.
"I thought why just a foster kid? Why not leave a legacy, why not create a foundation? Why not become the change to the way giving is done? There is no reason why we can't be the Wright Brothers or the Rockefellers," he said. "Just because it's 2012 doesn't mean the world is over from creating great things and opportunities."
Gibbs said he is thankful for all of his board members and said each one of them has different talents they bring to the table. Even the board has a structure as to how it was formed by using "Strengths Finder 2.0" by Author Tom Rath.
"There are 34 things people are naturally gifted at. This test is 177 questions, 20 minutes to take it, 20 seconds per question and when you're done it gives you your top five strengths," he added. "Your strengths you think you're good at are not a passion, not a hobby these are things you're so good at you don't even realize you do them."
Gibbs said they've stacked their board in a way, so they have all 34 strengths and when they are teamed up together they can't lose.
At the end of the day, noted Gibbs, it's not about credit and it's not about all the material possessions money can buy. It's simply about helping people and empowering them to change and to grow.
"It's about community, people and our relationships. Our protection as humans is our relationships," he said. "When crisis happens we all come together in groups and we feel empowered to change, EPIC is place for people to come and do that."
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.