During this season of thankfulness and sharing, many people begin to consider how they can help others in their community.
But there are a few individuals with a spirit of generosity and a desire to help others year-round; and not just during the holidays. Wythe County is blessed by a former supervisor, Joe Hale, whose quiet generosity isn’t seasonal – it’s his lifestyle.
Longtime friend Helene Hardy Pierce is familiar with Hale’s professional engineering career and his lifestyle. “Joe is a very humble, understated person. He speaks the truth and has a way of simplifying things with the ability to bring it down to the simplest terms. There are certain people, when they touch things, they make them better. Joe is one of those people who is always making things better.” Pierce is Secretary of the IIBEC Foundation Board (IIBEC stands for International Institute for Building Enclosure Consultants) where Hale served as Chair for many years.
When Joe Hale recently stepped down as Chair of the RCI-IIBEC Foundation, his friends and colleagues wanted a way to honor him for his years of dedication and service. Although Hale has initiated numerous projects in the Wythe County area, the Foundation chose to donate $40,000 to his current project of establishing a branch public library in Fort Chiswell, VA. They recently presented the donation in a ceremony held in the Max Meadows Ruritan building.
Hale is now director emeritus with the Foundation, a past IIBEC president and an IIBEC Fellow. He helped create the Roofing Consultants Institute Foundation in 2001 which has evolved into the current RCI-IIBEC Foundation. Their world-wide mission is to support research, education, and the dissemination of information for issues important to the building enclosure industry.
Because of Hale’s focus on education, the library project made perfect sense.
Hale, whose ancestors settled in the area circa 1750 is a descendent of the Draper and Cloyd families, and believes we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the land. As such, he has a 400-acre property that he has transformed into a nature preserve for people and wildlife to enjoy. “That project kept me alive. When my daily work pressures built up, doing manual labor helped.”
He adds, “God has a purpose for us. We are here so everybody can make a difference. I was lucky to be able to help some people. It’s the way I was raised, and I was very fortunate to be able to meet some of those peoples’ needs.”
According to Rick Gardner, Development Officer for RCI-IIBEC Foundation, last fall Hale approached him about how to fundraise for a new project he was working on.
“Joe started sharing an idea with me, and little by little as the project developed, revealed his dream: to buy a former bank building and turn it into a public library for the people in the eastern portion of Wythe County. We eventually met with interested supporters of the initiative but then COVID-19 hit, and the project was put on hold until June. A few weeks ago, when Joe stepped down as Chair of RCI-IIBEC Foundation, his friends, colleagues and people he mentored were trying to find a way to honor him,” explained Gardner. “That’s when we came up with the idea of donating the initial $40,000 to the library project in his honor. The Board latched onto it because Joe has always been about education and serving the community,” he said.
Tina Quesenberry, who is a freelance photographer, describes herself as an avid cookbook collector. As a member of the Friends of the Fort Chiswell Library Board she was given the honor of announcing the official name to Hale during a recent meeting. “The Joe Hale Public Library of Fort Chiswell. It is one of my proudest things I’ve ever done. Joe was so moved by the gesture. What makes him amazing is that he is humble and asks for nothing in return. You see good deeds, but you don’t know where they come from,” she shared.
“The library will bring so much benefit to so many people and will service the middle and high schools located just across the street. The students can go to the library after school and do homework there before playing their after-school sports. Also, countless people will benefit because of the library’s computers. Many people in this part of the county don’t have internet in their homes because internet service is not available there. This is going to help them when applying for jobs, doing research, and can be utilized in so many different ways.”
“Joe drew up the floor plan for the interior of the library, which is a huge building. I never thought it looked like a bank but more like a library with the columns up in front. He suggested using the bank vault for storing and doing research with valuable historical records and offering the six breakout rooms as commemoratives to help with the cost of maintaining the library,” Quesenberry added.
Tony Stroupe, President of the Friends of Fort Chiswell Library, Inc. project officiated at the initial meeting and says “Interest has really started to peak now and enthusiasm for the library is growing. We are receiving donations almost daily.”
Stroupe has been an integral part of the project since it’s inception. “It took me months to get the non-profit paperwork filed with the help of Atty. Rachel Jones because it entailed completing the 30-page 1023 IRS long form which included our By Laws, Mission Statement, Conflict of Interest Policy, etc. Tommy Jackson helped with incorporation which was complete on May 12th. We’ve also enlisted the help of Andy Kegley with Hope Ministries, Judy Knudson, Earle Libby, Vice President, Friends of Fort Chiswell Library Board; and the other members of the Friends of Fort Chiswell Library Board: Frances Watson, Tina Quesenberry, Sid Hankins, RCI-IIBEC Foundation Treasurer and Brian Pallasch, IIBEC CEO and Executive Vice President,” said Stroupe.
“Hope Ministries in Wytheville is to be the fiscal agent. They will take donations (tax deduction) at least through the end of this year. Hope Ministries does a lot of good community projects such as the Open-Door Café, Virginia’s first pay-it-forward restaurant, Habitat for Humanity; bookkeeping for other non-profits, etc. You can go to WytheHope.org then click on the drop-down box for Friends of Fort Chiswell Libarary,” explained Stroupe. There is also a GoFundMe account for the Fort Chiswell Library.
Friend and neighbor Jeffery Lienhart explaind how Joe voluntarily helped clear trees from Lienhart’s property and a one-mile road to help other neighbors in the area. “Joe worked for 6-weeks using his own dozer and backhoe so everyone else could have power and electric and never charged for his services. The list of Joe’s volunteerism is long. He brought back Heritage Days, a fair the second week in September for Max Meadows; got lights installed on the athletic field and maintains the fields; he raised funds to build an athletic building and bathrooms; he has repaired houses for older residents who couldn’t afford the repairs; helped upgrade the rescue squad’s facility and added showers and a kitchenette; donated funds for equipment; had a big hand in making sure the community had an Air Lift Life Helicopter so every area in the county was covered; donated funds through the Ruritan Club to help kids afford sports fees or equipment; helps struggling businesses keep afloat; was instrumental in the APEX Center project; put in handicapped accessible deer blinds for wounded veterans; and so much more. He is truly a benefactor for Wythe County.”
Lienhart continues, “Joe believes charity should be anonymous. He doesn’t want recognition. He just gets satisfaction from helping. Joe is a tireless person when improving the community. You can’t drive around Max Meadows without seeing things he has done in the community. He is quite an extraordinary individual and his story needs to be told. Maybe it will inspire others to be like him.”
If you would like to donate to The Joe Hale Public Library of Fort Chiswell, to WytheHope.org website. Click on the drop-down box for Friends of Fort Chiswell Libarary. There is also a GoFundMe account for the Fort Chiswell Library. Current funding goal is $100,000.00 to purchase the bank buiding by the end of 2020.
By DANIELLE REID, The Patriot