It's been nearly two years since 38-year-old Larry Dwayne Bradley died. And while she has mourned, the fiancée he left behind has also worked towards creating something that will honor the memory of her lost love.
Bradley, who lived in Covington, had taken a promotion as a plant operator in Atlanta several months before his death. He had been taking water samples on a Friday when he apparently fell into an aeration basin at the R.M. Clayton Water Treatment Plant. His body was found Saturday afternoon following an overnight search.
Bradley's death shook his fiancée and their combined family to its very core.
Christy Whitley and Larry Bradley were together for seven years. They met at work and began dating, purchased a home together and lived as a family with their children for five years, joined with their first granddaughter just months before his death.
Eight months after he died, Whitley decided she needed to do something. She was still mourning, still struggling to cope with the loss of the man whom she loved, but she wanted to honor him in a way that would be lasting.
"Initially, I just wanted to plant a tree. People wonder how I came up with this idea, but the truth is, I didn't. Anyone who has suffered a great loss such as this understands; I was distraught; I was incapable of contemplating an endeavor as large as establishing a nonprofit foundation; I could barely carry out my daily responsibilities. God alone presented me with this idea; I received it, and I am thankful for what it is giving to all of us involved in this venture. It has given me purpose and it is a source of pride for Larry's son - that is very important to me," Whitley said.
The nonprofit is "Food for Thought." Though not your typical sort of foundation, it provides support to something that was very dear to Bradley's heart - education.
"All aspects of this foundation are directly linked to Larry; he once mentioned the difficulties he endured as a student enrolled at the University of Georgia, and hunger was a grievous issue. After some research, I quickly realized there were no other programs that provided meals or proper nourishment to college students in need. As a college student myself, I knew that financial aid is insufficient to cover tuition, books and related fees, much less the thousands of dollars it costs to purchase a meal plan for the year (the cost for an annual full meal plan at UGA is now $3,882). I was surprised to discover that despite the national school lunch program that provides free or reduced meals to students through high school, these same students face hunger should they decide to pursue their educational goals. The tutoring aspect was also derived from Larry, who tutored middle and high school students, as well as fellow classmates from Troy University, from our home while he finished his bachelor's degree. He believed anything worth having was incomplete unless it was shared."
The foundation purchases meal plans for college students experiencing dire financial straits and who lack the support of a family. This could be due to their status as a foster student, health issues or unemployment. In exchange for the meal plan, the students agree to tutor younger public school students.
"Our objective is to encourage students to persevere through difficulties in order to achieve their educational goals," said Whitley. "Our program benefits not only the meal plan recipients and the children they tutor, but also their families, communities, and eventually our workforce. Our motto: ‘Fed by the Spirit: Nourishing & Perpetuating Knowledge.'"
"Food for Thought" has already put their words into action by supplying two Newton High School students (Bradley's high school alma mater) with the funds for a meal plan. One is attending Gordon College, the other the University of West Georgia.
The foundation is a 501 c-3 nonprofit and accepts tax-deductible donations. There is a Paypal link on the foundation's website at larrydbradleyfoundation.org, or checks and money orders can be sent to 135 Moss Road, Covington 30016. They also offer an "Adopt a Student" program that will provide college students with care packages prepared for them especially by donors who offer additional nutrition, toiletries and encouragement to students in need, in addition to their meal plan. Whitley said they already have students on a waiting list from colleges and universities throughout the state. To learn more, visit the website or find them on Facebook at facebook.com/#!/pages/Food-for-Thought-Larry-D-Bradley-Foundation/255380364486176.
"We were a team," said Whitley of herself and Bradley. "Regularly, our children, and occasionally even my parents, joined us to do yard work and clean office buildings for extra income. Larry was the head of our household and provided an excellent example of the importance of working together for a common goal; he always made working a pleasure. He was and still is our role model."