MEET LARRY POPE
“Some people accuse me of being a caffeine person but that’s not true,” Joked Larry Pope. “I don’t even drink caffeine. No alcohol, no soda, and no coffee. I am just always on the go.”
Pope, a devoted Salvation Army volunteer of 8 years, uses his on-the-go energy to manage cash registers and the customer experience at the Howard County Thrift store; feed families with kids through our Feedmore, mobile canteen services; and with organizing grocery commodities as part of our ‘Grab n’ Go Grocery’ program at our warehouse.
Many would describe Pope as a towering, approachable, conversationalist. Anecdotes, stories, and even enthralling tales pull folks into his aura of goodwill.
Pope opened conversation about a near death experience that still haunts him to this day. Around this time, 10 years ago, a horse escaped its farm home. It wandered aimless across a highway around 5:00 a.m. Pope happened to be coming home from his role at the federal government while the horse was on the loose.
The velvety night sky blinded Pope from pushing the breaks on his car in time. Suddenly, the bewildered horse and Pope’s car met. Unfortunately, the horse didn’t make it and Pope was now the proud owner of a totaled car. Pope only suffered from a hurt knee as a result of this encounter. Hurt knee and all, Pope had a funeral to attend at 9 am for which he was only 20 minutes late. Folks told him he should’ve gone straight to the hospital but Pope is a man who keeps his commitment.
That accident could’ve killed him. There could’ve been two funerals that day.
“I thought about suing but God didn’t want me to do that,” said Pope. “I pulled out of this thing so there was something I was meant to do.”
Flash forward to 2013. Pope was freshly retired after working in Public Health Services sector for 28 years. He not only worked under Dr. Fauci’s team for 10 of those years, but he was also a staff member for the first female surgeon general. In addition to his role within Public Health Services during the 80s, he also moonlit as a bodyguard for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Whoopi Goldberg, Elizabeth Taylor, Morgan Fairchild and Elton John during AIDS awareness campaigns.
“When you retire, you need something to do. When you have been busy all your life, you must find something to do, “declared Pope.
By chance, he found A holiday help ad from the Salvation Army in a Columbia-based local newspaper. Pope worked with the former director of the Boys and Girls club and extolled his passion for feeding people. He’s been a staple at the Feedmore mobile feeding canteen ever since.
“I do get a special thrill out of helping people. I am overly generous sometimes to a fault. I get reminded of that by Mr. Luther of Feedmore,” said Pope. Who was always guilty of giving hefty second helpings of food.
Pope’s positive energy and generous nature were tested four years ago by Hurricane Irma in West Virginia. He was tasked by Central Maryland Area Command (CMAC) to feed, shelter and pray for thousands of folks who had succumbed to homelessness, poverty, and isolation. Three years ago, he was tested again by Hurricane Michael in Pensacola, Florida. However, the disaster relief training provided by the Salvation Army, prepared him to take on a leadership role. With Hurricane Michael, he was tasked to scrounge up resources, coordinate tasks, and feed thousands of people on sight. Pope stayed 14 days straight often skipping showers, and rejecting nights of sleep so he could feed as many folks as possible for the immediate aftermath of each disaster respectively. By Popes standards, two weeks was just not enough time.
Thirty people died in West Virginia due to Hurricane Irma. Trailers with corpses had been marked with large, red x’s. Exposed wire, broken glass, and debris coated all walkable paths.
Hurricane Michael shook Pope to his core. Homes on the beach had seemingly just vanished. One family was only left with an outline of their home in the sand with just a spoon leftover to represent what once was. Pope remains eagerly ready to lend a helping hand as he still has phone alerts set to notify him of the next natural disaster.
Pope prides himself in being a ‘doer of the moment.’ He works fast, manages multiple projects with a warm smile, and runs on ‘volunteering adrenaline’.
Who needs caffeine anyway.