The whole staff and board are very sad to share that our beloved Paul Gibson passed away last week from complications due to a blood clot. Paul was an amazing gift to WinterSpring and our teen programs. We wouldn’t be where we are in the growth of WinterSpring without Paul’s generous spirit and passion for our mission. His funeral is: 10 am Monday, December 21, at Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church in Ashland, 987 Hillview Dr.
Paul walked into the office for the first time just about four years ago, soon after I started as Executive Director. I had requested an intern from SOU’s Nonprofit Certificate Program and the faculty thought Paul would be a great fit. Little did they know that Paul would become an invaluable resource for our struggling organization. Little did they know that he would become a beloved part of our WinterSpring family.
Paul jumped into the task of helping me with grants, and any other task I put him on. He was kind of my right-hand man as I tried to figure out how to build WinterSpring into a stable organization. We’d bounce fundraising ideas back and forth. He had an endearing and humorous quirk of calling me “Boss” and “Chief.” He was always such a “yes” person–with a big supportive grin on his face. When it came time for his internship to be over, we asked him if he would join the staff on a very part-time basis. I was seeing a critical need within WinterSpring to have someone specifically assigned to our teen programs in the schools. It was a win-win, because we couldn’t afford very much, and he couldn’t be paid much because of disability income restrictions. Most of the incredible work he did as a volunteer.
Needless to say, Paul took to the job like he was made for it. He began going out to the schools and building relationships…and then facilitating the groups in the schools where he had made the connections. The most successful group has been at Talent Middle School where we have had sometimes over 20 grieving kids come to groups. Paul’s own grief story made him a credible and well-loved role model for the kids, especially the boys. Paul is also responsible for building our reach into the rural Jackson County communities. And the kids loved his participation in our first Camp WinterSpring. This past June, Paul started a graduate program in Portland, and he proudly left us with a well-regarded and in much higher demand program for youth.
But our sadness at his untimely death is more than what Paul did. It is who he was and who he became in the work at WinterSpring. We watched Paul come into himself in a new way because of his work with grieving kids. We watched his incredibly generous spirit blossom. I’ve really never met anyone quite like Paul in his selfless giving to a cause he so believed in. And I deeply admired his dedication to his own well-being and personal growth, and the way he worked so hard to get in excellent shape. Paul became like a brother to me as we continued our important work together, and it often seemed there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for me or for WinterSpring. I felt the same way about him. He was there for me when life got tough, and I hope I was there for him in the same way. I always appreciated his quick wit, incredibly warm heart, and passion for helping the kids. Paul’s big twinkling smile, little pranks and laughter, and boundless joy live on in our hearts as we work to build on his legacy with the grieving kids in the valley.
Our hearts go out to his young adult children, Megan and Ben, and to his Mom (whom he affectionately referred to as “Miss Daisy”), and to the rest of his wonderful family and friends. Please know that we will do whatever we can to keep Paul’s incredible legacy to WinterSpring alive.