Board member spends retirement helping others

It’s what a lot of people aim for: early retirement. But how do you maintain a sense of purpose, of contributing to something bigger than yourself? Just take a page out of Tony Arthur’s book. 

Tony retired at age 50, just five years ago. Going from a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy to working 12 years as a project manager for shipbuilders and a year as a day trade supervisor, Tony decided he wanted to spend his days differently. 

Though glad to retire young, Tony found he needed a new way to occupy his time. A Google search of area nonprofits brought up StreetWise, and the rest is history. 

“With me, I always need something to do,” Tony said, “and once I started volunteering at StreetWise, I couldn’t stop; it was very addictive. I ended up coming five days a week.”

After five years as a volunteer this June, Tony became a member of StreetWise’s board of directors. He brings a useful perspective to the board. 

“I’ve had personal relationships with all the volunteers for years. I’m like the eyes, ears and mouth for them,” he said. “I try to make decisions for the organization while keeping in mind the volunteers and what’s important to them.”

Even in the midst of extreme personal struggle, Tony has truly shown his dedication to StreetWise’s mission.

“I went through cancer treatment a couple months ago; I just finished. And even during treatment, I was going to StreetWise every day because that’s where my heart was. They [the other volunteers] kept me energized; they kept me positive,” he said. 

“[Volunteering at StreetWise] it’s therapy for a lot of folks, because we all have things that we’re dealing with. But when we get there and see our friends, see our family, see the faces of people [we’re serving]… we’re supporting each other. 

Even now, though he usually only volunteers two or three days a week and spends time traveling, Tony makes service a priority. Why? Because he truly believes in what StreetWise has to offer. 

“When I’m in the country, I spend the majority of my time at StreetWise,” he said. “My hands and my mind are very valuable to me, and I believe I need to share [my talents] with others. So when I have the opportunity to do that, I’m going to give my mind and hands to an organization that’s important to me.”

“On top of there being a family [feel] within StreetWise, the clients who come through, some of them come repeatedly, so you get to know them. You look forward to seeing them, and they look forward to seeing you. It becomes an extended family in the community, and you can just see the blessings on their face when they see us,” Tony said. 

StreetWise offers support to hurting individuals and families; and no matter their needs, Tony wants people to know there is help for whatever they’re going through.

“We wanna let them know that we are there for them, that they always have a place to turn when times get hard. It may be just food [they need], or it may be prayer for a needed blessing in their life,” he said. 

“We pray for everyone, and we pray hard. We want everyone in the community to succeed, and if we do not have the resources to help you, we know someone who can.

“Anyone who enters into StreetWise becomes an instant family. They treated me like family with open arms from the time I walked in the door, and that’s the culture we have. We make sure there’s an atmosphere of love and respect for everyone, because we know that sometimes it’s hard for people to come and ask for help. But once they do, it makes them realize, ‘Wow, it wasn’t that bad.’”

With the help of people like Tony, StreetWise has a bright future. 

“In the community, StreetWise seems to be expanding,” Tony said. “And I want everyone to know who StreetWise is, because it’s one of the best kept secrets in Gwinnett County. Anything I can do to make sure goals are achieved, the word of the Lord is spread and others are helped – that’s what I’m gonna do.”