The OCP Blog

Featured Volunteer of the Month: Richard “Gilligan” Entsminger

“It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Just like the previous heart-warming and eye-opening stories told here, the story of our featured volunteer of the month, Mr. Entsminger, reveals how people survive constant challenges and uncertainty. Our featured volunteer of the month has lived a bumpy life journey, searching for acceptance, love and compassion after experiencing a lack of these in his original family home. “I never felt like I belonged, and thinking about it, I am certain that was the main source of my exile,” Mr. Entsminger stated. He remembers a childhood in a family that felt like no one loved each other, a family that moved often. As one of 2 brothers, a sister, and 1 half-sister, our featured volunteer of the month wonders why he could not connect in loving and healthy ways with his family. Until this day, Mr. Entsminger still lacks the courage to reconnect with his parents, who are still alive. In adulthood he remembers competition with his younger brother, a Marine, who was well loved by the father. As a computer programmer, Mr. Entsminger did not feel he measured up to his military brother.

As a child he took refuge in books, seeking answers, stories and order that he could not find at home. In third grade, he loved a book about King Arthur. He said that sometimes he would be home and things would not go well, so he would open a book. He was able to go anywhere through reading, without needing a physical escape. Books transported him. At 19 years old, Mr. Entsminger proposed to his high school sweetheart. They married a few months later, and while he hoped to build a relationship and family that was full of the love and compassion that was missing in his life, he did not know how. He turned to alcohol. “Everything happened so fast, and all of a sudden I was alone,” Mr. Entsminger mentioned. He walked away from people and employment as his temper took over his life.

He found his way to Harrisonburg in 2010. His desire for love, compassion, acceptance and non-judgment led him to invite people into his apartment, who needed places to stay. He lost his housing as a result and has been homeless since 2015. As we talked about some of the positive steps he has been taking in his life in the last few months, he showed me the power of caring, the power of asking people about their lives, and the power of expecting that people will move past the ways they might be stuck in a given moment. He reminded me that one work day, I had asked him, “what do you want for your future?” And the care in that question, and his desire to find answers, led him to become involved in new ways as a community member, to regain self-confidence and self-worth.

Through his time at OCP he has started to visualize possibilities. I asked him, “what would you tell a person who is new in town and homeless?” He said, “I’d say, ‘dude, follow me. Let’s go to Our Community Place. At this place they’ll give you a sheet of resources in town. You can take a shower, have free meals as long as you also try to help out. And people there are cool, loving and compassionate.”

Leons Kabongo

Programming & Activities Coordinator