Monday, January 22, 2007

James Reynolds

James Reynolds – Committed to Community

Although known for his long-time role as Abe Carver on Days of Our Lives, James Reynolds list of charitable work seems longer than his list of Hollywood credits and, in my eyes, that’s a good thing. In James’ eyes, that’s a great thing.
Reynolds has been a regular participant with the USO on their handshake tours around the world, meeting with our soldiers. He has visited soldiers in Afghanistan, Kuwait, Italy, Spain, Pakistan, Iceland, and Cuba. These visits are especially poignant for Reynolds, who joined the Marines after high school. After boot camp he was assigned to the Information Service Office where, first stationed in Hawaii, he became a reporter for the service newspaper, The Windward Marine. Later he was sent to Vietnam and served for almost a year with a variety of units in and around Chu Lai, adding battlefield reporting to his combat duties, until a wound resulted in his discharge.

What was it like going back and seeing the troops today after you’ve served?
We do meet and greets, talk to them, sign autographs and take pictures with them. The soldiers are all very proud of their base and they always give us a tour. I was 17 years old when I served and many of these kids are the same age now. I went over with my son the first time, who was 21 at the time, and seeing him interact with them and realizing he could conceivably be where they are, I think that’s what took me back -- that’s where I spent my very early adulthood.

Why get involved with the USO?

After 9/11, I needed to do something, and the USO called me and asked me if was willing to go on the tour and I jumped at it. It was an opportunity to reconnect with the military, see how all of these young people are going through the same thing I did -- the smells are the same, the rules are the same. The primary difference is e-mail and the fact you can keep in touch. There are so many reasons to do this – to see part of history, to let the soldiers know we care. It doesn’t make no difference what your individual feelings of war are, we all need to be in support of them and support them completely without reservation.

These soldiers aren’t just there at holiday time and they aren’t just in Iraq either – there are more than 100 places around the world with military stations and those folks need to be remembered as well.

According to his bio, Reynolds has been involved in more than 300 fund raising events in the last ten years. He annually hosts a "Bowl-a-thon" in Los Angeles to benefit the National Asthma Center and a celebrity basketball game in South Pasadena for the city's schools. Haven House (a home for battered women and children in Pasadena), the PTA, YMCA, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, The National Asthma Center, The National Jewish Hospital, the Boy Scouts of America and numerous other national and local charities and service organizations have recognized James' work with awards and commendations.
Reynolds also remembers where he came from and, for him, that’s a small farming community of Oskaloosa, Kansas. Today, he still helps out back home.
You’re in California now, why go back and help your old hometown?

Our house has been there for 150 years since the escape from slavery and the house has been occupied constantly until my mother passed away. I feel a sense of responsibility to maintain the home. I’m still very connected with it. You can never do enough. I have an empathy for small towns.

In fact one of Reynolds' greatest honors is being named to the Kansas Historical Society's list of famous Kansans, a list that includes such notables as President Dwight Eisenhower, Amelia Earhardt, Langston Hughes, Barry Sanders, and many others. Reynolds, Lissa, their son Jed and other members of their family have established Big Men Stuff; a company that utilizes clothing items with slogan embroidered on them (such as: Big Men Don't Hit They Hug) to help in the fight against abuse.

The reason I’m very concerned about abuse is the more I read about it, the more it seemed that most of the prisoners were abused as children and those who were abused become abusers; although certainly not all abusers take that route. Now, with these clothes – it will hopefully remind men that big men don’t hit they hug; they don’t swear they care. It’s one of those things we have to do as a society. I’m pretty concerned about how much more vocal we are about caring for children than we are about acting on it. We tend to stand by and don’t want to get involved. We should be saying that we are not going to tolerate it; not going to allow another generation to continue it. It seems to me that we talk about it, but we turn a blind eye about that child across town, and we don’t seem to invest ourselves when it comes to our children.

James says the profits from Big Men Stuff will go to a variety of children’s charities.
Often, people pick one charity and become involved, but why so much?

I really feel I’ve been blessed with my success and I need to do something for other people to some degree to justify it. I live in the same world that everyone lives in and I’ve been fortunate and I need to turn that round. You have those people who show up and have their pic taken, and that’s all they can do and I do wish they can do more. There are some celebrities who have many times the money I have and haven’t donated a dime to anything and you wish they would. I really feel it’s important for us – we’ve been allowed to do a great deal.

Congratulations to James Reynolds, nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series. The 38th NAACP Image Awards will be broadcast live on Fox Television on Friday, March 2, 2007. Presented annually, the NAACP Image Awards is the nation’s premiere event celebrating the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts as well as those individuals or groups who promote social justice.

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