As Vice President of Operations at Methodist Home for Children, Ken Perry says that he has always had a passion for philanthropy. The human service agency that he has grown to become a pillar of provides safe, stable homes where at-risk children can thrive and ultimately succeed. The organization builds on strengths, nurtures hopes and goals, and works to prepare all in their care to shape their own futures. Perry has been a part of the organization since 1982, when he graduated from college.
“As long as I’ve been here, I’ve honestly never thought of doing anything else,” he said.
As a graduate of North Carolina State University with a degree in Sociology and a minor in Criminal Justice, Perry always had an inkling that his interests in the human resources field would lead him to a position where he could make a real difference – because it was part of him. Growing up in Newport News, Virginia in a house with one bathroom and 13 other siblings was not easy. The local community center, Magruder Recreation, was where Perry spent a majority of his time. It was a safe place that he credits with keeping him out of trouble throughout his childhood, providing an outlet to be a kid and learn life tools for success.
His parents were very present in his life, and while neither of them finished high school, they constantly urged their children to attend college and make learning a priority.
“My parents didn’t make a lot of money, and we had a very large family, so I knew that there would be little to no help in terms of paying for college,” he said. “So I worked hard as a kid, and I was able to pay for my education through a football scholarship that I maintained during my entire time at college. Having access to a scholarship changed my career trajectory and instilled in me a strong desire to give back.”
Months after graduating, Perry secured a position at the Methodist Home for Children and worked his way up to his current position over the last 36 years – quite the commendable feat.
“I love this community,” he says as his smile widens. “I have been able to change people’s lives through my work, and there are no good words for that, only feelings. He recalls individuals coming back to the agency to share their success stories and how that sustains his work.
Stories from people like Tommy. “He was a young 16 year old from Johnson County when I met him, and he grew up in one of our group homes. We helped him achieve his goal of completing high school and getting a job working for one of the local hotels,” said Perry. “Later, we helped assist him with Vocational School where he obtained his certification in HVAC. The certification allowed him to gain a promotion and additional pay increase, helping ensure his success.”
His call to do more reaches far beyond his daytime job. Perry works closely with Benchmarks, Wake County Human Services’ Fatherhood Initiative Task Force, Hackley Educational Learning Program, Wake Community Collaborative, Teaching Family Association, Saint Augustine’s College Gateway Program, Urban Connection, and A Legacy of Tradition – a giving circle at Triangle Community Foundation comprising of African-American men. Its members are collectively engaged and focused on impacting and bridging the societal gaps faced by African-American males in the areas of education, and community responsibility.
Perry has dedicated his life to giving in a capacity that fosters healthy home environments, and to creating those healthy homes for disenfranchised children in an effort to ensure a better life for them and his life has changed too, he says. In a time when we hear so much negative news about people not being willing to dedicate so much of their time, talent, or treasure to make real change, Perry willingly donates all three.
When asked why he chooses to spend his time in service of others, he offered this food for thought:
“It has to be us. We always say ‘they’ need to fix it, but they are us. We are the ones who need to fix it. You have to show up and participate, it’s as simple as that.”
-Written by Wad Sharafeldin Khalafalla