Stepping outside and driving down his neighborhood, one Duncan resident began to take notice of a growing need in his community and the City of Duncan as a whole. What he didn’t expect was the amount of support he has received for taking action.
“I think what Mark Henderson is doing is a testament to man,” said a disabled Duncan resident, John Ware. “He is an inspiration for Duncan. It’s just too bad there aren’t more people like him.”
It started small. Local resident Mark Henderson decided to help those in the community, like Ware, who may have difficulty keeping up with their landscaping by mowing their lawns free of charge. He got with his buddy, Matthew Harris, and grabbed his mower.
The plan was set for Friday, June 14, but the comments, replies and messages from the community kept pouring in.
“I had this funny thought in my head, that I would get like 10, 15 or 20 yards,” Henderson said. “It was something I wanted to do every Friday, one day a week to give back, but I picked up three more yards just this morning.”
Henderson said that he, and those who helped out, mowed seven to 10 lawns every day over the weekend, burning up three mowers in the process, and their to-do list keeps growing. The list was up to over 60 lawns by the following Tuesday. Henderson fully believes that without the support of Harris and other volunteers, there’s no way this would have gotten as big as it did.
“All I really wanted was to be able to go out and help those that needed it,” Henderson said. “I had that fantasy in my head that it would be 10 to 15 yards, something to keep me going, and it’s turned into this. I think it’s great that it’s blossomed and that we’ve been able to help this many people, because that was my main goal.”
But with such a huge number of people needing help, it would be easy to start feeling overwhelmed, especially as it continues to climb. Henderson said he didn’t want to turn anyone down, but it would be hard to take care of that number of lawns with just himself and Harris.
That’s when other local community members reached out on Facebook and by phone, stepping out of the shadows, their own mowers in hand.
“What this has turned into, with so many yards and so many people needing help — and I want to help as many people as I can — I have come to find out about Duncan that it’s such a great community, and I have had a lot of people reach out wanting to help.”
What really surprised Henderson is the amount of people in Duncan who may be going through drug courts, or have sentenced community service requirements. So Henderson reached out to them through his girlfriend, Tracie Gillispie, who works as a counselor in town, and gave them the opportunity to not only give back to their community with him, but to get their hours in as well.
Being new to the community, Henderson has had a lot to discover about the people here. He moved to Duncan in April, 2017. Before that, his job kept him moving around, especially
between larger cities like Austin, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia and Seattle, Washington.
Henderson said that Duncan was a big change for him, because of its small-town appeal compared to the other big cities he is familiar with. He also said that every time he comes to a new place, he strives to find a way to give back to the community, especially the elderly, disabled and veterans, but Henderson mentions that the ones who reach out aren’t always the ones you expect.
“It’s rarely the elderly or the veterans that are reaching out; they have that pride, and I understand that completely,” he said. “So it’s their home healthcare nurse, it’s some other relative, it’s someone taking care of them that says ‘Hey this person needs this.’”
Another large community that is positively affected by Henderson’s efforts are those struggling financially.
“People shouldn’t have to stress over finances to live with their basic needs,” he said. “That’s our main goal, to keep that financial stress off of people. Whatever we can do to take that financial burden off of them, that’s the underlying cause of all of this.”
And Henderson does mean whatever they can do. According to him, this service doesn’t just stop at lawns, at least, not anymore.
“It was supposed to be just lawns, but a couple this weekend turned into little landscaping projects,” he said. “We aren’t at the point where we can dig koi ponds or things of that nature yet, but maybe eventually we can.”
Once summer ends and school comes back into session, Henderson said he would like to keep on trucking, because there will always be people who need help.
“Even through the winter, when yards aren’t a big deal, when the grass quits growing, if people need anything, handyman work, stuff around the house, something breaks, we can do that as well,” he said. “It’s just helping people that need it. We are prepared, or in the process of getting prepared, for this to be a year-round type business.”
This preparation comes in the form of a Facebook page for his non-profit organization called SCHHservices, or Stephens County Health and Healing Services, which is now active. Henderson said this page, the idea for which came from Gillispie, will be the hub for everyone to come to for help with their lawns or for people to volunteer to help out.
If Facebook is out of reach, those interested can call or text (580) 786-0144 and give an address or phone number and either Harris or Henderson will get back to them.