- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

VICKSBURG, Miss. (AP) - Randy Naylor Jr. leads a dual life.

For part of the year, he lives in Houston, Texas, with his wife Tonya and sons Randy III and Trenton, and teaches elementary school.

But during holidays and the summer months, he’s home in Vicksburg, where he fills his role as president of the Randy Naylor Foundation, a nonprofit corporation formed to help local youth. The foundation is named for his father, Vicksburg police officer and Warren County Constable Randy Naylor, who died in 2014.

When he leaves for Vicksburg in the summer, he said, “People in Houston say, ‘You’re going to Mississippi for the summer; must be nice,’ but we’re working when we’re here. We’re working with the foundation to do programs like Seniors Helping Seniors and to partner with other organization with youth center activities.”

The foundation, he said, was formed after his father died.

“We were riding back to Texas after the funeral and we struggled with whether or not to move home, because my mom’s here, and I worry about her being by herself,” Naylor said. “It was my mom who said we should continue to go on with our careers, but we wondered what we could do to carry on my father’s work with youth in the community.”

It was after talking with his wife, sister and mother the Randy Naylor Memorial Foundation was developed to create and support events for the youth in the city.

Besides Seniors Helping Seniors, the foundation offers scholarships in Vicksburg and Texas, has held a sock drive for local nursing homes, provided Thanksgiving dinner for a family, fixed Thanksgiving dinner for residents at Mountain of Faith Ministries, Christmas gifts for a family, and bought back to school clothes for children in the community.

Foundation members volunteer for the Vicksburg Police Department’s summer Randy Naylor Street Ball Program, interact with young people, and provide supplies if needed. The foundation also presents the Duck Award, a special award named after his father’s nickname to the city summer student workers who display leadership characteristics.

The organization’s annual fundraiser is a celebrity roast, which involves a prominent person in the community as the target.

Naylor said the Seniors Helping Seniors program is based on a in the Houston School District involving seniors from all the school district’s high schools.

“They have a list of homes and the seniors give three days of service; they spend the entire day out painting, moving debris and cutting grass,” he said. “I thought it would be a good idea to bring home.”

He talked with Vicksburg Warren School District officials and Warren Central was selected for the pilot program. He approached United Way of West Central Mississippi for a grant that has been used to include all area high schools for the program, which is now in its second year.

“It helps people who can’t do things around their house, either because they’re physically limited or financially can’t do it,” he said. “The people we help brag about how much they love the work that’s being done, and glad that youth are getting a positive light shed on them. Whenever we can shine a positive light in kids, we want to do that.”

Naylor said splitting his time between Houston and Vicksburg can get rough.

“I feel sometimes I’m neglecting things at home, because I don’t get to do some of the things that need to be done around my mom’s house,” he said.

“It’s a juggling act,” he said of balancing his duties as foundation president and dealing with family matters. “But to be honest, when I’m out there painting (at a home), I don’t worry about bills, whether or not we’re going to get the house we’re looking at; just being in the act of service, that is the way I grieve. When I start missing my dad, serving helps me with the grieving process.”

And when he is not in Vicksburg, he said, the foundation’s board of directors: Joyce Blue, Eric Paymon, Ed Wong, Ebony Gardner and Kim Nailor handle the daily operations of the organization. “They all have the interest of youth at heart,” he said, adding there is an “unofficial” board member, Preston Nailor, who also gives a lot of his time to help the foundation.

Naylor said the foundation is presently working on a mentoring program for students to help them to plan a goal, a track record to go to college and become successful in their careers.

When school starts in August, the foundation will offer a program called “Positive Presence” in the schools, where adult volunteers will go to the area schools and be either in the classrooms or other areas of the school.

“It’s just to present the presence of a positive adult as an example to the students,” he said. “I was less likely to cutup and misbehave if there was an adult present. “We’re trying to put as many positive adults in the school as we can during that time.”

Later in July, the Naylor and the foundation will participate in a Know Your Rights legal forum.

“This is a program to bridge the gap with the police department,” he said. “It’s not so much pointing fingers at anybody, but just trying to comer together and start a dialogue of what should you do if you’re pulled over by an officer and how you should comply, and also let the community know the police are our friends, they’re here to serve.

“Having a father who was a police officer I see both sides of the issue,” he said. “And when my dad would leave the house with his uniform on to go to work I wanted him to come home.”

He said people have approached him and complimented his father on how he treated them.

“We try to be proactive, not reactive,” he said.

Naylor said he wants to see the foundation expand.

“What I’d like to do it take the work we’ve done with our kids, and use it as a blueprint for other communities,” he said. Saying he has also lived in Los Angeles and Indianapolis, he wants to install the foundation in Texas and Louisiana, California and Indiana after getting it on a solid footing here. “I would love to see the foundation grow to where it requires my full-time attention,” he said.

And does that mean coming home for good?

“I have not ruled that out,” he said. “Vicksburg is home. I never have to go back to Los Angeles; never have to go back to Indianapolis; never have to go back to Houston. But I always have to come home, (and) Vicksburg is the only place I have to come back to.”

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Information from: The Vicksburg Post, https://www.vicksburgpost.com

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