DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — Hody Buford Childress had a secret. Shortly after his New Year’s Day death, however, his long-kept kindness that went untold for years was finally revealed.
Hody’s arrangement with Brooke Walker, who owns Geraldine Drugs on Richey Street, touched several people. The decade-long deal saw Hody walk into the pharmacy every month, sometimes more often, with a folded-up $100 bill, or occasionally more.
Hody’s secret was only revealed at his funeral.
“He came in one day and asked if there were ever times when someone couldn’t get their medication due to financial reasons,” said Walker. “And I told him yes- many times.”
Walker said the money was used to help children who needed Epi-Pens, for families in-between insurance coverage and for those just leaving the hospital.
“In the beginning, I was keeping it in an envelope because I thought it was a one-time donation. Then, [Hody] returned the next month…and the next…and the next,” Walker recalled. “After [the pharmacy] moved, I decided we needed to create a safer way to keep up with it because it would sometimes build up to a large amount before someone needed it. We decided to make it a computer account; I wanted to be able to see every transaction and have an electronic record.”
The only instruction he gave was that the money was to be used for anyone who couldn’t afford their medications – but they couldn’t know his name. That’s how Hody wanted it. No recognition, no pat on the back. Just…kindness.
“We always told the receiver, ‘this is from someone that felt led by God to help another.’ We left it at that,” said Walker.
The retired Lockheed Martin employee was a farmer who survived both his son and wife. Hody liked to live quietly. He would even send someone to deliver the money if his health kept him from going himself. They would hand the money to Walker and say, “Hody said you would know what to do with this.”
“The very first time I used it for someone, I called and told him what a blessing it had been to that family. Again, he told me he didn’t want to know who received it,” Walker remembered. “He just told me to do what I felt led. It felt like a lot of pressure that he trusted me with that.”
Walker detailed several times when the account provided a blessing at just the right time.
“There once was a young, single mom. She and her daughter both needed medication that her insurance didn’t cover. There were no alternatives,” said Walker. “When I handed her the medication with the receipt attached, she started crying…Several months later, she returned to pay it forward. She wanted money added back to the account. She didn’t have to do that, nor did I want her to do that… but she had the desire to help others in difficult situations. I believe that Hody sparked that in her heart and that she will carry that forward her entire life. He was creating a ripple effect, and he didn’t even realize this.”
Others have also come back to pay it forward, according to Walker. Hody was affecting his community and beyond in ways he would never know.
There were two situations where Walker explained the money was used for something other than medication but felt she could not ignore the call to help.
The first was a woman in an abusive relationship who was trying to get back on her feet. “She was not a follower of Christ, and I felt compelled to tell her that there is hope in Christ,” Walker said. “I gave her $100 in cash and told her it was the work of the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that it planted a seed.”
In another scenario, Walker recounted the Christmas-time magic that was a result of Hody’s kindness:
“A long-time customer that I adored came in to get medication. He was an elderly gentleman who despite having a difficult home situation always came in with a smile on his face. In ten years, I had never seen him in less than a cheerful mood. This time was different. He and his wife were caring for their special needs adult son. I asked if he was ready for Christmas, and he almost teared up as he shared his difficulties. His wife had recently broken her hip. He was trying to cook, clean, care for their son, care for her and keep the laundry up. He asked if I knew anyone selling a used washer/dryer because theirs had stopped working. His heart was so heavy that night.
He was our last customer, and we closed the store. I could not get him off of my mind. I first began researching Facebook for a set, but I also knew it would be difficult for him to load/unload with no help. I finally went to Lowe’s website and priced the cheapest set with delivery. I didn’t know if Hody would be okay with this, but regardless of if the money came from my personal account or the donation account, I was not going to go to sleep knowing that he needed help and had no one to turn to for it. I checked the donation balance. It had more than it had ever had (likely because I had been on maternity leave), and I knew it was the right thing to do.
I looked up his address and drove to his house. When I got to his home, his wife yelled for me to come inside. She was laying on the couch with her broken hip and her special needs son was watching cartoons beside of her. She told me he was gone to the pharmacy and the grocery store. I drove to Foodland with a mission to find him, and there he stood with his grocery cart. He initially thought I was just shopping as well and looked a little stunned to see me. I handed him an envelope that said, “I have watched you take care of everyone around you for years, and here is something to make life a little easier on you this Christmas. God bless you.” I told him it was not from me, but from an anonymous donor that wishes to spread God’s love by helping others.
As I walked away, he stood speechless in the milk aisle still trying to process what was happening to him. He thanked me multiple times after that night, and I know it had a huge impact on him.”
Walker added that the account has never once gotten down to zero, and adds that she is “forever grateful to Hody for entrusting me with that task.”
“Hody was not just a good man. He was a great man,” said Walker. “I wish I had told him how much he meant to me…how much his actions and faith affected my life…and how blessed I was to know him.”
To keep Hody’s kindness and generosity alive, those who knew him established a “Hody Childress” fund at the pharmacy to keep the “secret” going.