From an early age Hank Commodore developed a love for the Lord and a passion to give back to those who were less fortunate than he. Before it was to needy children, but now through his organization Help the Needy, Not the Greedy Get On Board for the Right Thing, Commodore is helping disadvantaged families by providing furniture.
|HANK COMMODORE (Photo by J.L. Martello)
“I give the Lord all the praise. I do this out of my own pocket,” Commodore said. “I have been doing this for years and it has been a blessing.”
Help the Needy, Not the Greedy was first started in 2007 and according to Commodore, founder and chairman, it has given away more than $3 million in furniture to those who are less fortunate. For more than 20 years, he began purchasing furniture from a local store and giving it out. Now he receives furniture donations from stores.
“They donate the furniture and I pay for the cost of expenses,” Commodore said. “We have given away 22 tractor trailers full of furniture all over New Kensington and the City of Pittsburgh.”
Commodore grew up in the Ford City area and at the age of 2, was severely burned on his hands and then later developed an allergic reaction to dirt. He said kids would tease him. After visiting a specialist around the age of 15 his condition grew less severe and he went on to excel at high school sports, especially basketball. He attended Northwestern Oklahoma State University, where he was one of the leading players on his team.
It was while in college, his desire to give back started to come out. During a trip to a fair, Commodore discovered his talent at playing the games and winning stuffed animals.
“I would win so many stuffed animals (at various amusement parks) that they began making rules (as to how many a person could win). I would win (a tremendous amount) of stuffed animals a day and give them to children who were disabled or in hospitals,” Commodore said.
While in college, Commodore said he also became a national ping-pong champion in two divisions, doing this despite of the troubles he had with his hands.
After College, Commodore was drafted not only for professional basketball, but also the military, due to the lottery system that was in place. After signing his basketball contract he injured his knee, causing him to not be able to play basketball or enlist in the service, so he went back to school at Northwestern, where he received his Master’s degree in education and guidance
Commodore became a Guidance Counselor and then Dean of Students of the New Kensington-Arnold School District. It was there that he, along with his wife, began taking in fostering children and raising them, especially ones that were in the juvenile system.
“It is an environment that changes kids, it does not matter what color they are,” Commodore said. “I still have a relationship with the kids I helped.”
Along with being an administrator, Commodore was also a basketball coach.
He has always had to deal with challenges throughout his life, he was diagnosed with polymyositis, a chronic disease that causes inflammation of muscles and causes weakness in muscles.
But with all this, he decided to do something to give back to the community. It was after he got better that he decided to start the Help the Needy Not the Greedy organization.
“I have my health problems but I still do it. I have used (approximately) $300,000 out of my own pocket. We have helped the Salvation Army, the Catholic Charities and Battered women’s shelters. I am learning a lot behind this project,” Commodore said. “I was dying (at one time in my life), not expected to live, but God brought me back for a reason.” And he says that this is his reason-to help people. Commodore says that there are too many people to count that have been helped by his organization.
In order to be considered for the organization, applicants must provide basic information and agree that once they are helped, they will pay it forward, by helping others.
“When we give this furniture, we help clean up the neighborhood and it has been proven that in New Kensington crime has gone down. And now kids can go home and it keeps them off the streets,” he said.
Rudy Chambers, an assistant and former student of Commodore, said, “It (Help the Needy, Not the Greedy) helps me to reach into the community and give back. I had a good life, but I have had some problems. And it lets him (Commodore) know that all his work with me (and helping me to be better) has not gone unnoticed.”
Although his organization continues to thrive, Commodore said that he would like to see more help from the community, especially the churches. “The churches do help, but I would like to see more. I’d like to see more of them not just helping their members, but all people. And the community leaders, some of them just come for the publicity. When the cameras disappear, so do they. They need to get involved.” He adds that most often, the people that are the most needy, give the most and those with most, give the least.
Commodore said the reward he gets from giving is the best payment, more than any of the numerous awards or proclamations he has received. “I enjoy seeing people happy and smiling. And the people we buy clothes and furniture for say that it makes them a better person. Also the fact that now they (people) see a Black person giving, because a lot of them just think we take. (And it feels good to show them a different side.)”
Commodore said he plans to expand the way his organization gives. He and Chambers have started going into schools and talking to kids. He said it’s because he wants kids to see and learn at an early age how important it is to help others.