“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
This weekend family, friends and community will celebrate the life of a remarkable man who impacted thousands of lives in Medina County and the surrounding area. Every year, the late John Southwell, 89, helped provide hundreds of foster children with Christmas gifts. Every week, he went to the store and bought beds, playpens, strollers, anything a foster child needed that the State wouldn’t provide. Every day, he advocated for these kids, building up a homegrown non-profit organization named HANK, Inc., which he co-founded with his beautiful wife, Debbie, who will carry on the mission.
I went to visit Mr. Southwell at his home just a few days before he passed away, and even as he struggled so, he was still advocating for these children. He was excited to let me know that HANK will be opening their third community foster home very soon.
One of the last things he said to me was “Children are the most precious thing”. I know there will be a special place in Heaven for Mr. John Southwell, of Hondo, Texas. What a legacy he leaves behind. Three community foster homes with 18 warm beds for local foster children in Devine and Hondo. A little love and joy in the hearts of thousands of foster children who received a gift and were touched by HANK over the years, and will continue to be touched for many years to come.
A memorial service for William “John” Southwell, III will take place on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at New Fountain United Methodist Church at 1:00 p.m.
Please wear bright colors; John wanted this to be a joyous celebration of his life. Full obituary inside.
I first met Mr. John Southwell when I was covering County Court as a reporter for the local newspaper. That Monday, the county was donating surplus funds to a non-profit organization named HANK, which stands for Helping Abused and Neglected Kids. We met for an interview shortly afterward.
The first thing he explained is that there were 100–200 foster children in our little three-county area at any given time. From that first meeting, I knew right then and there that this was the best charity in Medina County.
One of the Mr. Southwell’s goals was to raise enough money to build “community foster homes” in local towns because finding a warm bed for a foster child is so difficult. At that time, a local judge explained that they often have to send kids to foster homes four hours away or even farther because there is simply no available bed for them in our area. With so much hard work, dedication and sincerity, Mr. Southwell’s dream to build community foster homes soon came true.
In 2016 they built their first community foster home in Devine. In 2017, they were able to build a second home in the neighboring town of Hondo, Texas, which is where the Southwells live and where HANK, Inc. began. And this year, they will open their 3rd community foster home.
Their “little” organization, run out of their home office, has purchased some 15,000 Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, and sets of school supplies. That’s not to mention the thousands of other things HANK has purchased for kids in need over the past ten years. Mr. Southwell was an inspiration to everyone who met him. To see this awesome husband-and-wife team working side by side and everything they have accomplished just blows me away.
He became somewhat of a grandfather figure to me over the years, as he did to hundreds upon hundreds of children who recieved a little comfort from HANK at a time when they needed it most. Mr. Southwell was a good business man and an excellent speaker. When he retired, he used those talents to build up HANK, alongside his wife Debbie and many volunteers. He was a man who was quick to tell you when you did a good job and that always motivated you to do more. He was inspirational by his actions and absolutely sincere in everything he did.
John and Debbie saw big needs of foster children that weren’t being met while volunteering for another organization, and instead of accepting it, they took into thier own hands and hearts to answer that call, fulfill those needs that aren’t covered by the State for local foster children.
What an impact a man can make.
By Kayleen Holder