Interview by Abernathy Cochran Real Estate Group Realtor Ricky Lewallen
Meet Randy Owens! You may recognize Randy from the local nonprofit Randy and Friends or the organization’s coffee shop just off the downtown Gainesville square, The Rooster’s Perch.
Marty (Randy’s mother) and Randy Owens founded Randy and Friends, Inc. in 2012 with a goal that every person be given the opportunity for a meaningful life by discovering their gifts, then developing them to serve in their community.
Randy and Friends’ vision is to make Gainesville a model community that values all its members, including those who may have been previously overlooked because of a disability, according to their website.
At the Randy and Friends facility, on 210 Bradford Street in Gainesville, the organization mentors and volunteers tap into the individual strengths and creativity of each young adult with the end desire that they become successful and independent. Through the training aspect of Randy and Friends vision, learning occurs that is invaluable to developing skills for coping in an independent lifestyle.
“We have job coaches to help people and we have gotten people out to work at JJ Foods, Kroger and Chick-Fil-A. We hope this will start getting other people to know about us,” Randy said.
For Randy, his nonprofit hits close to home after a car accident he was involved in when he was just 2 years old.
“My parents were told that if I lived, I would be completely dependent on them the rest of my life. As you can see, I am very much alive, even though I was left paralyzed and with a traumatic brain injury,” Randy wrote in a letter from 2017. “The event began a journey that my parents were not prepared for, but God has been with our family each day showing us the way. At the time, the accident seemed tragic, but because of it, I have been given opportunities to encourage others who face challenges. God has not taken his eyes off me, but he was giving me a platform to tell others how much they are loved by God.”
From the accident to today, he has used his experience to bless others with his story and serve as a beacon of inspiration to the Hall County community.
“I don’t say people have disabilities I believe we are all differently able,” he said.
Randy also was the inspiration for creating the local school and development center, Challenged Child and Friends in 1985, now named Sisu. Randy serves on the board at Sisu and for their 20th anniversary they named a road after him: Randy Owens Drive.
Today, Randy lives independently and works at his father’s medical practice (Dr. Roger Owens) in Gainesville. Randy has six brothers and one sister, is active in his church and he plans to travel to West Africa again in the future.
During his first trip to Africa, Randy traveled on a mission trip and upon arrival realized that the airline had lost his wheelchair.
“I went on my first mission trip a few years ago, I’ve been twice now…to Liberia. My first trip over, my wheelchair was lost and when I got there, I had to use a manual chair. We were in the jungle and had to carry me everywhere and two weeks after we got home the wheelchair arrived,” Randy said.
We want to thank Randy for spending time with us recently and telling us more about himself and his love for Hall County.
Question: Who is the most interesting person you have met in Hall County?
Answer: “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, I got to meet him and got to take a picture with him.”
Q: What is your favorite kind of music?
A: “I like oldies but this song brought tears to my eyes…my mother took me to a gospel concert once, the song said something like, “I looked at my hands and my hands looked new, I looked at my feet and they did too. Ever since that day my soul has been satisfied.” And I was just thinking that when I get to heaven, I will be able to use all my limbs again. God gave me a vision, a couple months ago and it was ‘you’re healed in my sight.’
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A: “We want people to see that we are just the same through this organization. We want people to give us an opportunity and look passed the disabilities. Look at what we can do not what we can’t do.”
Q: What is your favorite thing about Hall County?
A: “I like that it is a lot smaller but it becoming a part of you.”
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the in the world where would you go?
A: “Somewhere that is warm and wheelchair accessible…I think I would like to go New York.”
Q: What is something interesting about you that most people don’t know about you?
A: “I have some inventions that I would like to do such as a wheelchair top that has a remote control, like a convertible so if it rains it can go right over. Also, would like to put blades under my wheelchair, so I could cut people’s grass.”
Q: What is your favorite place to eat and what do you love there?
A: “Olive Garden. I love the soups and salads.”
Q: What is on your bucket list?
A: “I would like to make my inventions come true.”
The Faces of Hall County is a project to showcase the amazing people that live in our community. If you would like to nominate an interesting person to be featured please email firstname.lastname@example.org.