Tim is the founder of Signatures For Soldiers, an effort to raise money for homeless and disabled veterans. He’s a husband, dog-dad, and licensed clinical social worker. Tim turned his hobby of sports card and autograph collecting into a mission for good. Here’s his story!
What is the current role/passion/project you find yourself in and where can our readers find you?
I work full time as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Five years ago I started Signatures For Soldiers, a fundraising effort that sells autographed items to raise money for Military Missions In Action, a registered 501(c)3 that supports homeless and disabled veterans. 100% of the money raised goes directly to MMIA. Signatures For Soldiers (SFS) is my volunteer work where I contact athletes from any sport and ask for their willingness to sign autographs, usually on cards, that I then sell on social media platforms. I don’t keep any of the money that is raised, and there is a great deal of work behind the scenes that many people don’t see. I spend approximately 10-20 hours per week contacting athletes, sending items out to them to sign, organizing and inventorying the items, making them available for sale, ensuring that payment is made to MMIA, and then sending the items out to the individuals who bought them. Presently, I have well over 10,000 signed cards and a few thousand more signed 8×10 photos and other items.
How did you come to be where you are now?
I started collecting autographs as a hobby around the age of 14. I’ve volunteered with MMIA since January 2008. In 2014, my work took me out of North Carolina, which is where MMIA is based and where I first became involved with MMIA. I wanted to continue to support MMIA’s efforts by helping to raise money. I decided to use my hobby of collecting autographs as a way to raise money for MMIA.
Some may ask why charity is so important to me, and I’m not really sure how to explain this. It has always been a part of who I am as a person. I’ve always assumed a leadership role, in sports, the classroom, work, and I’ve always felt this innate desire to help those around me, especially those who are less fortunate. I suppose that this was instilled in me through my faith in Jesus and the teachings He gives to use about loving your neighbor. I have been a truly blessed in so many areas of my life, that I feel almost obligated to share those blessings with others. I believe it is a way for me to maintain these blessings, by giving them away.
What are your goals/hopes/plans for the future?
Signatures For Soldiers has grown into a community of collectors who want to help give back to our veterans. It has truly become something much larger than I could have ever imagined. My original goal for SFS was to raise $500 for MMIA. As I answer these questions, SFS is approaching $67,000 raised in 5 years. There are weeks and even days where I am raising well beyond $500. Just the other day, in a 24 hour period, SFS raised over $1200, which is nearly three times my original goal.
Beyond the numbers, the experiences have been incredible. SFS has been invited to NASCAR races and has had MMIA’s logo featured on a NASCAR car in Daytona and Atlanta Motor Speedways. SFS has had the opportunity to be a guest at multiple MLB games and has met numerous players and managers to talk about our mission. SFS has been featured in numerous articles, both online and in print, having been featured on the cover of Sports Collectors Digest (November 8 2019 issue) which is a national sports collecting hobby magazine. And SFS has been invited to set up at the last two National Sports Collectors Conventions with a third invite for the 2020 Convention.
My goal is to continue to expand SFS by gaining support beyond baseball into other sports such as football and hockey. I also would love to see local chapters of SFS in every state to focus on supporting homeless and disabled veterans.
What does growth mean to you?
My personal growth centers about my faith. I try to slow down each day by reflecting on Scripture and examining how it relates to my daily life. With this in mind, my ultimate goal is to be a better version of myself than the day before. This can be as a husband, friend, neighbor, in my career. I continually take the opportunity to reflect at the end of the day about what I did well, areas I could have improved, where I need to make amends, and assume responsibility for mistakes that I’ve made. This helps me to remain humble in all areas of my life and to continue to answer the question of “who do I want to be?” and “how do I want to be remembered?”
What piece of advice or request do you have for our readers before you leave?
My wife and I will talk about this often. We have a firm belief that everyone wants to help, wherever their passion may be. The difficulty is that people don’t know how to help. For many people, SFS has become an answer to that question. Whenever possible, become that change you wish to see in the world around you, regardless of how small that change may be. The ripple effect can lead to great things.
What do you do to take care of yourself?
Because this is my volunteer work, I am lucky enough to “take a break” when I feel like I need to step back and recharge. There is no pressure to raise a certain amount of money or hit a certain goal. I enjoy a great number of things in my down time, especially spending time with my wife and dogs. I use exercise as a great way to give an outlet to stress that builds up.
How do you overcome obstacles?
Everyone faces obstacles in their life, regardless of what areas they may arise. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realize that many of the obstacles that I face aren’t that bad or that difficult. My motto is “It can always be worse”. This helps to keep things in perspective. As I’ve mentioned earlier, my faith is a large part of who I am, and this helps to keep me grounded to know that God only gives me what I can handle, including obstacles, trials, and tribulations. These are opportunities for me to grow. This is when I fall back on my athletic career and push through the adversity, view it as a challenge to conquer and overcome and to become better.
I’m blessed with a wonderful support system that helps me through the difficult times. They’ve seen me at my lowest and they know what I am capable of accomplishing, even when I don’t see that. This motivates me to push harder to overcome so that I can show them that their faith in me isn’t for naught. I have struggled with clinical depression my entire life. This has been the biggest obstacle I’ve had to overcome. There was a time when I was ashamed of this and I would try to hide it. I tried to ignore it, hoping it would just go away. I finally realized that I didn’t like the direction that my life was going and that in order for this to change, I had to do something about it. I had to make the change. No one else was going to do it for me. That is when I started to be honest about my depression, to myself and to others. I took the steps necessary to address the depression and I continue to do so today.
Again, I have a wonderful support system that understands this part of me and supports me when I need it, even when I don’t realize that I need the support. For anyone facing adversity, I would say that you need to find the people that you trust and confide in them. Be open to their feedback, even if it isn’t what you want to hear. It just may be what you need to hear. If you have people in your life that will be open and honest with you like this, then those are the people to lean on.