Locals discover and use their talents to better the Estero community

How old is too old to a make a difference? As long as you have breath, you can have purpose, says Kingdom Mobilization founder Nolen Rollins.

He points to Estero resident Jane Carman as an inspiring example. The 89 year old volunteers three full days a week as a teacher’s assistant, offering one-on-one reading time and encouragement to kindergarten students.

“The kids at San Carlos Park Elementary think she’s an angel from God,” says Rollins. “Her purpose is loving on these young children.”

Carman is one of countless locals who have graduated from Rollins’ GPS Life Journey course, offered at Legacy Church where he pastors. For years, Rollins has been a proponent of the “purpose movement” which has spawned several charitable organizations throughout Southwest Florida, including Hope Community Outreach, Wings of Shelter and Grace Works Unlimited.

Local GPS graduates also have applied their talents to help around the globe: an orphanage in Kenya, aid for human trafficking victims in Cambodia and many other initiatives in 41 different nations. GPS graduate Dennis Glenn, a retired FBI agent, believed in Rollins’ methods so much he spent a year in Puerto Rico offering purpose coaching to nearly 100 people there.

“It definitely is his gift to help other people figure out their gifts and what they can do with them,” says another local GPS graduate, Jeannie Gawronski, speaking of her experience under Rollins’ tutelage.

While going through the purpose workshop five years ago, she developed a business plan for Hope Community Outreach, which operates a resale store on Alico Road and serves the needs of Southwest Florida foster families and other disadvantaged populations. Gawronski believes so strongly in the GPS program that she requires staff members to take the course so she can determine how best to use their talents.

“Why spend your time doing something you’re not gifted at?” she muses. “Let’s put you where you’re gifted, and it makes a great team.”

Although GPS Life Journey is a faith-based program, it has been undertaken by a diversity of people, including Hindus in India and even a group of people in the tightly Muslim-controlled region of Dagestan, Russia. In the Unites States, Kingdom Mobilization has inspired purpose movements in several metro areas including Atlanta, Springfield and Houston, where the volunteer-led program is run by a retired Chevron Oil executive.

“This is a movement, not a ministry or an organization,” emphasizes Rollins, who maintains notable connections from his days pastoring in megachurches, including serving as executive pastor for Dr. Charles Stanley’s First Baptist Atlanta. “The mission is to help people discover purpose in life, get engaged in fulfilling that purpose and make a difference.”

Rollins considers himself a purpose facilitator rather than a teacher. He trained under billionaire philanthropist Bob Buford, founder of the Leadership Network and Halftime Institute. For the first time in American history, Buford maintains, most people will live to have a “bonus” 25 years after retirement.

“They typically have enough good health and active ability to make a difference in the world,” says Rollins.

Consider Jane Carman, who started volunteering at age 70 and is still going strong two decades later.

“I’ve been really blessed,” says Carman, who who not only volunteers in kindergarten but visits shut-ins at local retirement homes on her “off” days. “I just like to be busy.”

“Grandma Jane,” as the kindergartners call her, has been serving as an unpaid assistant for Mrs. Carrie Hinojosa for the last 10 years, starting at Villas Elementary and moving to San Carlos Park with her three years ago.

“I’ve had more grandchildren in Lee County than anybody you know,” she jokes.

San Carlos Park Principal Christy Kutz recalls Hinojosa’s one demand when she was hired three years ago: Grandma Jane had to come, too.

“It’s been fabulous,” Kutz says. “Grandma Jane is our most faithful volunteer. She’s an inspiration to all of us.”

Estero resident Rich Willett is another GPS graduate who is impacting the lives of local students. When he retired from his career as a corporate electronics instructor six years ago, he wasn’t sure what to do with his time. That’s when he and his wife, Cheryl, decided to take the purpose workshop.

“When we understand what our life purpose is, it generates an excitement and a desire to be on a mission and to fulfill what we were designed for,” he says. While others may be on foreign mission fields, Willett is called to a local mission: tutoring at-risk students in math.

Although Willett has endured multiple health challenges, starting with childhood polio and later diagnoses of diabetes and heart disease, he doesn’t let that stop him from using his gifts and doing what he believes he was designed to do.

“A lot of people come down to Florida and retire and head for the golf course, and that’s their plan for the rest of their life,” he marvels. “My goodness, I’d be bored stiff!”

While the GPS Life Journey has proven beneficial for many in their retirement years, it’s just as relevant to people in other stages of life, including college students, newlyweds or people feeling a mid-career itch. Understanding personal strengths and passions are essential for creating a personal vision, notes Rollins.

Dawn Birch, half of the popular Southwest Florida musical duo “Billy Dean and Dawn,” always knew her talents lied in song. However, she and her husband performed many years together without a full understanding of how their personal strengths could be harmonized in business. They embarked on the GPS Life Journey together about six years ago and now appreciate their God-given, complimentary differences, says Dawn.

“It’s like a puzzle box, and everybody has their own pieces of the puzzle,” she adds. “I now look for other people with similar strengths to see how we can fit together. I’m trying to figure out why God put me on this earth and how He wants me to interact with others He put on this earth. GPS is a really neat way to put it all together and discover personal strengths and self awareness.”

Rollins and his team at Legacy Church typically run the GPS Life Journey workshop in an eight-week coaching format using a study workbook he created. The cost is $99, and scholarships are available for those in need. It’s not a money-maker for Rollins; it is his life’s purpose. For more information, visit the GPS Life Journey website: gpslifejourney.com.

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