A lifelong philanthropist, Steve Bryson has now inspired a new generation, with his son Scott and daughter Samantha engaged in the all-volunteer Never Forgotten Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Bryson founded nearly a decade ago in Southern California.
He also founded the payment processor Global Electronic Technology Inc., online billing firm OrbitalPay LLC and the music label I55 Productions LLC, which is based in Memphis, Tenn.
Of the donations the NFF receives, both online and by mail, not a penny is wasted, Bryson noted. "No one takes a salary," he said. "It's completely and 100 percent administered by volunteers from my company.
"We take exactly 100 cents on the dollar, and we use that to buy food for various people, or to buy equipment or trauma backpacks or whatever it is that we feel that we need for the next time we're called to go out."
The NFF not only serves local community groups, but it also responds to regional and international relief efforts where donations, humanitarian services, and search and rescue teams may be needed.
Both Bryson and his son are military-trained paratroopers, which qualifies them to perform critical search and rescue missions globally on behalf of the NFF.
When a massive earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, Bryson and his son were there to assist. "Two hours after the earthquake, we chartered a jet with about 2,000 pounds of gear on it - large generators to run clinics, and cabling," Bryson said. "I and a half dozen other former paratroopers took off to go down and search for people who were still alive in the rubble."
Bryson has now set his sights on Africa. Regional instability in recent years has caused delays in food distribution to certain locations, sometimes halting the process altogether. Bryson believes that one day his paratrooper team will be able to overcome such obstacles so that direct aid can be restored in areas most affected.
Closer to home, the NFF has donated several hundred thousand meals to local community groups in Southern California to date. In recent years, the Long Beach Rescue Mission and Orange County Rescue Mission have been the recipients of the NFF's annual holiday meal donations, along with other essentials such as blankets, pillows, socks, pajamas and sanitary items. During the 2012 holiday season, the organization was on track to donate 120,000 meals to local shelters.
To support blues musicians in Bryson's hometown of Memphis (he now lives in Austin, Texas) where his I55 Productions record label is located, the NFF annually adopts about 30 families and sends each of them holiday greeting cards with cash enclosed. Another program Bryson initiated is a free burial program for blues musicians who die without insurance and have left no other provisions to pay for their burial.
Sharing with others seems to happen spontaneously for Bryson. When in Memphis, he often stays at the Madison Hotel. "There's a crazy guy that walks around outside, and everybody ignores him," he said. "They don't want to go near him. Whenever I see him, I give him a $20 bill and a pack of cigarettes."
After Bryson had already shown the man kindness, he learned that the pauper was once a prominent Memphis attorney who had come home and stepped into a home invasion burglary during which his family was murdered. He never recovered and abandoned everything, including his home and career.
"He doesn't ask anyone for money," Bryson said, noting that the moral of the story is, "Don't always turn your head away when you see people on the street. No one knows everybody's story."
Editor's note: If you're involved in charitable work, or if you know of other payment professionals who are giving back to local, national or international communities, we'd like to know so we can spotlight such inspiring efforts in Gift of Giving, a periodic feature in The Green Sheet. Reach out to us via email at email@example.com or by phone at 800-747-4441.
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