The Passion to Make a Difference

Keith Gailliard grew up in Harlem, and the neighborhood where he lived was tough. The environment was challenging and could easily make a negative impact on kids. That would not happen to Keith. His mother embedded a fundamental sense of worth in him and a strong faith in God. She instilled love, respect, and acceptance of others regardless of their differences – no black or white. He modeled his mother’s values and is now a mentor to kids, and he believes they all should have a sense of pride for themselves and the community. Keith teaches them about self-worth and potential, and he doesn’t want to see any one of them fail.

Keith Gailliard Helping Community
Keith Gailliard

From an early age, Keith’s mother inspired him to pursue his dreams and never give up. He always wanted to be involved with the community, and he went on to work with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and became a police officer – and it wasn’t easy. It was during a time of high racial tension and injustice. While working his shift one day, he was approached by a woman he did not know and she said something that remains etched in his mind, “You’re supposed to be with kids. That’s your calling.” Keith believes it was a calling from God.

After leaving the NYPD, Keith joined the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and after a short stay, he transferred to the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Danbury, Connecticut as a Federal Corrections Officer, an EEO Officer and then a Lieutenant.

When the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, it really hit home for him – he knew what it was like to be an officer and he had a cousin who died there. “Up until 9/11, people really didn’t know or pay attention to what public safety personnel did. But after that, people respected EMTs, firefighters, police officers, and other community workers,” Keith said.

Then, something overshadowed the darkest hour in United State’s history. People united and supported each other – regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion.

The attacks increased Keith’s desire to give more to his community. He became involved with a nonprofit, Friends of Local Heroes, which was established to provide lunch for emergency service workers. It started in 2002 and occurs annually around the anniversary of 9/11 in the Danbury area to recognize and show gratitude for public safety personnel.

Just as Keith’s mother was his inspiration as a young child, now he is the inspiration to children. He followed his calling as the woman told him years ago, and became very involved with kids by coaching youth sports for about 17 years. “I love to encourage kids and show them their worth,” he said. “I tell them they don’t have to settle when they fail – just get up and keep going.”

Keith was elected on the Board of Education in 2009 and is currently a Safety Advocate for Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury, where he works very closely with students. He is a core influence for all of them. He understands that some kids may not have a parent or guardian who can provide direction and support, so it fuels his passion to help even more. “I want kids to have a legacy. I always tell them, don’t shoot for the moon – shoot for the stars.”

And he continues to do what he was meant to do: work with kids and be an encouraging influence in their lives. It will help them become productive citizens and leaders of tomorrow.

Keith is committed to making a difference in the community. He said, “People should know who their neighbors are. If you don’t have a sense of community, you won’t have a sense of worth.”  He wants to be patriotic to his home and to be proud about where he lives. “If we all become patriotic where we live, we can make things better in the community; with enough people, we can make a change,” Keith said. “If we don’t care, then why will our kids care?”

Keith exemplifies the meaning of community leader and continues to be a huge influence in the lives of all who get to meet him.

From a Patriotic Perspective

We have the best idea since sliced bread… yeah, right! Well, all of us are have likely said this a number of times throughout our lives for sure. Who has pursued their idea? If you’re fortunate, most of you have.

Community and patriotism
Photo: Post and Courier

Standard of Patriotism (SOP) founders certainly have, and we would like to share a few of the roads we have been down to inspire and influence our supporters’ success – this will help sustain our country and our citizens. When SOP launched, we certainly had several ideas on what we thought would be influential to our region, however, our testing of these projects fell on the ears of internal members.

For a sanity check, SOP requested a meeting with the City of Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton. Our goal is simple: get the mayor’s approval of this potentially valuable resource and ask him where he thought a tool like SOP could complement his current work and future goals for the city. You see, SOP’s goal is to raise, influence, support, and foster American patriotism within our communities and country – the goal being that if our citizens enhance their pride by participating with community and organizational events, higher education institutions will find meaningful tools in recruiting prospective students based upon community service, respect, honor, and duty to community. State and local employers would benefit by recruiting patriotic Americans who are loyal and vested in their communities with a greater chance at getting longevity, experience, and loyalty from local patriotic citizens.

The meeting with Mayor Boughton was well founded and the wealth of information coming from the chief executive officer of Danbury, CT was refreshing, to say the least. His perspective directed more to the change management and culture of our city.

For example, Mayor Boughton shared that a number of elderly folks living in residential neighborhoods can no longer raise and lower their flags. His suggestion to SOP was to develop a team that can go to local communities and elderly homes to raise and lower our great American flag where Danbury citizens can no longer do this. SOP accepted, and more importantly, found that recruiting volunteers was fast and easy when it comes to patriotism.

Today, local ROTC units, and Army Reserve Center with the 411th civil affairs battalion have graciously accepted to participate and this could also help their recruiting methods. Mayor Boughton also believes that this could be a way to demonstrate American pride in a respectful way to our neighbors and businesses throughout Danbury and the state of Connecticut. SOP is continuing to develop this meaningful patriotic program and looks forward to its growth.

Mayor Boughton (who is a former educator) also suggested that a growing number of citizens in Danbury may be unacquainted with our patriotic history and culture, and therefore are unaware of the pride and patriotism to community. We are all responsible to ensure our children, family, and friends feel a sense of belonging and acceptance to our great country.

Each year, Mayor Mark Boughton has a city cleanup day in spring. During this annual event, approximately 500 kids from local K-12 schools help with keeping their neighborhoods clean. In 2017, SOP will help boost these efforts by establishing a picnic/BBQ to recognize and reward all volunteers who participate with support from our businesses, organizations, and families.

In closing, SOP is at the beginning of our journey and we sense that our idea of enhancing patriotism is better than sliced bread. With pride, respect, and duty to our country, there are many talents that can foster patriotism well into our children’s futures.

Mayor Mark Boughton’s perspective and recommendations to SOP will serve a higher purpose to our next generation patriots and future leaders of this great country… What is your Standard of Patriotism?

by: Ron Hollister, SOP Founder

What Does Patriotism Mean to You?

What Does Patriotism Mean to You?

Many people have different views on the meaning of patriotism. Some proudly stand at a Memorial Day parade and wave the American flag or watch fireworks on the 4th of July. Others salute an American veteran or donate to an organization that supports housing or healthcare for veterans; some people may have lost a loved one while serving in the military, so they volunteer for any organization that promotes patriotism. It is all of that, and so much more. American patriotism is also community involvement – being engaged in community events and helping each other – helping people when you can.

Community and Patriotism SOP

The following is an excerpt from Patriotism in America, A Historian Says It’s “Alive and Well,” by Cynthia Tintorri, (2015):

Long before current technology edged its way into everyone’s lives, a young man was making his way back home on a very desolate rural dirt road. About halfway through his journey, he realized he had a flat tire. He happened upon an older gentleman, a Marine veteran who took him to his own home, found a tire, drove the young man back to his car, and changed the flat for him.

“I’ll be back to pay you,” the young man told the veteran.

“No, son, I don’t want you to pay me,” the old man said. “I did what I did because I’m patriotic. If you want to pay me, I want you to spend your life being patriotic, too. Help people out when you can. That’s how you can repay me.” (Tintorri, 2015)

So, help people out when you can. That is community involvement. That is patriotism.

Reference: Tintorri, C., (2015), Patriotism in America, “A Historian Says it’s Alive and Well,” https://www.northampton.edu/news-archive/2015/november/patriotism-in-america.htm