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Local woman honors fiancee, helps college students with non-profit

@Photo CUTLINE:Larry Bradley was a Newton native who inspired his fiancee Christy Whitley to start a non-profit in his honor. "I want people to know that Larry was an exceptional person who lived humbly and led by example," Whitley said. "He provided the cornerstone of this foundation, and it is our intent to extend his gift of encouragement and perseverance to those who feel discouraged so that they will achieve their full potential." - Special Photo

@Photo CUTLINE:Larry Bradley was a Newton native who inspired his fiancee Christy Whitley to start a non-profit in his honor. "I want people to know that Larry was an exceptional person who lived humbly and led by example," Whitley said. "He provided the cornerstone of this foundation, and it is our intent to extend his gift of encouragement and perseverance to those who feel discouraged so that they will achieve their full potential." - Special Photo

COVINGTON -- A local woman is honoring the memory of her fiancee while also providing help to college students.

Christy Whitley of Newton County has formed the non-profit Food for Thought, which purchases meal plans for college students that are lacking traditional financial assistance from family for numerous reasons, including unemployment, homelessness, health issues and being part of the foster care system. The nonprofit is funded through donations to the Larry D. Bradley Foundation, named for Whitley's fiancee who died in August 2010.

Bradley was working at Atlanta's R.M. Clayton Wastewater Treatment Facility when he went to collect a water sample to be analyzed and stepped onto an improperly installed grate that collapsed. He fell unnoticed into the water below, without any escape method. His body was recovered by Atlanta firefighters the following day.

Months later, Whitley decided to start a foundation in Bradley's honor.

"It began with my desire to do something; I didn't know what, in recognition of Larry's birthday, April 15," Whitley said. "I cannot explain how this idea came about except to say God presented me with this task and I accepted. As I considered it, I realized that it pertained not only to challenges Larry faced as a young college student but also many others like him.

"He once shared that there were times he felt he would starve while he was a student at the University of Georgia, despite having financial aid and a part-time job at Kroger," she continued. "It wasn't enough to cover tuition, books, and other expenses. It contributed to him withdrawing his senior year. He did eventually complete his degree at Troy University here in Covington ... one month prior to his death. It broke my heart to hear this. I've known others who experienced similar difficulties during college, so I began checking into it further. My research revealed a true need for this type of program, especially during our current economic state."

The Christian-based foundation's motto is, "Fed by the Spirit: Nourishing and Perpetuating Knowledge." The foundation received tax exemption status in January 2011 and has already awarded meal plans to the first recipients. In exchange for the meal plan assistance, recipients agree to tutor struggling public school students.

"So far, it is the donations of individuals alone that provided meal plans to two local students this year," Whitley said. "Both of these students graduated from Newton High School, Larry's alma mater. One is attending Gordon College; the other is attending the University of West Georgia. They will begin tutoring students in Barnesville and Carrollton in September."

Business partners such as Porter Paints are providing discounts to customers and donating a portion of purchases to the charity; coupons can be printed from the foundation's Facebook page, which can be accessed at Food for Thought/Larry D. Bradley Foundation. Whitley said she's looking for more businesses to partner with and has also applied for local grants.

"We hope as word spreads that groups such as Sunday school classes, civic organizations, and others will join together to contribute on behalf of these promising students," she said. "Students throughout Georgia attending various colleges and universities are in need of our assistance. Perhaps, collections can be made at tailgate parties to support a student from your favorite school."

Donations are accepted through PayPal, located on the foundation's website at www.larrydbradleyfoundation.org. Checks can be mailed to Larry D. Bradley Foundation, 135 Moss Road, Covington, GA 30016.

Currently the foundation is run entirely by three volunteers. More help is needed, and anyone who is interested can visit the website or the organization's Facebook page to offer services. Grant writers, artists and promotional/public relations specialists are needed.

For more information, email foodforthoughtldbf@yahoo.com.