HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — September's neighborhood hero lost his father figure at a young age.
Out of this pain, Willie Diggs became a father figure to many, including three of his own children among many others.
"A father figure is an individual who is able to influence his family; they're able to provide for their family, but they're also a model on what to do to make sure that society is better. I believe that is one of the major reasons- me being an individual who grew up without my father," said Diggs.
"My dad died when I was three years old of cancer in the liver. I went over 30 years and not being able to talk about it. So, when I'm in the community and I'm engaging young people or young men or young women, I see that that is something that is a struggle and if I'm going to be the answer, I need to make sure that I'm present and show up and show them that compassion that I wish I would have had growing up."
Diggs is a pastor, a mentor, a father, husband, friend and this month's neighborhood hero, but there's one title he prefers over the rest: "I would consider myself a community influencer," said Diggs.
Diggs defines being a community influencer as "someone who has the innate ability to take an individual who maybe is not volunteering in their community, to start now serving their community."
Diggs was nominated by his colleague, Andrea Brandon.
"I think the pandemic has really highlighted a lot of issues that have laid dormant in society and brought up some resurfaced some things that we've failed to address, which includes fatherlessness in the community, and his own personal experiences I believe can speak to that," said Brandon.
"He currently has a Clubhouse room called 'Conversations with a Mentor' where he pushes and challenges mentors and leaders in the area to do more for their community, find ways to be more successful and give back."
Diggs is a mentor who makes other mentors, a community influencer who makes other community influencers.
"I love to challenge young people I have a young man who has over 600 volunteer hours, and he's under the age of 18," said Diggs.
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Diggs believes everyone has the power to make an impact. All you have to do is show up.
"I believe that inside of everybody is an answer to a problem. I may be the answer to fatherlessness, but someone else may be the answer to homelessness, someone else may be the answer to veterans who need resources. So, if I can impact others by doing that, I believe that everybody has the answer to some problem. So, if they have the answer, if we can teach them to show up in their selves, then we can make sure that our world is a better place. I have not lost hope in humanity. I believe that we are the answer," said Diggs.