Spreading a special kind of Christmas cheer
Published 12:09 am Thursday, December 22, 2022
George Hodge shares his singing talents to the joyful surprise of Goodwill donors in Lewisville
Cindy Mansell wasn’t expecting to be serenaded last Wednesday when she made a trip to the Goodwill Donation Station at the Food Lion Shopping Center on Shallowford Road in Lewisville.
Like most everyone else, Mansell, who works in retail, figured she would drop off a few bags of things and be on her merry way.
But George Hodge had different plans for Mansell. He made the routine drop-off anything but.
“Is it OK if I sing for you,” Hodge asked Mansell, who had a look of shock come over her face.
“Is he joking?” she turned and asked to a few other people who were on hand. Mansell turned to Hodge and asked him, ‘are you joking?’
Hodge took Mansell by her hands and began singing “The Christmas Song,” made famous by Nat King Cole.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Jack Frost nipping at your nose…”
Hodge wrapped up the song and Mansell pulled him in for a warm embrace.
“You just made my day,” Mansell kept telling him, over and over. “You just made my Christmas.
“I work in retail, and this has been a tough year. Today didn’t get off to the best of starts either and then something like this happens. God sent you to me today.”
Hodge offered words of encouragement and more hugs. Mansell returned a few minutes later with some coffee and some pastries for Hodge and one of his managers, Christopher Rose, to help combat the chilly temperatures.
Hodge, as he is often found while at his job, was all smiles.
“This is a season where you need to feel like you are loved,” Hodge said. “I do this so that other people can feel the way that I feel. A goal of mine, and something that my father instilled in me, was to always make a person feel better leaving you than when they arrived. It’s always good to give, to make a person feel good. Be in tune to your surroundings. If I see a person who isn’t smiling as much as someone else, I’ll give them a song. It’s all about making a person feel good. If they feel good, I feel better.”
Hodge is from New York. He has been working at his Goodwill Donation station since March. He went to school Fiorella H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts in New York City. He can sing in three languages — English, Italian and Spanish. He came to North Carolina to reunite with his brother because it was the dying wish of his father.
“His name is John Hodge, and we live about five minutes from each other now,” George Hodge said. “We don’t have a very large family and my father really wanted us to be close.”
Hodge was placed in his current role by Nicholas Gaither, the regional manager for PPS Personnel Staffing.
“When he walked in our office that first day, you just saw star lights,” Gaither said. “We give jobs to hundreds of people. But when certain people walk through the door, you can tell when there is something different about them. That’s when that inner light beams, and his light was shining through the building when he first came in. I really wanted to take the time to get to know who he is, because in the right environment, he could really flourish. And I think that’s what you are seeing now.”
Sara Butner us the communications manager for Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina. She found out about George and his talents a few days before she got to see him in action.
“Meeting him person, you really see what a great person he is and why he wants to share his talents and bring joy to people,” Butner said.
“It’s the perfect example of the special kind of customer service we try to provide to all Goodwill donors and shoppers. It says a lot about who he is as a person. For us, it’s a fantastic reminder of our purpose to serve the community.”
Hodge loves to share his superpower as often as he can.
“I tend not to brag on myself because that doesn’t get you your blessings,” Hodge said. “Music is the universal language and I love to use it.”
“The Christmas Song” is his favorite song to sing during the holidays. “Silent Night,” “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland” and even “Oh, Holy Night” are also in his catalogue.
“I had a lady come by recently and I could just tell something was off with her,” Hodge said. “I asked her what was wrong, and she told me she had just recently lost her daughter and that Christmas just isn’t too good for me right now. So, I sang her “White Christmas” and she had tears in her eyes and thanked me. Things that happen like that show me that what I’m doing can help other people.”
Hodge said he has a lot of people want to take photos with him or video him singing.
“I had another lady come through the other day when wanted to video me because she said she had a family member in hospice and she knew it would really uplift them and make their day if she played it for them,” he said. “So, I sang a gospel hymn for her. I really don’t know what strikes me to do what I do, but without God, none of this would exist.”
Rose, an assistant district manager with Goodwill, said he marvels every day that he is working with Hodge about the impact Hodge is having.
“He does it because it is in him,” Rose said. “People hear it and leave here happy and with a pep in their step. He gets great pleasure out of his job. It’s what’s in his heart and he loves to share that with people. It’s that genuine ‘wow’ factor it provides and it’s always fun to see the reactions he gets. He enjoys giving back and he enjoys making people feel better leaving than when they arrived. It’s just a part of who he is.”