Staff Spotlight: James Hand

by | Jun 9, 2022 | Community News, News

James Hand knows a thing or two about fighting to win. As the Director of the Freedom Park Boxing Gym, which is part of our Recreation Department, James has helped lead many young athletes to victory. As an Assistant Pastor, James spent years of his life fighting demons he says tried to keep him down. 

James was born and raised in Macon, with a stint spent out of the country as a member of the U.S. Army. After getting out of the Army, James fell into some trouble. A drug addiction consumed his life, caused him to lose his job, and left him feeling hopeless and lonely. 

“I prayed for God to deliver me. I just wanted him to take away this desire for the drugs that I had,” says James. “I got to a point where I knew it was make or break, so I cried out to God. And it took some time. You know when you take medicine for a headache, and you notice a little while later that you feel better? You can’t remember the moment your head stopped hurting- you just know that you’re feeling better. That’s what God did for me when it came to my drug addiction. He was my medicine.” 

Following his transformation, James knew he wanted to work in Recreation. He loves helping others and always wanted to be a boxer, but life just got in the way. He took his renewed passion for life and was able to land a job with the Recreation Department. 

Now, James has been a recreation supervisor for 27 years, with eight of those at the boxing center. He celebrated his 32-year anniversary of being sober on June 4th, and he’s the Assistant Pastor at Union Baptist Church. He uses his struggle to help encourage others as a leader for the Recovery Through Christ Program. It meets Thursdays at 7:00 p.m., and James wants anyone who is struggling to come and be among friends.  

“Doesn’t matter if you’re on drugs or alcohol, or maybe you’re depressed or lonely – you’re welcome here,” says James. “God took me off the streets and put me in a position to encourage and inspire others. At church and at the gym, I want people to know that I’m no better than them. God keeps me humble. I’ve been given so much grace, that I have to pass it on to others.” 

James brings that passion and drive to work with him every day. Recently, James took some of our athletes from the Freedom Park boxing gym to the Sugar Bert Boxing Green Belt tournament in Lafayette, Louisiana. Three of our five boxers came back a champion- Camere Bailes, Emarie Lawrence, and Braxton Fraley. James says it’s teamwork and TLC that makes champions.   

“Some people require tough love, some require gentle encouragement. I want to make sure each person who walks through these doors receives the training and support they need to succeed. I want to help people make something of themselves, no matter what. They don’t have to be on the streets, they can bring that passion and anger to the ring and let it out in a healthy way. I thank God for placing me here to help others.” 

We’re proud of you, James, and thankful you’re part of #TeamMaconBibb! The gym has programs for most ages, including kids as young as seven. If you’d like to get involved at the Freedom Park Boxing Gym, or get more information, visit their Facebook page here.

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