Kennesaw native to be honored at Paul Anderson Youth Home

Brick Kennesaw government building with four tall wooden columnsKennesaw government complex (photo by Larry Felton Johnson)

Nathaniel Thompson, who grew up in Kennesaw, is being honored at the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) in Vidalia, Ga.

Thompson, an alumnus of the youth home, will receive a gold medal for the things he’s achieved in life.

According to a blog post from PAYH, Thompson is now living in West Chicago and is a program director at Wheaton College.

In the post, Thompson credit his success in life with his religion and his time at the PAYH.

“What meant the most to me was in class and Bible study, learning about God’s grace – that we are loved despite our faults and mistakes. It made hard work mean more because God’s grace was constant, even if the work wasn’t as perfect as I’d like it to be,” he was quoted in the blog post.

For more information on tomorrow’s ceremony, and about the Paul Anderson Youth Home, see the press release reprinted below:

(VIDALIA, Ga.) The Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia will celebrate the beginning of its 60th anniversary year with an opening ceremony at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 1603 McIntosh Street. This intimate, private event will feature an Olympic torch from the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta that will literally pass from one generation to the next. Attendees will be given candles lit by this historical torch to honor the Home’s 60 years of transforming the lives of troubled youth.

Glenda Anderson Leonard, the Home’s matriarch who continues to be actively engaged, recently turned 80 years old. She has been a mother figure to “her boys” and, along with staff, is instrumental in leading young men to Christ and changing their lives forever. Anderson Leonard will pass the torch to her daughter and son-in-law, Paula and Edward Schaefer, to lead the Home into the future. 

A proclamation from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will be read at the event, and guests will be treated to musical selections from renowned Savannah soloist Roger Moss. 

At the celebratory event on Oct. 23, the victories of six PAYH alumni who have become champions in their own lives, for themselves and their families, will be celebrated. Strong men of integrity and resolve with a foundation of traditional Christian values are the hallmarks of PAYH graduates, and these six men are each being honored for being “Gold Medalists for Life.” They will receive medals during the ceremony on the historic grounds of the Home.

The founder of the Home, Paul Anderson, overcame Bright’s Disease to win the super heavyweight gold medal in weightlifting at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games. To this day, no one has matched or exceeded his record back lift of 6,270 lb.

Paul Anderson left the Olympics with a dream in his heart to help his fellow man. In 1961, Paul rode a bicycle from Vidalia, Georgia to Omaha, NE, to raise money to start a youth home. Shortly after, he and his wife Glenda founded the Home, a Christian alternative to juvenile and adult correctional programs for struggling young men between the ages of 16-21.   Sixty years and more than 1,400 individuals later, the Home and ministry continue to transform lives each day by helping young men turn away from incarceration and towards God. Each young man in PAYH’s care receives counseling, academic assistance to complete their education, job training and substance abuse therapy.

“As PAYH celebrates its 60th anniversary, this event is a way to look back on the profound impact the Home has had on the lives of young men and their families,” said Anderson Leonard. “We are also proud to honor our alumni who have had an immeasurable positive effect on our society.”

ABOUT PAUL ANDERSON YOUTH HOME Founded in 1961 by weightlifting world champion and Olympic gold medalist Paul Anderson and his wife, Glenda, the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) is a Christian residential program and on-campus school for young men between the ages of 16 and 21 struggling with behavioral problems and issues of discipline, anger and depression. PAYH is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) and Cognia. In addition to counseling and character development, PAYH offers an accelerated learning program enabling residents to graduate with a high school diploma and technical certifications. To date, over 1,400 young men have attended the program. The Home is located at 1603 McIntosh St. in Vidalia, GA.

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