Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jim Bullins and his ‘kids’

I heard via the trucking grapevine (well, Joey and Vicky Holiday) that Jim Bullins passed away. Jim was an OOIDA member, retired truck driver for more than 30 years, and pretty special guy. Jim donated his time to helping people with special needs. He died Wednesday morning at his home in Sophia, NC.

This morning, I spoke to his son, Tim, and learned that Jim had lung cancer.

I first met him in July 2004 when he visited the OOIDA headquarters with his wife, Mary.

Jim knew a lot of people, including my old friend the late Pete Rigney – aka The Silver Fox – a columnist for Land Line. If anyone knew more people than Jim, it was Pete.

“He’s an interesting fella,” Pete told me. “Heart of gold. You oughta get to know him, but get ready to open your wallet. The guy is an ace fundraiser. You can’t say no.”

Pete assured me that knowing Jim would introduce me to “an unselfish world of people, young and old, who share lots of TLC” with his program of helping fulfill the needs of some special families. Not a government-funded program, “Jim’s Kids” operated on donations. Jim took the money and wrangled wheelchairs and other equipment for those in need.

Jim told me once that he didn’t like red tape but he knew how to get some things done for people. And kids, he said, were sometimes full-grown folks. He was telling me about one “kid,” and I stopped him and asked, “How old is this child, Jim?” He said, “34.”

His was a small organization. He was the president and the only employee. It started in the early ’80s with a birthday gathering for the first “kid.” His annual Christmas party started out with about 12 attendees and then grew to as many as 600. He told me that in 1998, NBC News sent Tom Brokaw and a crew to cover the annual Christmas party.

Pete and Shirley Rigney lived in Virginia and drove to North Carolina for Jim’s Kids events. Pete always made donations. Pete laughingly told me if he did not cough up an annual donation to “Jim’s Kids,” Bullins would hound him until he did. Pete always said Bullins would go to any length to get people to donate to his program to help his special people.

“The guy is relentless,” Pete used to say.

As some of you know, Pete died in October of 2007 at the age of 81. Now if Jim Bullins is in the same place as Pete Rigney is – and I am pretty sure that’s a yes – Pete might as well start getting his wallet out right now.