Thirty years ago, many local leaders tried to get college graduates to come back to the area to work. John Finney answered the call and he's been here ever since.
On March 5, 1993, Finney faced the biggest challenge of his life. He stopped a man from harassing a woman in this parking lot that day. That night, as he got into his car, that same man came back and shot him in the face. Finney nearly died. He never sought revenge. He just forgave the man because he knew it was the right thing to do.
"Probably the young man who pulled the trigger we've helped, and I'm committed to helping him and others," Finney told us.
It's the attitude Finney has embraced all of his life as the director of the Economic Opportunity Authority. Each year, the agency helps nearly 30,000 people through home programs, computer classes, drug intervention, violence prevention, health and a whole lot more.
Finney's proudest accomplishment is in the classroom through Head Start. "If you can get a kid a head start and read at a quality level by grade four," he said, "there's a good chance a kid from a poor neighborhood would be successful in school."
Nearly 800 children attend the program every year.
Since Finney became the director, the EOA has expanded its programs. They even secured the grants that started the Meals on Wheels program back in 1972 as well as the health clinic that eventually became known as the Westside Urban Health Center.
While Finney is quick to point out that he didn't do anything alone, we know he's the driving force that keeps it all on track. That's why John Finney is part of WTOC's Community Spirit.
After more than 30 years on the job, Finney hinted that he might be considering retiring. He says it's time to let a younger person take the helm.