Paul Bales’service to the people of Blount County, Tennessee began when he was just a child. He is employed with The Daily Times , and his service continues today. His first service project at age six was picking strawberries. He was paid two cents a cup, and Bales used the earnings to buy cookies for residents of the near-by Blount County Poor Farm. He loves animals, and he would also take his dog around for people to pet and enjoy while he passed out cookies.
When Bales was seven, he learned to hop the trains that passed through the County. There he saw hobos, and he soon began taking food to those he met along the way. Bales’ service has taken other forms since he has matured, but the results are the same. He feeds the hungry, helps those who are cold gain shelter or warmth, and the lonely are blessed with fellowship.
Paul Bales has been chairman of the Empty Pantry Fund, which is an organization that buys and delivers food to the needy of Blunt County during the holidays, for the past 43 years. He oversees the annual budget, which was $62,000 in 2001 and coordinates the activities of the 1,500 volunteers in the program. More than 100 million pounds of food have been distributed. The number of baskets has grown from 50 in his first year as chairman to 1,400 this past year. Each of the baskets contains enough food to feed a family of four for over a week.
Bales also initiated Coats for the Cold and served as its chairman in 1997 and 1998. Because of his efforts, over 1,000 coats were donated and then given to those in need. He paid all advertisement, building space rental, and other incidental expenses. In 1999, Bales also created a similar program in 1999, which distributed over 18,000 baby items to those in need. He also paid the expenses for this program.
In 1994, Bales founded Operation Big Yellow. This is a safety check of local school buses prior to the beginning of the school year set up to ensure the children’s safety. The state of Tennessee provides the safety check forms, but Bales pays the expenses. He did not stop there; in 1995 he chaired an event that raised over $26,000 to buy car child restraints for families who could not afford them. He also helped raise funds for the Boys Club of Blount County and helped organize the first Teen Safe Driving Club in the county. As chairman of the Maryville Kiwanis Carnival for over 25 years, Bales has been instrumental in raising more than $100,000 to be used in local youth programs.
Senior citizens have also benefited from Bales’ service. He has paid for refreshments and entertained more than 100 people at Broadway Towers, which is a housing unit for the elderly. Paul Bales has served them since 1999. In addition, he initiated Protect the Ones that Serve. This is a program that involves providing bulletproof vests for local law enforcement personnel. He led the effort to raise $26,000 to fund the cost of the vests.