Eric Clark - Going the Extra Mile for his Family
Is there anything you wouldn’t do for your family?
This week's ‘Pay it Forward’ begins off Highway 28 in Jasper.
By chance, a Whitwell family meets a neighbor-in-need and together we plan a roadside surprise.
Melissa Hobbs and her family can hardly wait to help a man who makes a grueling trek to work each day.
Melissa says, "His name is Eric Clark. We only met him twice. We picked him up on the side of the road walkin'. He walks 14 miles to work and 14 miles home, and that's 28 miles."
Melissa and her husband were returning from a concert when they first spotted Eric walking along the highway.
"My husband said he (Eric) works at Hardees. So, on the way back when we took the step-kids home we picked him up, (and) asked him if he needed a ride. And, he'd been walking since 8:30 that night. It was 11 o'clock at night when we picked him up," Melissa says.
Days later Melissa and Eric would meet again.
Melissa tells me, "The second time I said, 'do you want a ride?' He said, 'I work at Hardee's in Jasper.' I said, 'I know. We picked you up there the other night.' He said, 'Oh yeah, I remember you.'"
Eric tells her he walks to work for his family - a wife and four young children. But, today as they were driving here to Jasper to meet us she spotted him bicycling to work.
Pointing up the road Melissa says, "He's probably not even toward the funeral home, yet, and he was a pretty good ways when we came up."
We waste no time in counting out our cash, buckling up and hitting the highway. A few miles up the road we spot Eric. Melissa flags him down.
Shouting she says, "Eric, come here! I know you're in a hurry to get to work, but me and McMahan and NewsChannel 9 want to give you $500 (and) 'Pay it Forward' because you're a hard worker."
Still on his bike he asks, "Are you serious?"
Melissa says, "Yeah. You want me to count it for you? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5."
He reaches out and hugs her from his bike and tells her thank you.
A surprised Eric recognizes the familiar face who’s stopped him before.
Since last April he’s has made the exhausting three hour, one-way walk from Whitwell... until another good Samaritan acted out of kindness.
Eric says, "I got picked up by this one lady. She's the one who bought me this bike. She works in a bank in South Pittsburg. She's picked me up walking a couple of times. She told me she was going to buy me the bike. I said, 'no, no.' I wasn't going to let her do it. She brought it by my house anyway."
He tells me about his four children who wait each day for his return.
"My oldest one, she's 6. Her name's Alexis. Then I got a 4-year-old. Her name's Madison. Then I got a 3-year- old. His name is Eric, after me. And, then my 1-year-old is Bentley."
As Eric rides away the young father’s grit and resilience resonates.
Melissa smiles and says, "Whitwell's, you know, very small and I'm just trying to do my part helping somebody."
Eric says he hopes to have enough money saved by the first of the year to buy a car. Until then he must pedal through fall and winter on two wheels.
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