Two campus police officers responding to a trespassing complaint near a Gordon State College parking lot found a 19-year-old sleeping in a tent behind the bushes.
After listening to his story, the officers were impressed with the young man’s humility and dedication to getting an education, so instead of giving him a ticket for trespassing and kicking him out, the officers did something that forever changed his life.
Fred Barley had ridden his little brother’s 20” bike for six hours in 100-degree heat from Conyers to Barnesville to register for classes for his second semester of college. He had two duffel bags with all his belongings, 2 gallons of water and a box of cereal. Fred was homeless, he had left behind a troubled past and he felt staying in the tent was the safest place until he could move into the dorms. He is a biology major, he wanted a job, and he was hungry.
The two officers, Dicky Carreker and Maria Gebelein, told him he couldn’t stay in the tent, but they took him to a local motel and paid for two nights.
“After meeting Fred, I could tell he was a good kid,” Carreker said. “He was a young kid who had been dealt a bad hand and was trying to make the best out of it. All he wanted was a job.”
“The stuff that’s happening with police officers, I am black and he didn’t care what color I was. He just helped me, and that meant a lot,” Barley said.
Carreker posted the story on Facebook, and community members rallied behind Fred, including a military wife, Casey Blaney, who went to the motel to talk with him, determined his sincerity, and helped him find a job as a dishwasher at a local Pizzeria. The motel owner gave him a discount to stay for the next week, which Blaney and her husband offered to pay, and the college is allowing him to move in early on July 18.
Owner of the Pizzeria, Debbie Adamson, hired Fred without even knowing his name or seeing his face, just from Blaney’s recommendation. She said she has a soft spot for anyone who is that determined to succeed in life. She plans to keep him employed, work around his college schedule and eventually teach him to cook the pizza.
Generous strangers have donated clothes, school supplies, and a new bike. Fred is more grateful than words can say, he says. “The most shocking part is so many people coming to help a stranger, because honestly in today’s society this sounds like a scam,” Barley said about his story.
“Some of the gifts aren’t as important as the friends I’ve made. More important than everything — the clothes, the shoes — the relationships mean so much more to me,” he said.
“I was not expecting any of this support and am in awe of how this community has come together to help me,” Barley told the Herald-Gazette. “I was just trying to go to school, find a job and make it on my own. Now it seems as though I am part of a new community and have a new family.”
Fred posted an emotional, humble “thank you” to all the people who have helped him, and pledged to make them proud and keep them updated on his grades.
Sign up to get alerts about Dennis Michael Lynch's upcoming Donald Trump film and breaking news.