Person of the Week
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John Burnett

Updated: Thursday, January 16 2014, 02:28 PM EST
For children in Haywood County, there's a man who has been looking out for them for 23 years.

Our Person of the Week is known to everyone as Papa John.

When he retired almost three decades ago, Papa John said there's no way he could just sit around, so he dedicated himself to something he never had and in many ways they became his family.

For a long time now John Burnett has been building relationships.  At a time when he could have retired to a more leisurely life, he took on greater responsibility.

Vicki Parker, director Hazelwood Early Education, "he could have stopped at 62 years old.  He chose not to sit on the sofa.  He chose to give to the community."

"He doesn't have any children.  He's never been married."

He has been a foster grandparent for 23 years and eight months to the children of Haywood County.  None of the children live with him, he comes to them at the schools to help out where he can.

Pansy Haney, teacher and friend, "he plays with them.  He cries with them sometimes you know when they're hurt or something like that."

But at 90 years old, this is Papa John's last year.

"Papa" John Burnett, "I think it's time for me to give it up.  I love it and everything but I can't get around like I use too."

For 33 years John Burnett made a living working as a janitor and then salesman.   Children would come to the store with their parents and he would give them candy. Vicki Carter was ten years old when they met, "Papa John would give us, he would have a pocket with a little candy and a very stately man.  And he was a big salesman there."

When he retired from his job, he was looking for something to fill his life, "I just love em.   I just always have loved kids when i see them small.  I just started lovin' them."

But even when it's time to leave, you get the feeling Papa John will be back from time to time. After all, he's not just a volunteer, "committed to the kids, to the community."  He has been their friend, their protector, and so much more.
"I just had it in me to love the kids."John Burnett

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