WWII vet helps Erwin Middle students with math homework to show them the sky's the limit
Our Person of the Week, Ken Maultsby, is a World War II veteran now serving his community by reaching out to the next generation.
"They can do anything they set their mind and hearts to. They are gifted," said Maultsby, who goes by Mr. Ken.
Maultsby is a volunteer at the weekly Homework Diner at Erwin Middle, which gives students and their families a hot meal and a little extra help. It's a program sponsored by the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County. United Way contracts Green Opportunities kitchen staff to provide the food.
It doesn't take a math whiz to know life is like a box of variables, because you never know what you're going to get.
Mr. Ken is part of the Greatest Generation that's often a forgotten resource. He believes the equation that defines who kids become is built on discipline.
"Hopefully I'm a factor in helping them make good decisions," said Mr. Ken, who's the unexpected "X factor."
"What you're doing there is writing an algebraic statement," he explained to middle-schooler Ashlyn on Monday night.
"That same pattern of doing the right thing, making choices that lead to good results, has been my life's calling," Mr. Ken explained.
"Being able to see other people in the community besides teachers who care about education is really important for students," math teacher Doug Cutshall said
As a retired civil engineer, Mr. Ken knows numbers and he's well-versed in history, too.
"Well, they can't believe that a 91-year-old can walk, much less was around during baby Roosevelt days, Truman days," he said.
He lived through the Great Depression and served America during World War II.
"Cocky sailor on the end is me," he said, showing us a picture from his military days. "9708649 was on everything I wore"
He joined the Navy in 1945 and was an electronics technician aboard the USS Blue Ridge in the South Pacific.
When he was a boy, Mr. Ken was inspired by a veteran.
"I was blessed by having a man who was in World War I be my Scout Master," he recalled. "He taught me to respect the things that I have, chose to be my lifestyle."
So, his motivation today adds up.
"Where have you been young lady?" he said to one of his regulars, a girl named Tamika.
"As a matter of fact, I do have math homework," she told Mr. Ken.
He wants to give students like to Tamika all the support they need to chase dreams.
"I'm encouraging her to reach for the sky and get the job she wants," Mr. Ken said.
When he found out Tamika seems to be falling behind, it became clear how much he really cares.
"We need to spend some more time together. When can we do that?" he said. "Can we next week?"
"Yes," Tamika agreed.
This is Mr. Ken's way of making the world a better place. It is the latest chapter in his legacy of serving.
"I'd like to look back some day and say, 'This is better than it was'," he said.
Beyond the figures, there's a simple fact -- Mr. Ken's perspective grows more valuable with time.
"I'm going to carry on as long as the Lord will let me," he said.
Along with Erwin, Homework Diner is held at Asheville, Owen, and Enka Middle Schools.