COVINGTON, Ga. -- Food for Thought. It's a simple name with a complex history and meaning,created to honor a man who died two years ago this month.
Larry D. Bradley worked for Atlanta's watershed management. He died August 27, 2010, after stepping on an unstable grate while taking water samples. He fell into the sewage basin and drowned.
His fiancé at the time, Christy Whitley says she had no idea how to deal with her grief. The two were inseparable. They lived together in Covington and until he took the job in Atlanta six months prior, they worked together, too.
"We're soul mates is what he would say, and I would just laugh and I would think that is such a lame term. But when he passed I realized how right he was because I just didn't want to be here anymore," said Whitley.
Whitley admits it was in one of those moments of deep despair that she came up with Food for Thought, a non-profit to help financially strapped college students that don't have traditional parental support. They could be living with grandparents, adopted or have family deployed overseas.
"We offer them a paid meal plan from their chosen institution, in exchange they tutor struggling students at nearby public schools," said Whitley.
It's a foundation inspired by many of the challenges Bradley himself faced. Put in the foster system, he was later raised by his grandmother. He made it to college, only to drop out, unable to make ends meet.
"He said there were times he thought he was going to starve to death. I know I've faced hunger before and when you are, you get irritable and you can't think straight. All you can think about is I want something to eat. I can't imagine being in that environment and not having anybody to call," said Whitley.
College meal plans can run from $1,500 to $5,000 a year. But it's a cost Nikabari Yobo won't have to worry about. Yobo is one of the first students to benefit from the foundation. His mother died when he was 12. His grandmother prepared him for college, but it's programs like Food for Thought that will help pay for it.
"I understood it fully when she (my grandmother) said there was only so much she could do," Yobo said.
He's spent months fighting financial aid forms to get the money he needs to attend the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, where he hopes to get a degree in computer science.
"It got to the point where I had to call every day, every second to find out if I had the money coming in to help pay for my education," Yobo added.
The foundation only had the money to help two students this year but hopes as awareness and donations grow, it can help students not only in metro Atlanta but throughout the United States.
Yobo and Whitley met for the first time on Tuesday. The two both grateful for the role they were playing in each other's lives. Whitley was helping Yobo fulfill his dream to attend college. Yobo was helping Whitley keep the memory of a man so dear, alive.
"He just had a great love of learning and wanted to share it with everybody," said Whitley who herself has been inspired to go back and get her college degree.
Bradley did eventually get his bachelor's degree in Business Management from Troy University and was preparing for his Master's in Environmental Business Administration before he died.
The foundation isn't the only changeBradley inspired. The city of Atlanta says since his death, it has installed railings to better assist employees should they fall. It's changed the waste water sampling procedures and bolted down the grates for safety.