During his senior year at Thomasville High School, Jim Callahan’s coach appointed him Team Captain for a big game against Valdosta with specific directions.
“He was directed to call ‘heads’ and if he lost the coin toss, then he was supposed to tell the official that his team wished to defend the ‘south’ endzone,” said Callahan’s friend Frank Deems. “Well, he messed up.”
Instead, a nervous Callahan called “tails” and then chose the “north” endzone.
“The coach was furious,” continued Deems. “Callahan’s nerves then kicked in.”
Callahan, who was the team’s place kicker, then led his team onto the field for the kickoff.
“The mighty Callahan booted the football only 11 yards,” said Deems. “After the other team touched the ball and fumbled, Callahan picked up the ball and ran for a touchdown.”
It was the deciding score for the game as Callahan’s squad won. The next morning, the bold headline in the newspaper read – “Crafty Callahan kicks Dogs past Cats.”
His senior year would also mark the end of Callahan’s football career. Instead of pursuing the NFL, Callahan eventually decided to pursue seminary.
In 1982, Callahan arrived in Carrollton to take the pulpit at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church. During his 19 year service, he led the church from a membership of less than 100 to more than 550 parishioners.
“But it was his vision that created the St. Margaret’s Community Outreach Program (SMCO) that was perhaps his greatest legacy,” said Catherine Gordon, who currently heads the program.
“Father Callahan, in partnership with the local Lutheran church, spearheaded the idea of a soup kitchen that began in the St. Margaret’s kitchen,” Gordon continued. “Of course, it outgrew the facility and today has its own identity. The Emergency Shelter had its beginning the same way.”
In 1991, Callahan hired Barry Staples to direct the outreach programs of St. Margaret’s that would touch other areas of need beyond food and shelter. She and Callahan, along with church members and community volunteers, took the program to a new level.
“Today, the program advocates for those in need in the local community, and continues to assist with essential needs, like housing, clothing, utility assistance, food, mentoring and personal care items,” said Gordon. “In recent years, the services offered by SMCO have expanded to include programs designed to educate and empower those in need to overcome the obstacles in their lives.”
As the SMCO has continued to grow, so has the church. On Sunday, Nov. 18, at 10:15 a.m., the members of St. Margaret’s will dedicate its new building in honor of the late Jim Callahan. The public is invited. After discussing a name for the new center, it didn’t take long for its vestry and parishioners to call it “The Callahan Center” because of his growing legacy.
“Jim once took a sabbatical and lived as a homeless man on the streets of Atlanta to get a deep glimpse at the lives of those who struggle,” said Hazel Glover who followed Callahan. “There’s no doubt that experience along with so many others changed him.”
It also changed this community. Thank God he quit football.
Garrett is a Carrollton resident and businessman. You can read more of his columns at joegarrett1.wordpress.com or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.