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Pay it Forward: Retired history teacher spends all his time helping refugees in Utah

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(KUTV) Don Ward is a retired teacher who taught AP History at Alta High School for 35 years.

Now, he spends his time helping refugees in Utah, which he calls "addictive."

"Once you start doing this, it's hard to stop," Ward said.

For the past eight years, Ward has been checking on refugee families as many as six times a week.

"I've met incredible people," he said.

Every year, he also brings supplies to parent/teacher conferences for families of students who attend Granite Park Junior High in South Salt Lake.

"Oddly enough, eight years ago this parent-teacher conference was my first refugee event," Ward said.

According to the school's principal, Danny Stirland, 20 to 30 percent of the student body is refugee status.

This year, Ward brought along some Boy Scouts who were working on Eagle Scout projects. They brought essential items to give to the families for free.

"Some of the basic needs that people might struggle with, he takes it off their plate," said Stirland of Ward's efforts.

Ward started doing projects like this after he was diagnosed with cancer eight or nine years ago.

"I was looking for something to do to make sure that having cancer was not the focus of my life," he said.

So he focuses on refugees, traveling to different refugee centers and apartment projects to see what they need.

Ward then posts those needs on his personal Facebook page. And he and his friends gather what they can.

"The community's amazing," said Ward. "Everybody wants to help."

Ward estimates he has helped over 20,000 refugees in the past eight years.

"I have a lot of friends and my friends do most of the work, and I get most of the credit," he said.

Mountain America Credit Union donated $500 to Ward so he can continue helping refugees in Utah.

Ward encourages people to "lose their inhibitions" and start their own efforts to help refugees.

Or you can always add him on Facebook to see how you can help him with his charitable efforts.


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