By Tiffany Merlo Phelps
Riley Davis makes it a point to open the door for someone every chance he gets at the Ponte Vedra YMCA. It may seem like a small gesture, but it is an act that almost always leads to a connection between Davis and members. It is a connection that he nurtures every day, looking for ways “to be a blessing” to someone else. Davis has been working at the YMCA for 15 years as a maintenance technician and drives an hour from North Jacksonville to get there. He said he is grateful for the job, grateful for the opportunity to meet new faces and possibly lift someone up along the way. Davis has spent his life trying to make connections with people and using his smile and sense of empathy to help people no matter what might be weighing on his mind. Davis works two other jobs in addition to his Y position and runs seven miles every other day (making it a point to drink a gallon of water on run days). “I feel a peace that comes over me when I run,” he said. Davis is the first to admit that he has a lot of energy, and people often guess that he is much younger than his age of 62. His best advice for mental peace and a healthy life: “Take your hands off it. It is not about us. Free your mind, so that God can be your increase and so that he can help everything bloom into a flower. Then, you will find calm.”
Q: What brought you to the Ponte Vedra YMCA?
A: I was working at the Palm Garden of Jacksonville Nursing Home when my former boss saw me working the floor. He brought me over to the PV YMCA in 2007. I never left. At the time, I was working the morning shift at Palm Garden and then the 11 – 7 shift at Avante Nursing Home. I just love talking to people and reaching out and being a blessing.
Q: How did you meet your wife, Tiffany?
A: I met her at Avante where she was working as a Certified Nursing Assistant. She is the sweetest person that I have ever met, and she is a light to me. We have been together for 18 years. She had four girls when I met her. I had to ask God if this was from Christ. Everything lined up with God. It was a package deal. I love spending time with China (30), Shanikqua (30), Latifah (32) and Jamila (25). I love my girls.
Q: What is your life philosophy?
A: I was taught by my mother to love everyone. I see people as a heart just like I see myself. That is why I am so happy and why I can see those with a struggling heart. I will often stop and pray with someone if they allow me to. God always directs me to be a witness for the people. I don’t have another side. My spirit draws me to people. My prayer directs me to someone I can speak to and to help. There are broken hearts all around me. I love to encourage people daily, and I do not judge.
Q: You mentioned that you have always worked multiple jobs. What was your very first job?
A: I started working when I was 17 years old, cutting fish at a seafood place. There was an older gentleman there who taught me how to do it properly. I loved interacting with folks there too. I was also working at Memorial Hospital.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I love to cook for my family, especially grilling. I also love eating clean. I love to go fishing and to play with our two rescue dogs. I also enjoy attending a weekly Bible study, and I enjoy bringing items to local churches to help kids in need. I try to look out for the kids who don’t have a lot of stuff and may not get an opportunity to have name brand items.
Photo courtesy Riley Davis