Longtime church deacon touches live ‘through acts of kindness’
Leo Henry Shelton, at age 18, left his hometown to head off for college, en route to a 1954 Georgia Tech degree in electrical engineering and a 35-year career at the Savannah River Plant.
A few decades later, the native of Louisville, Ga., is largely known as a longtime deacon at First Baptist Church of North Augusta and member of Gideons International, and much more recently, he became the North Augusta Exchange Club’s newest “Golden Deeds” honoree.
The annual award, recognizing his “unselfish service to others,” was bestowed April 23, with Mary Beth Kirkland introducing Shelton. She described him as a North Augusta resident since 1957, touching “the lives of many” as a professional and also “through acts of kindness, concern and caring outside of the spotlight of media attention.”
Shelton’s roles also include membership in Gideons International and participation as an electrician in local Habitat for Humanity activities and volunteer service with Community Ministry of North Augusta, which he has served as president of the board of directors.
“He’s still a volunteer, and he’s bringing us donations all the time,” said Nancy Joyce, CMONA’s director. “He’s been an advocate of CMONA, and he’s a good source of ideas.”
She added, “We can always count on him, whenever anything needs to be done. He’s been bringing us truckloads of stuff lately from, I think, one of his neighbor’s houses that they’re cleaning out. He’s always thinking of CMONA and helping us to get donations.”
A few decades earlier, Shelton’s roles were with the power and project departments at the massive nuclear reservation that takes up portions of Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties.
“I enjoyed working with the people and doing the engineering-type work,” he said. “We had some challenging things because, if we had a production facility down, we had to work to get it back up.”
His major partner in life was his wife, Mary, who died Jan. 30, 2012. Their family tree now includes two adult children in North Augusta, one in Evans, Ga., one in Mount Pleasant and one in Denton, N.C. They attended the award ceremony, as part of the surprise.
Shelton later offered some insight on his volunteer service. “The main purpose of the Gideons is to win people to Jesus Christ, and we do it two ways: by personal witness and also distributing Bibles ... I’ve distributed them all around North Augusta,” he said, citing the examples of motels, nursing homes and schools.
“My church is first,” he added. “At my age, I’ve sort of slowed down. I have been Sunday school director. I’ve been on the trustees. I’ve taught Sunday school.”
Mark Owens, First Baptist’s pastor of missions and outreach, wrote, “He has given his life to serve others in the name of Christ. He volunteers at CMONA helping the needy. Over the years Leo has overseen more than 20 volunteer teams who have re-roofed houses and churches in the CSRA.”
He added, “In addition to roofing homes, (he) has helped build numerous wheelchair ramps, raise houses that have sunk over the years, replaced windows and doors, etc. ... He is one of those guys that never runs out of energy and simply desires to help those who are in need.”
Shelton’s Habitat role tends to involve voltage.
“We’ve done, I guess, about 10 of the houses,” he said. “I’ve helped wire the house, install the electrical wiring and the fixtures. The City inspector keeps up with us. He’s good. I like him.”
Joyce noted that Shelton helped with the installation of CMONA’s security system “not an easy task,” in her assessment. She also pointed out that he has served as president of the ministry’s board of directors.
“I go to him if I need to understand something about our building, like how the lighting’s hooked up, because he’s been helping us in ministry for so long, he knows how everything works there like the electrical system, whatever ... He’ll get up on a ladder to fix something. He’s really something else. A great guy.”
“I just like North Augusta. It’s a friendly place,” said Shelton, saying it reminds him of Louisville in that respect. “Everybody wants to help one another.”