When we first entered the building known as the Hands and Feet Foundation, people scrambled about preparing for the day. Bags of donated Panera bagels lined the small hallway; James and Amy would distribute them to the homeless later that day. The house was small; in fact, the first room we entered was only large enough for a desk and a shelf lined with a collection of books. We later learned they used this as a library for anyone wishing to borrow one. All around us were pictures of people, the number of frames so abundant on the walls that I can’t recall whether they were paneled or painted. Framed Bible verses and inspirational quotes the Gandy’s have learned to use as guidance in their lives covered the walls as well.
One of the volunteers directed Dorri and me to have a seat at a table in a back room. John and Amy hustled around, trying to get everything in order before joining us. After a short time, they settled into the seats across from us and helped us understand not only what Hands and Feet Foundation does daily, but how two unlikely souls became the founders of their ministry.
Amy and James Gandy have a story, a rough and tumultuous one that led them to God and the work that they do for the ones in need. Are they proud of their story? No. But they are willing to share it with us despite that fact. After all, their story prepared them for what lay ahead. They needed to walk the dark path out of addiction before they were capable of leading others. Amy and James allow their lives to serve as an example of how people can change and how God can rewrite our endings. Due to their faith, God worked the magic only He can do and transformed their lost souls into servants equipped with knowledge and sympathy.
With a brave face, Amy Gandy began telling her story. She was fifteen-years-old when her alcoholic father deserted their family. She shared one of her only memories of her parents. Her mom, hunched on the bathroom floor, cried and held a gun in her hand. Amy’s father stood over her, yelling. Not long into her story, Amy began fighting off the tears. “I got with a guy looking for a father figure, and he beat me to near death multiple times. I went to the doctor, and they put me on Xanax at fifteen years old for anxiety. I couldn’t eat; I was down to eighty-eight pounds. It was really bad. I remember taking that first Xanax, and that was the start of my whole addiction.”
Her life spiraled from that point. Amy, strung out on cocaine and other drugs, began dancing around a stripper pole. With no feelings of self-worth or strength to lift herself out of her situation, Amy stayed in the abusive relationship for thirteen years. In those years, she experienced darkness more intense than most of us will ever live to know. This darkness came in the form of rape, kidnapping, and beatings. Amy’s abuse shaped her life and what she thought of herself. But she had no idea how to end it. The man’s power and Amy’s need for a father-figure kept her bound to the relationship. In her world, this was how adults showed their love for each other.
Along with being a dancer, Amy worked as a Bobcat operator, still on drugs. That’s when she met James. She was about twenty-six years old at the time. James found himself drawn to her immediately, which he admits might have had something to do with her shorty-shorts. Amy was still involved with her ex when she met James. One night when he was visiting her, her ex-boyfriend came to her house. When he saw James’ truck, he sped out of the driveway, backing up into traffic and killing someone. The accident sent him to prison, and the tragedy saved Amy from the toxic relationship.
Amy attempted rehab, but it wasn’t a success. She came out, left James, and married a man twenty to thirty years her senior. The sole purpose of the marriage was to finance her drug habit. Yes, Amy was seeking a sugar daddy. They met at her strip club, where friends would point out men that they considered good prospects.
Her relationship with James never quite ended, and with his encouragement, Amy went into rehab for the second time. She was about the age of thirty-six with two children, ages two and five, from two other relationships. Amy was incapable of parenting at the time and was frank about the fact that she didn’t care for children at that point in her life, even her own. Due to this fact, James was raising her children for her.
During this time, James became an emotional crutch. She would reach out to him to hear the words, “I love you,” or to feel the touch of a man that cared for her as a person. James comforted Amy, but he would not support the drug habit, and at the time, Amy loved drugs more than life itself. Finally, James realized that if he kept giving Amy this support, she would never change. He cut her off completely, so she could work on herself, or at least that is what he hoped would happen.
There is a good deal more to the story of James and Amy, and how they began Hands and Feet Foundation. Stay tuned for the next blog post to learn James’ story and how they turned it around.