Friday, November 7, 2008

Fazilite Honored in US : Vinod Gupta’s work with homeless honored by City

Vinod Gupta’s work with homeless honored by City

Vinod Gupta’s personal philosophy is that we are all born debtors and spend our lives repaying that debt. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it paraphrases one of the most famous of Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes – “we are debtors all our lives and thus for ever bound to serve the universe.”

“Vinnie” Gupta has read volumes about the spiritual leader of his native India and proudly admits that Gandhi’s ideologies guide him. The IDOT Pro Tech has been a well known figure at Helping Hands homeless shelter in Springfield for years as well as at the Springfield Overflow Shelter run by the Salvation Army. His work at the latter earned him a special recognition by Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin who thanked him for his “tireless dedication” in volunteering.

“I was surprised by the award,” said Gupta. “I enjoy serving meals and talking with the people staying at the shelter.” Archie Ford is the director of the Salvation Army in Springfield and said volunteers like Gupta are the reason the Shelter can survive.

“In the last four years, we’ve had to purchase about three meals ourselves, thanks to the volunteers,” said Ford. That’s saying a lot, Ford says, considering the Shelter houses between 40 and 60 people every night between November and March.

“He is truly what I would call a champion for the homeless,” said Brenda Johnson, executive director of Helping Hands, where Gupta serves meals twice a month and regularly emails her with praise and encouragement. “He tells me we are doing God’s work. He sees his contribution as what he should be doing as a human.”

For Gupta, it’s all in a day’s work, except that day doesn’t start until he’s finished his own job at IDOT. The Operations

Coordinator review excess land plats and right-of-way plans for local roads projects utilizing federal funds. He coordinates the environmental process for contaminated parcels, reviews requests for prequalifying consultants, and more.

Born in Fazilka, India, he came to the U.S. with his wife, Anjna, in 1995. The two were college students at the University of Iowa, where Gupta graduated with a master’s degree in Civil Engineering. Their two sons have followed their father’s example of public service. Rohit lives and works in India and Sundeep is a doctor with the Centers for Disease Control, working with HIV patients in Uganda.

Gupta is proud of his sons and has a bit of advice to other young people. “Spend less time on TV and video games and, instead, try to help people,” said Gupta. “There is no greater joy than cheerfulness. Even on your deathbed, you can serve by offering a smile.”

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