For the past 15 years, Raymond Brown has worked as a school custodian at White Oak Elementary School in Edenton, North Carolina.
And during the span of his service, many students, parents, and faculty members can attest to his exceptional kindness to everyone he meets.
Mr. Brown does so much more than clean up at the school. What makes him special is that he really makes an effort to build relationships with the students—genuine relationships that many of them wouldn’t otherwise have.
“What broke my heart, by going through the school and some of the kids said, ‘Mr. Brown, I wish you were my father, wish you were my grandfather,’ and that made me want to love them even more,” said Brown.
The community truly loved school custodian, and they had the chance to show him how much he really means recently.
Mr. Brown was nominated to win a $10,000 prize as part of the North Carolina School Heroes contest. Unfortunately, he wasn’t chosen as one of the winners despite getting many votes. This loss disappointed one mom of a White Oak Elementary School student.
“I was heartbroken,” Adrian Wood told TODAY. “I cried, and I don’t cry over competitions. But this wasn’t mine, it was Mr. Brown’s.”
Wood’s youngest son, Amos, has autism and attends White Oak.
“Sending three typical kids to school — you’re sad, but you’re excited for them,” she explained.
“Sending Amos to school was such a different path. He was three when he started school. He was in diapers and he didn’t speak. But after Mr. Brown started saying ‘hello’ to him and calling him ‘Famous Amos,’ Amos started saying, ‘Hey Brown,” when he saw him. He wasn’t even saying ‘Daddy’ at that point, so it was really something.”
Mr. Brown’s treatment of Amos has helped the now 7-year-old fit in with his classmates.
“You have this man that everybody loves suddenly paying attention to this little boy,” Wood added.
“Amos is a hard friend to have. He takes a lot more than he gives and that’s tough for children. But those kids saw that he was popular and loved and they started fighting over who would get to hold Amos’ hand on the way to the classroom. It meant so much to me for him to be so favored by the other children at school, and Mr. Brown had a big hand in that.”
Wood, who runs the blog Tales of an Educated Debutante, posted on Facebook about Mr. Brown’s loss at the School Heroes contest. She rallied the community to show their support for him, and they delivered.
Many of her followers donated money to the beloved head custodian, and within a week, they raised $35,000!
On March 20, Wood and the school community gathered to surprise Mr. Brown with his gift. His daughter told him to dress up and come to a nearby waterfront park for his 38th wedding anniversary photoshoot.
But when he arrived at the location, the school custodian was greeted by a large crown of Edenton community members. Wood then presented him with a giant $35,000 check.
“I was very surprised,” said Mr. Brown. “I was caught off guard. To see all those people shouting and hollering ‘Mr. Brown, congratulations,’ it was beautiful and it’s hard to explain, but I know this community loves Mr. Brown.”
Mr. Brown says his wife has a “little bit of plans” for the money. He said they would probably travel and see some family members that they haven’t seen since COVID. His wife also wants some work done in the house.
As for his own needs, Mr. Brown plans to purchase a used work truck.
Here’s a video of Mr. Brown’s surprise reveal.
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