RINGGOLD, CATOOSA COUNTY (WRCB) – In Ringgold, Georgia, recycling isn't just a way to change the planet, it's how one man is changing the lives of hurting children. 

Seventy-nine-year-old Johnny Jennings has lived a full, but unassuming life in Ringgold, Georgia.

He has been married to his wife, Gwen, for 54 years. He retired after a 40 year career as a welder for Combustion Engineering in 1990, but his life has never been busier.

For the past 25 years, Mr. Jennings has been feeding his passion for recycling.  But he doesn't do it as much for the environmental benefit, as for the children of Georgia Baptist Children's Home.

"When I was 18-years-old, I visited the children's home and we took a load of produce and goods down and I had a meal with them," Jennings recalls. "When we went to leave, three little boys asked me to be their daddy. So that just melted my heart.  And I said from the on out, I'd work for the Georgia Baptist Children's Home."

Putting recycling to its maximum use, it's an idea that was handed down to Mr. Jennings, by his son.

"My boy recycled back when he was growing up and put the money in the back, you know, in a savings account," Jennings says. "And he had enough in there when he got married to put a down payment on a house.  So that's where I got the benefits of recycling."

It's a full time job for Mr. Jennings.  One he is excited about doing every day. "Most of the time I get out early and load up a load from here.  And sometimes I have a load coming back from post offices, churches and so forth."

He collects anything that will help make even a small difference in a child's life.

"All kinds of paper, some cardboard and cans," Mr. Jennings says.

Shay Love nominated Mr. Jennings for the Jefferson Award.  She has known him for six years, and sees him as a role model.

"He's being a role model because he's showing that everyday items that you throw away can be recycled, money made to help somebody else in need," says Love.

Mr. Jennings has won several service awards for his work.  And why not?  Through recycling, he's raised $290,000 for the children's home.

He also raises money for the home by collecting pennies.

"I read an article about some church, in Maryland I believe, that raised a mile of pennies," Mr. Jennings says. "I said, that's a good project for the children's home."

So far, he's collected 20 miles worth of pennies, equaling $16,400.

Surely, now Johnny Jennings can call it a day, and focus on himself for a change.

"I had a lot of people ask me. I say ‘I guess the undertaker will turn my toes up,'" Jennings jokes.

You can read more about Mr. Jennings in Friday's edition of the Times Free Press.

To nominate someone as next month's Jefferson Award honoree, click here.