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Leroy “Buck” Close: Deep Spirituality, a Firebrand Mom and Fearless Nuns

“You don’t deserve the life you have.” Leroy “Buck” Springs Close’s mother, Anne, often reminded her children as she raised them to be aware of their own privilege and good fortune. and to empathize with and serve those who were not so fortunate.

Anne was a loving and adventurous mother, making her first trip to Haiti in 1957. Buck also became enchanted by Haiti and made numerous trips to Haiti starting in 1966. He was introduced by his mother to the Salesian Sisters of Haiti and a lifelong attachment to their mission was born. Anne supported parks, recreation facilities, and open spaces enhancing quality of life in every community where the family had mills in the Carolinas. Along with the Salesian Sisters, Anne believed that, “True happiness is only possible through self sacrificial service to the poor, the weak, the sick and the lonely.” It became a lifeforce for her son, Buck, and a gift to generations of lives they touch.

Deacon Leroy “Buck” Springs Close, transformational benefactor and a former board member at Ability Beyond, and his equally altruistic wife, Lucy, shared his mother’s passion to address inequities. Whether it was their good fortune as a family in business—or seeing the plight of those who live with illness, poverty or oppression—Being dealt the easy hand meant responsibility for those undeserving of their hardships.

Joining Ablity Beyond

Buck and Lucy came to our area in 1986 after leaving his family’s top U. S. fabric manufacturing business to start his own, Sandlapper Fabrics in Danbury.

By the early 1990’s Buck brought his philanthropic vision to Ability Beyond’s Board of Directors—a transition toward greater community integration for the people we serve and less emphasis on group homes. Independent living supported by the Ability care-force nurtured greater independence and growth for the people we serve as well as our community’s awareness and understanding.

Buck laughed as he spoke about how he and Lucy became involved in Ability, “We got sucked in completely!” Buck and Lucy lived by boots on the ground activism. “We tried to bring our time, talent and treasure to Ability’s mission”. Lucy took Ability folks to movies and became close friends with a few of them.

During his tenure on Ability’s Board, Buck (both strategically and financially) supported Ability’s service expansion into New York State with its first program center in Mount Kisco. Also, in the mid-1990’s, Buck took an unusual path for a business owner—he began his formation process for the ordination to the Diaconate in the Diocese of New York. After ordination in 2000, he was assigned to work with migrant farm workers in the Hudson Valley, helping them to organize and obtain services.

Robert S. Young Humanitarian Award

At Ability Beyond’s 50th Anniversary Gala, Buck was honored with the Robert S. Young Humanitarian Award for his extraordinary dedication, commitment, and involvement with Ability Beyond as well as his and Lucy’s numerous charitable causes. Along with Mary Walsh, Ability Beyond’s founder, he received tributes for his work from distinguished guests such as Master of Ceremonies Ernie Anastos, CBS News Anchor; Erskine Bowles, President Clinton’s chief of staff; Tony Guida, CBS radio and television personality; and Peter Scotese, President & CEO of Springs Mills and Buck Close’s family friend. With Buck and Mary as honorees, Ability’s Gala set a new precedent for success—raising $250,000 in 2003!

Also during 2003, Sandlapper Fabrics merged with a company in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, causing Buck and Lucy to move to Rhode Island. Buck has served as Deacon in 4 RI parishes. Although he is now retired, he continues to be heavily involved in the two parishes at which he worships – St. John the Evangelist in Newport, RI and St. Anna’s in New Orleans.

Philanthropic Work

Haiti’s overwhelming needs never strayed from Buck and Lucy’s hearts. They’d been back to Haiti many times working with the Salesians. In 2008, they created 1000Jobs/Haiti—a jobs program for women to earn money by manufacturing various textile products in Haiti that Lucy would sell in the United States. The proceeds from those sales would fund the salaries of those women working in Haiti.

As Haiti began devolving into gang violence during 2018, Lucy and Buck had to halt their 1000Jobs/Haiti program. Workers were robbed at gunpoint; armed robbers stole the 1000Jobs/Haiti payroll. Even the Salesian Sisters were affected by the kidnapping and violence that engulfed the country. They had to close schools as the violence began overwhelming infrastructure and aid organizations attempting to serve Haiti’s people.

In New Orleans, Buck’s work also included projects to support justice for incarcerated persons with Louisiana’s ACLU. Buck and Lucy also committed their time, talent and treasure to the restoration of an historic old creole cottage called Dodwell House to house Saint Anna’s outreach for at-risk children and teens. Located in New Orleans’ historic Treme neighborhood, will be a dignified, spacious new home for the parish’s signature program, Anna’s Place Nola.

Founded in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina, Anna’s Place originally held programs in Saint Anna’s small parish house to support the community with a food pantry, youth programs and medical resources. In response to the total lack of enrichment ar risk kids in the area, the program soon evolved into comprehensive music and art programs as well as academic support with its focus on bringing aspirations and joyful, meaningful new skills into the lives of at-risk youth.

Buck and his committee’s 5-year effort will allow Anna’s Place at Dodwell House to grow the program from 30 children and teens to over 10. With the goal of never turning anyone away, the beautiful, new center became a beacon of hope, stability and performing arts events to one of New Orleans’ most tumultuous neighborhoods—and communities get stronger one good deed and extraordinary humanitarian at a time.

Take Action

Leroy “Buck” Close’ reflection in Ability’s historic mirror is yet one more face of the philanthropic visionaries who empowered us to not only survive for 71 years, but to grow, thrive and innovate to become our own beacon of hope for more than 3,000 families. Buck’s compassion has taken him to some of the world’s most challenging places. Ability is blessed that he came to us to help nurture life-changing independence and opportunity—a hero in our mirror inspired by strong, heroic women who are as proud of him as Ability is grateful!

Learn more about what you can do to get involved today!

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