Christy Lucas said she didn’t know what she wanted to be until she was in her 30s. Until then, she was focused on being a good wife and mother.
Although she would spend 14 years teaching and three years as a principal, Christy said that she now believes those experiences were preparing her for her most recent journey that has her changing the lives of local veterans, service members and military families in the greater Hanover area.
“I love what I do. I never thought I’d be working with military the way I am now,” Christy said. “I wake up every day and this is what gets me out of bed, makes my heart beat. I work with a phenomenal team.”
She has been described as an angel on earth by those she has helped.
Christy’s earliest angel work manifested in Fisher House, which provides military families housing close to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury.
Then, in early 2016, Christy started Roots for Boots – an organization dedicated to helping veterans, service members and military families in whatever ways possible. The organization has already helped multiple local veterans and military families, including Kareema Griest, a disabled navy veteran.
“There are a lot of road blocks preventing many veterans from getting/keeping gainful employment,” Griest said. “Having to ‘prove’ oneself to government officials, potential employers and medical facilitators to get the proper help can be a fight and a disheartening, depressing and frustrating experience.”
Christy Lucas grew up in a neighborhood in Baltimore County, Md. where she said kids played outside all day and everyone looked out for each other. She moved to Hanover after getting married to a childhood friend, Scott, and having two sons, Kyle and Wade, now 22 and 26. She earned degrees in education and worked as a teacher before becoming a principal.
One of Christy’s tasks as a principal at Annunciation B.V.M Catholic School in McSherrystown was to plan an annual Veteran’s Day program. She said it was during that time that she was moved by the stories she heard from veterans. With family members who have served in the military, Christy said she felt a close connection to those serving.
“When I became a principal, I decided I wanted to use that platform to connect kids and faculty more with our military, to help them see and understand the sacrifice that’s made in the name of freedom,” Christy said.
Motivated to do more for military members, Christy decided to expand the Veteran’s Day program into other events at her school. One initiative included adopting a service member each year.
“The first year we adopted David Borden – he lost his leg as a result of a suicide bomb in Ramadi in 2008,” Christy said. “He is such an inspiration to these kids – the resolve, the resilience, the perseverance. I saw the value in having these service men and women come in and interact with our students.”
Christy is a woman of strong faith, who said she believes God has a plan for us. And she said it was during one of her annual Veteran’s Day programs that her plan became a little clearer. She mentioned to a friend, who is also a marine, that she was interested in doing more to help local service members, but there just weren’t many organizations focused on that.
“As soon as he said I should start my own organization, I knew in my head that I could do it,” Christy laughed. “And I realized that during my principalship, I had made the connections I would need to start the nonprofit.”
She left education and focused completely on her next chapter. She spent even more time supporting initiatives at Fisher House and created a plan for Roots for Boots.
Christy and Griest met at a community event at the American Legion and before long, Christy was working to help get Griest get in a car that would give her reliable transportation to get to work and to transport her son to his Special Olympics events.
“Christy has proven that there ARE people who care, that the community CAN come together for a common cause and that our veterans are deserving of help,” Griest said. “[Christy’s] kindness and generosity is not for show, she really does want to help as many people as she can. She is the epitome of unconditional love and support.”
Another veteran impacted by Christy suffers from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and writes poetry as part of his therapy.
Roots for Boots helped him put his work into a book and publish it.
Strong female role models who were committed to service laid the foundation for Christy’s desire to give back. She said that growing up she looked up to her mother and mother-in-law who were both nurses and spent many hours caring for others. And she said she learned about small acts of kindness making a big impact from Mother Teresa.
Although she said many would describe her as passionate and driven, she said that few people know how hard she takes failure.
“When I set my sights on accomplishing a goal and it goes wrong or there’s disappointment, I am incredibly hard on myself,” Christy admitted. “I’m not a perfectionist, but I have high expectations for myself and only a small circle of people know how devastating it is when I fail at something.”
Few who know her would associate “failure” with anything she’s done though. Karen Little, owner of A&B Religious Gifts has partnered with Christy in supporting Fisher House and more recently with Roots for Boots.
“She is a dynamic and passionate human with a heart of gold and a love of life,” Little said. “She is a bright shining light and does so much for so many without asking for anything in return.”
Roots for Boots is a strictly volunteer organization, there are no paid staff members. Christy said it is a passion for her, she doesn’t see it as a job, even though she spends time advancing the cause every day.
When Christy was a principal, Lynn Toft, now friend and Roots for Boots volunteer, helped her implement an award winning STEM program at the school. Toft said that Christy doesn’t do the work she’s doing to get her name in the paper, but rather to support veterans, many of whom have fallen through the cracks.
“When I heard Christy was chosen as Person of the Year, I was like yahoo!” Toft shouted. “She is the vet’s unsung hero. She doesn’t even realize how much she’s done for them.”
In addition to directly impacting veterans, service members and military families, Toft said the organization is committed to interacting with and educating children about military members and patriotism.
The organization works with young people through a variety of programs to foster their love of country.
Christy, who said she tends to fly by the seat of her pants, said she is encouraged by the success she’s had so far with Roots for Boots. She said part of the success has been the willingness of local businesses and other community groups to support the organization’s efforts. And she plans to continue to build on her successes in the coming years.
But not too much.
“I like staying small in this close-knit community, giving our supporters the ability to interact with us and help us address very local needs,” Christy said. “Right now if we want money to support someone, we have to raise that money first, I’d like to get to the point where we have some money in the bank so we can help people immediately.”
A tireless bundle of energy, Christy confesses that there are challenges with the work. She said it can be emotionally exhausting at times as she finds herself taking on the emotional burden of those she supports.
“The work I do is very rewarding, but it’s bittersweet,” Christy said. “Sometimes my vets get bad news and when they go through it, I go through it. With Roots for Boots, we are not just ‘one and done’ assistance, we are building relationships, we connect, we follow up, we check in, we go that extra mile.”
“Success for me is defined by the people I’ve crossed paths with – if their lives thrive, to see them doing better because I’ve crossed their path – to me that’s the definition of success,” Christy said.
To learn more about Roots for Boots visit www.rootsforboots.com.