The ‘One-Armed Bandit’ lives by the pay-it-forward philosophy

Posted at 7:07 PM, Sep 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-09-18 06:28:15-04

Chesapeake, Va. - Jeff Stewart was trying to figure out why so many of his family and friends had packed into an A.J. Gators restaurant in Chesapeake.

"I knew something was up. It's not my anniversary, not my birthday," says Stewart.

What got our cameras there, plus dozens of his friends and relatives, was an email his friend, Chris Levins, sent to us about Jeff's phenomenal support of the Cody Childers Memorial Fund.

The email referred to Jeff as "The One-Armed Bandit."  That's just one of the nicknames his friends have for him. It's a topic clearly not off-limits in the email we received from Levin

"In December, even with one arm, he stood beside me and matched me box for box in packing Christmas Care Packages to be sent overseas," the email read.

The event referenced in that email was helping out Wendy Childers' "We Care Marines Foundation" which sends care packages to Marines overseas.

It's a mission she started after her son Cody, a Marine, was killed in Afghanistan back in 2010.

Childers says Stewart has been a key supporter. "I couldn't do what I've done in the past three years without him. He's always there whatever I ask him to do."

It's not only this charity, there are many other fundraisers that Stewart supports all while working two jobs, which is why we presented Stewart with a NewsChannel 3 People Taking Action Award.

We also gave him a $100 Visa gift card from our community partner Southern Bank.

Stewart was shocked. "Anything I do like this, it's not for recognition for me because what I do comes from my heart to help everybody else out, because almost 24 years when I had an accident and lost my arm at work. I had a lot of people come out of the woodwork that helped me out, some people didn't know me."

Since then, he's been living with a pay-it-forward philosophy. "And that's all I try to do is to help any way I can to make life better for someone else, and it's not about me, it's about everybody else out here."

Stewart says it brings him joy.

While Stewart lost his left arm from heavy equipment in a civilian work accident, he visits our military to talk about living without a limb.

Stewart will be the first to tell you, he doesn't want sympathy and that he doesn't consider himself handicapped.

"I have figured out that there's two kinds of people with an accident like this when it happens: There are the ones that want you to feel sorry for them or myself, leave me alone, I'll figure out how to do it. If I need help I'll ask."