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Elementary school custodian didn't win state award, so community surprises him with $35K check

Head custodian gets major surprise
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Posted at 1:28 PM, Mar 23, 2021

EDENTON, N.C. - As head custodian at White Oak Elementary School, Raymond Brown does so much more than clean up at the school which is why his community was disappointed when he didn't win the North Carolina School Hero's award.

One mom took action for the man that's helped so many students including her son with autism.

Last Saturday, Brown thought he was meeting up with family to celebrate his 38th wedding anniversary. His daughter told him to meet at the waterfront at 11 a.m. so they could take pictures on the special day.

But when he arrived, Brown was greeted by a large crowd of people from the Edenton community, gathering to honor him.

“He’s kind of our rock, our foundation of what we do here at school. He’s the first one here way before the rest of us,” said Michelle Newsome, the White Oak Elementary School Principal.

Brown has done so much more than clean up and keep up with the grounds over the past 15 years at the school.

“What makes Mr. Brown the most special is that he works really hard to build relationships with the students, sincere relationships that many of our students would not otherwise have,” said Newsome.

“What broke my heart, by going through the school and some of the kids said, ‘Mr. Brown, I wish you my father, wish you want my grandfather’ and that made me want to love them even more,” said Brown.

One student he showed love to was Adrian Wood’s youngest son, Amos who has autism. She said he started school on his third birthday. She said it was scary to drop off her youngest boy knowing he couldn’t talk.

“My heart went out for him; he was in pampers when I first met him and I kept showing my love towards him. He got that, been attached to me and I got attached to him, so I gave him the name Famous Amos,” said Brown.

The nickname Famous Amos caught on with the other kids at school and made Amos feel special.

“Mr. Brown, who would deliver breakfast and lunch to their classroom, started calling him Famous Amos and the other children started calling him Famous Amos and so Amos went from being this little fella that didn't really talk to anybody to be in quite a popular figure at school and I give Mr. Brown, a lot of credit for that, because here's this man that everybody adores and he showers some attention on Amos. Then everybody was like well Amos is pretty cool, and he might not be the kind of friend that plays with me or talks but children really gravitated towards him which, for me, the mother of a child, with a disability, is all I want life for him,” said Wood.

Last year, Mr. Brown was nominated for North Carolina School Hero award, but he didn’t win despite getting many votes.

Wood has her own blog and rallied the community to raise money for Mr. Brown and on Saturday they surprised him with a $35,000 check, calling it the Famous Amos Award.

She was shocked at how many people donated money. She said donations came in between $2.19 to three donations of $500. She said many of the donations were local, but some came from other parts of the country and even around the world.

“My whole life I’ve sat in church and uttered the words ‘to give is much more than to receive but I never really had that concept hit home like it did on Saturday,” said Wood.

Wood said we need to acknowledge more people like Mr. Brown.

“We need to recognize those same people that might not be on the big screen but are doing really good work and get overlooked. My Amos, he's so successful but not successful in how the big world defines success,” said Wood, “So when I said, the Famous Amos Award I was like that's perfect because Mr. Brown exemplifies that and so does Amos.”

With the money, Mr. Brown said he’s buying the staff food and treating all the kids to ice cream along with getting work done to his home and maybe buying a truck.

He continues to teach kindness, compassion and works to mentor so many children.

Watch the surprise below: