Story by Ron Wagner ’93
Photography by Jeremy Fleming ’08
It’s not surprising Joey Espinosa ’98 took in a lot from his coaches during his time as a safety on the Furman football team. What he remembers most, however, might be.
“They were huge on emphasizing that football is just one thing you do. It’s not the most important thing in life,” Espinosa said. “No matter how busy you are, there’s always an opportunity to give back.”
No matter how busy you are, there's always an opportunity to give back. Joey Espinosa
And make no mistake: Espinosa was busy. The time demands of playing Division I football are well documented, and the hours he had left went toward earning undergraduate and masters degrees in chemistry.
Nonetheless, Espinosa and his teammates were required to do things like speak at area schools, and while on campus doing research one summer he decided to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. That prompted more volunteering through Furman’s Collegiate Education Service Corps and planted a seed that patiently waited to grow as he embarked on a career as a research chemist.
In 2007, the kernel finally sprouted when Espinosa and his wife, Joanna, made the decision to leave the corporate world after 10 years to become a children’s pastor at his church. He also left a nice paycheck, but the Swansea, South Carolina native hasn’t looked back.
“We just felt like that was the next step that God had for me,” he said.
Those steps came full circle in July when Espinosa returned to Furman as director of the Community Conservation Corps (CCC) while also servings as director of Youth Programs at Mill Community Ministries. CCC, now in its sixth year, provides free home weatherizations for low-income homeowners in the greater Greenville community. Partnering with Habitat for Humanity, CCC reduces energy consumption through weatherproofing, conservation, and education and has resulted in savings of up to 35 percent on energy bills.
“I think we just did our 81st home,” Espinosa said. “It’s a way for Furman staff and students, especially our sustainability majors, to engage with and support the community.”
The small pictures painted by CCC are the ones that really catch Espinosa’s eye, however, because while the big ones get stories written about them, the small ones actually make the difference.
It’s something he has seen first-hand while describing the improvements his crew would make to a house owned by an elderly couple with health issues.
“We told him here’s what we’re doing for your house, it’s all free . . . and he starts tearing up,” Espinosa said. “He says ‘this was all stuff that I knew I needed to get done. I’m just not able to do it.’ That kind of thing makes me really excited about what we’re doing.”