Perhaps this is coincidence, but many at the Silver Spring school prefer to see it as a reflection of Ford — a humble doer and familiar face in hallways and at campus events, even though his own children have graduated. One act of generosity touches off another, the thinking goes.
“I’ve never had a parent who’s been as invested — as totally invested — as Mr. Ford,” said Henry Johnson Jr., Northwood’s principal, who ticks off a few of Ford’s contributions: field setup at football games, videotaping at basketball games, driving duty for the golf team, anything at all for the music and performing arts programs. “Every school needs a Mr. Ford because we can’t do it all,” Johnson said.
One of more than 70,000 volunteers in Montgomery County public schools, Ford is among countless such people who are integral to the ambitions and daily life of their institutions across the region. In Montgomery schools alone, 458,000 volunteer hours were logged last year.
In this swirl of giving, Ford has donated roughly 50 hours a month, nine months of the year, for nine years. “To me, it’s nice to be wanted to do something,” he said. “My reward in life is when a person looks at me and says, ‘Thank you. Job well done.’ To me, that’s more than money.”
A onetime automobile driving instructor and amateur golfer who traveled around the country for tournaments, Ford retired in 1987.
He recalls the exact day when he learned he had an unstable spine and underwent the first of 13 back surgeries, a period that included two years in a body cast. His wife, Deborah, is a longtime federal worker. They have three children, all in their 20s.
Now 66, he contributes to Northwood with a steady presence and a knack for anticipating the needs of those he helps, educators say.
During the holiday break, he will accompany the school’s basketball team to Frederick County to record Northwood’s games during a winter tournament. All through the season, he is the man behind the camera for every varsity game, home and away, from a perch in the bleachers.
Ford started his volunteerism when his children were attending St. Michael’s, a Catholic school in Silver Spring. Since 2004, he has been focused on Northwood, which had been closed for a time and reopened that year, just as his eldest son was heading to high school.
“I think the Lord puts all of us here for a reason,” Ford said, “and I guess this is my reason.”
His bond with the Gladiators has never diminished.
“He does it all. He is very special. He has to have some wings under his shirt,” said math teacher Allyn Crews, who as golf coach has relied heavily on Ford’s volunteering. “He’s one of those people you only meet once in a lifetime.”