Bryans Family Foundation continues good works of ‘The Banana Man’
By Jessica Blomquist
The purpose of the Bryans Family Foundation is simple: See a need and meet it.
After patriarch of the family, Norris Bryans, died in November 2004, his family established the Bryans Family Foundation, headquartered in Newborn, using funds he left to them for the purpose of setting up a foundation to help those in need.
This foundation, led by a board including Connie Bryans, Donna Bryans Gensler, Kimberly Bryans, Amanda Bryans Allen, Claire Bryans, and Cindy Price, has turned its focus toward helping children in the community, and the surrounding counties of Jasper, Baldwin and Greene.
“We just recognized the need,” board member Donna Bryans Gensler said.
“There are a lot of kids around here who don’t have the opportunities that other kids do.”
The group’s goal is to expose children to enriching experiences and also promote those facilities as cost–effective and easy places for parents to take their children to again. The group has arranged field trips for children to attend events at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center as well as visit the Morgan County Library, the Georgia Children’s Museum in Macon, Stone Mountain Park, the Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center in Mansfield, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, and Noah’s Ark Animal Rehabilitation Center and Children’s Care Home in Locust Grove.
In addition to introducing the children to fun places to visit, the group encourages their academics by giving them prizes or tickets to other field trips as rewards for good grades and attendance or for reading a book and presenting a report on it.
“We’re enriching them to promote their success in school,” said Connie Bryans. Working with local schools, the foundation has also helped out students. They have purchased subscriptions to the Humane Society of the U.S.-published national classroom newspaper KIND News for kindergarten and sixth grade students at Morgan County schools for two years so far and Jasper County schools beginning this school year.
And because many schools have had to cancel field trips due to the price of gas, they have also sponsored field trips for students.
The children they have helped range in age from 2–years–old to 15–years–old. “It gives them a sense of value,” said Connie. “Someone cares about them.”
This service ties back to the legacy of Norris Bryans. Known affectionately as “The Banana Man” at nursing homes around the county and in nearby counties, Norris visited weekly with elderly residents for 20 years.
During these visits, he would inquire after each resident’s health, cultivate a relationship with them, and bring them a banana as a snack.
“He helped wherever he saw a need,” said Donna. “He was that kind of person.”
His service inspired the foundation to establish the Banana Ministry, which is still carried on after his death by those who have dubbed themselves “banana brigadiers.”
Most of all, members of the foundation want others in the community to know how easy and rewarding it can be serving others.
“You don’t have to have any particular knowledge, skill or money, even,” said Connie.
“It’s not about money,” echoed Cindy Price.
“It’s about spending time.”