Some people expect 15 minutes of fame for doing good deeds, but Mr. Hutch isn’t one of them. Kenny “Mr. Hutch” Hutchinson is a humble man who has been helping children in any way he can for more than 40 years now, in both his professional and personal life. His contributions have not only left an impact on the Hahira community but have also helped improve the lives of many far and wide, local and abroad.
Mr. Hutch was born and raised in Lowndes County. He grew up with his family in Remerton, formerly a cotton mill town, where his father and grandfather both worked at the cotton mill. His family did not have much money, and they struggled. But he considers himself lucky nonetheless.
“I’m very lucky because I grew up in a home [with] loving parents, but we didn’t have much,” said Mr. Hutch. “I was taught you worked hard and did what you had to do, and thank goodness I listened to them.”
Mr. Hutch graduated from Valdosta State University as an education major and began his teaching career. As far as working with children, it’s just something that he always knew he wanted to do.
The work that he did for the Boys Club of Valdosta helped Mr. Hutch realize his calling. He started working there in 1971 and continued to do so for 32 years. During this time, Mr. Hutch’s schedule would be to teach until around 3:30 p.m. and then work for the Boys Club until about 10 p.m., where his work was focused on athletics, such as baseball.
“I saw a lot of boys play baseball,” said Mr. Hutch. “Seen some of the boys go to major leagues and become successful. So, I enjoyed that immensely.”
Then, in 1975, Mr. Hutch began teaching primarily 8th grade Georgia studies and American government at Hahira Middle School. He taught full-time for more than 30 years before moving on to “49 percent,” a position considered to be part-time. Mr. Hutch is now a substitute across a variety of subjects as well as anywhere else his help may be needed.
In addition, Mr. Hutch spends his summer breaks organizing records, classes, and other areas necessary for a new school year. Although he is paid for a certain number of hours, there are many additional hours that he chooses to work that go unpaid, just so he can ensure that the school remains prepared.
Mr. Hutch has been teaching and working at Hahira Middle for 43 years now. His favorite thing about doing so is being able to provide a positive role model to young people, as well as seeing them become successful and hearing students say, “You made a difference.”
Just this past summer, he received an email from a woman whose brother was dying of cancer. Her brother had been a student of Mr. Hutch’s about 25 years ago. During his chemo sessions, he had shared memories of Mr. Hutch’s classroom and how much he had enjoyed learning about government and history.
“That’s priceless,” said Mr. Hutch. “You can’t trade that for anything, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Outside of his career, Mr. Hutch has been a foster parent for many years through the state of Georgia.
“I also enjoyed that very much,” he said. “Working with young people who just need a place to stay.”
Today, he remains in touch with his foster children. One of them stayed with Mr. Hutch for six years before graduating high school and leaving to go to college, while another came and lived with him until high school graduation. Now that the latter has a son, Mr. Hutch has built a connection with him and thinks of him as a grandson.
He has also welcomed exchange students from foreign countries into his home for the past 11 years. These students come for different reasons, from earning credits to gaining experience and improving English skills. The students stay with Mr. Hutch for 10 months while attending Lowndes High School.
The first foreign exchange student to come and live with Mr. Hutch was from Norway. Now, he is on his 11th student, who came from Switzerland despite having parents who were born in Brazil. Throughout the years, Mr. Hutch has had students from Spain, Denmark, Germany, and Brazil as well.
“I’ve never traveled anywhere,” he said, “but they come to me, and I can live vicariously through them. … It’s a really good program. I really enjoy it.”
Although Mr. Hutch doesn’t have any biological children, he has “a whole bunch of kids”—the students at Hahira Middle, students’ parents and grandparents whom he also taught, his foster children, the son of his foster son, his foreign exchange students.
“[The kids] just keep you young, you know, and keep you going,” he said. “That’s why I do the exchange program. I’ll be 66 next month, but I’ll get out and throw a football every day, and we’ll go bowling, and we’ll do this and do that, and it keeps you active. I think that’s important.”
In addition to his work with children, physical activity is a large part of Mr. Hutch’s life. Weighing 240 pounds in 1980, he went on a diet and began walking for exercise. Now, with almost 90 pounds gone, he continues to walk three miles every day, beginning at five a.m. when he is working and joining friends when he isn’t.
“It’s a therapeutic thing for me,” he said, “and it keeps me in fairly good shape.”
As far as any other hobbies, Mr. Hutch doesn’t have time for them. He spends his time away from work—something that he considers a hobby—providing for his current foreign exchange student, Andre, who is planning on playing soccer.
Although Mr. Hutch has reached the age at which most people retire, he doesn’t plan on giving up his work anytime soon.
“Everybody here says that I’m going to quit when I’m dead, seriously, and they probably are right,” he laughed.
Everything that Mr. Hutch has done and continues to do for the children that he teaches and fosters does not come from a need of recognition. His work comes from the pure love he has for the children, and he has no plans of changing whatsoever.
“What [people] see is what I am,” said Mr. Hutch. “I don’t put on for anybody. I care about people. I care about life. I am a devoted Christian, and that’s very important to me. I just want people to know that what they see is what they get. That’s how I’ve been, and that’s how I’m always going to be.”