What do I do now? For many retirees, it can be a daunting question. But for many professional athletes who retire with most of their lives still ahead of them, it can be a crippling one.“It took me a good three years to get my head on straight and figure out what to do next,” said Ellis Valentine, who had played for several teams in Major League Baseball, including the Texas Rangers, from 1975 to 1985.A brief stay at a rehabilitation center in Arizona helped make it clear what that next thing was, becoming a licensed counselor.“I had help from my agent Dick Moss, and from another player, Dock Ellis, with getting my life back in order. I wanted to use my experience to help others.”Valentine became a licensed counselor in California and served others for many years in that capacity. After moving to Grand Prairie in 2006, he started a nonprofit called RAFT Recovery, which helps those with addiction and other issues. As one of their community outreach programs, Valentine and his son Jordan also mow lawns for seniors who otherwise couldn’t do it on their own.“We get referrals mainly through Meals on Wheels,” said Valentine. “We get the person’s name and information on their situation. Then, we put them through a vetting process to make sure that they truly need the service.”Valentine typically provides his free “mow, blow and go” service to each client for a full year. If they need additional exterior maintenance services, such as tree trimming or fence repair, he tries to facilitate that with a contractor set up to do that type of work. The work isn’t easy, especially in the 100-degree Texas summer heat, but it’s something that he knows his clients appreciate.“One of our clients had triple bypass surgery. He had been caring for both his and his mother’s yards, but just couldn’t do it after the surgery. The grass was so high that it took us three visits to get it under control,” Valentine said.
He currently has approximately 30 clients in Arlington that he and his son serve with a pick-up truck full of mowers, weed-whackers, and blowers. Valentine said he would like to get a trailer, a storage unit and even some more volunteers so he could help more people, but he’s taking that part of expanding the operation as it comes.While Valentine counts his blessings every day that he’s been able to help so many people get their lives back on track through his counseling and church work, he gets a different kind of satisfaction by helping folks in Arlington and the surrounding area beautify their yards.“With counseling, it could be one year, five years, or ten years before the client sees results,” said Valentine. “With the yard mowing, it’s tangible. You can see the results at the end of each job.”For more information on RAFT Recovery, or to make a donation, visit www.raftrecovery.com.