John Mayfield once battled drug and alcohol addiction. He rarely took advantage of positive opportunities and instead suffered consequences for his actions.
But that all changed 25 years ago when Mayfield realized he needed to turn his life around.
“I knew I needed to change, so I started inviting God into my life and asking his will for me,” Mayfield says. “He gave me the knowledge about how to change. I got sober, and everything just fell into place.”
Today, Mayfield is a passionate philanthropist and Kiwanian. Living a modest life in Ashland City, Tennessee, he supports many local charities such as the Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee and Nashville State Community College. He also owns Mayfield’s Book Store, where all proceeds from the used books go to support the John E. Mayfield Charitable Foundation.
“I’m very fortunate that I get to do this,” he says. “I’m not married, and I don’t have any children, so this is my purpose in life. God has allowed me to do these things for others. It’s what I do.”
Mayfield joined Kiwanis in 2007. His father had been a Kiwanian, but he really didn’t know much about the organization at the time.
“I knew very little about Kiwanis,” he says. “But it changed my life. I was never able to speak in front of people before. I had panic attacks. The week before my first meeting as president, I had a panic attack for the whole week. But every week I got up and spoke."
“It really changed my life. I can now get up in front of people and speak. It also changed my life because of the unbelievable people I’ve met—people so dedicated to helping kids and helping others.”
Last November, Mayfield was part of a Kiwanis International delegation that traveled to Sierra Leone, Africa, to witness maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination efforts. The trip, which involved traveling to hard-to-reach rural villages, was a life-changing experience.
“In one of the villages, a large group of children followed us around everywhere,” Mayfield says. “One child came up to me and wouldn’t leave me. He became my little buddy. I gave him my business card and told him to keep it and put it in his pocket. Instead, he immediately showed it off to his friends.”
That experience will stay with Mayfield for the rest of his life as a reminder of the children The Eliminate Project aims to protect.
“I wasn’t really passionate about The Eliminate Project before I went to Sierra Leone,” he says. “I’m sitting around Tennessee. I’ve got US$100,000 and I’m thinking ‘how can I change the world?’ With just me, it doesn’t go very far. But with Kiwanis, UNICEF and country governments working together, it can.”
Just US$1.80 can protect a woman and her future babies from the ravages of tetanus. That price includes three doses of the tetanus vaccine, safe vaccine storage and transportation, stipends and training for health workers to administer the vaccines, education on clean birthing practices, and more.
“With The Eliminate Project, I get to save lives,” Mayfield says.
Now Mayfield is committed to telling the story of The Eliminate Project and the story of Sierra Leone.
In the town of Bo, the delegation visited a pilot program at a local school where adolescent girls received their tetanus vaccinations.
“I held four girls’ hands while they got their shots,” Mayfield says. “Some were scared and others were brave, but all realized the importance of this vaccine.”
Kiwanians also need to realize the importance of the tetanus vaccine, he says.
“I’m hearing that some Kiwanians are reluctant to give outside their local community. They want to help the less fortunate in their hometown.
“But we’re talking about the potential to save a life for US$1.80. You can help people here and help people globally.”
Buddy system: John Mayfield holds his “little buddy” close.