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Gainesville man remembered for dedication to making a difference
01022018 DEATHS JP Banks
Director of the Drug Free Coalition of Hall County JP Banks

The three homes of J.P. Banks stretch between Gainesville, northern California and the central Asian country of Uzbekistan.

“He spent more time in northern California and Gainesville, but as far as making a meaningful impact and making friends, he made some lifelong friends in Uzbekistan,” his brother Rod Banks said Monday.

J.P. Banks died Oct. 28. He was 65 and known for his work with the Drug Free Coalition of Hall County.

"J.P. was a great friend, advocate and community partner. He will truly be missed by the Gainesville community," Gainesville Police Chief Carol Martin said.

As one of the founding members of the coalition, Betty Guilfoile remembered Banks’ unusual application.

“When he came for the interview, he brought with him a binder of all the different works he had done and information and news articles and whatnot that he had collected — sort of like a scrapbook — over the years,” said Guilfoile, who previously served as the executive director for Children’s Center for Hope and Healing.

Banks met fellow advocate Dallas Gay in 2010, a year before Banks became the coalition’s director.

“For the next several years, he was kind of my mentor, introducing me to the drug abuse programs that he was doing,” Gay said.

Banks’ imposing linebacker physique belied his friendly and helpful demeanor like a giant teddy bear, his brother said.

Rod Banks said his brother had a passion for youth ministry and health care, eventually attending Mississippi College and Golden Gate Theological Seminary. He became an ordained Southern Baptist minister, but he felt his work was in the field with health care.

J.P. Banks would find himself in Uzbekistan in April 2000 to help ensure medical supplies were distributed properly.

“He decided to sign up for the PeaceCorps because he was just, I think,  frankly burned out of the corporate health care environment,” his brother said.

When he returned to Gainesville and took care of his mother, J.P. Banks would also go “back to the roots that he knew, which is serving others and anything he could do that might be youth-related or health care-related,” his brother said.

Guilfoile and Gay lauded Banks’ attention to detail and passion for the coalition. He was adept in grant writing while also pushing to have drug takeback boxes in public places like the police station.

“He did a lot of good for our community, a lot of service that most people don’t know about it. You don’t know when someone avoids having drug abuse because someone like J.P. caused it to happen,” Gay said.

The family will receive friends at 1 p.m. today at Memorial Park North Riverside Chapel until the service at 2 p.m.

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