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Three men on a mission

Former school ties

Their journey began in the halls of Colonie Central High School -- three lives brought together under one academic roof.

But nobody could have predicted that the three men who parted ways after graduation 30 years ago would reunite to raise enough food to feed nearly 6,000 mouths in Albany.

Brian Casey, the vice president of the South Colonie Central School District Board of Education, said he met neighbors Dave O'Connell and Lorenzo Hodges while they were attending Colonie Central High School and he was a part-time teacher's aide and Colonie police officer. Casey described Hodges in high school as a student who wasn't following the rules, and did not want to conform to the school setting.

O'Connell, who lived on the same street as Hodges, was in Hodge's group of friends, but Casey said he "always seemed to have his head on straight."

Years passed following Hodges' and O'Connell's graduation, but Casey never forgot the two.

He even recognized Hodges when he bumped into him nearly a decade ago in a parking lot near his dentist's office.

Casey asked Hodges where he was headed, and was surprised by his response.

"He said, 'I'm headed to church.' I looked at him and I said, 'Church? You don't go to church,'" Casey remembered.

It was then that Casey learned of the personal journey Hodges had taken that culminated with him becoming president of the Joshua Foundation of New York, a charity organization dedicated to helping poor countries throughout the world and creating better living conditions. He was recently inducted into the Colonie Central High School Hall of Fame for his charitable works.

Since the nonprofit governmental agency was founded in 2002, it has raised millions of dollars in medical supplies that have been hand-delivered by Hodges to Ghana and Malawi, in Africa.

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