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Man on a mission

Posted Jun 28, 2012

During his 74 years, Dick Lewis has seen just about everything. From two 13-month tours in Southeast Asia as a hospital corpsman in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War, to a long tenure on the San Diego streets with the San Diego Police Department, Lewis has seen more than his share of pain and suffering.

These life experiences could easily numb the heart, but not so for Lewis. He never grew callous. In fact he has used these experiences in a never-ending drive to eliminate suffering and bring smiles where he could.

Since Lewis joined the San Diego Chargers fulltime in 1989 as director of security following his retirement from the police department, he and the Chargers have been a perfect match.

For more than 11 years, Lewis has taken Chargers players, coaches and staff to the downtown Salvation Army community center to serve dinner to homeless San Diegans. Lewis has expanded the program by incorporating teens and young adults currently receiving drug rehabilitation treatment at the McAllister Institute. After each meal, Lewis leads a powerful and often emotional fellowship circle where players tell the teens of their own struggles and what turned them around. The teens are inspired when they learn they have much in common with these successful athletes.

This weekly tradition is just one example of his benevolence.

Lewis also takes players to visit schools, hospitals and police dispatch centers, among countless other deserving locations where help and healing is needed. He has inspired players and others in the organization to join him, including becoming mentors to troubled teens.

He even uses his singing voice as the lead vocalist in “Time Out,” a rhythm and blues band featuring members of the team’s security staff and guest appearances by players, to bring smiles to San Diego’s elderly and forgotten as adult day-care facilities, nursing homes convalescent homes throughout the County.

“Dick does so much for so many, yet never expects anything in return,” said Chargers President Dean Spanos. “He’s always the man behind the scenes making good things happen, whether it’s providing food and support for our homeless or entertaining our senior citizens in convalescent homes with his band, Time Out. He has a huge heart, and we’re proud he’s a member of the Chargers’ family.”

Lewis has a locker room full of disciples who join him regularly during his countless missions of good will.

"I have never met a person with a heart as big as Mr. Lewis,” said wide receiver Malcom Floyd. “He reassures my belief that it's better to give than to receive and I thank him for it."
Veteran defensive end Jacques Cesaire added: "Dick is the most selfless guy I know. I've gone with him to the Salvation Army to feed the homeless a few times over the years and I'm  amazed each visit at how much time and effort he gives to those who really need help. He's a class act all the way. He's inspired me to be a better person for my community."
"Dick is like a grandfather figure for us all,” said defensive tackle Antonio Garay. “He has so much love in his heart. He just does good deeds because that's what in his heart, not because he's looking for anything in return. He always wants to help. He always listens. He's always trying to come up with a solution for people's problems. We're very fortunate to have an example like him."
Jason Perry, who spent three of his four NFL seasons playing for the Chargers in 1999-01, is a long-time contributor with Lewis. He said Lewis inspired him by calling attention to the dire needs of many San Diegans.

“I started coming to serve every week I could because Dick showed me that this is more important than the fame,” Perry said. “There is this true need, whether it’s helping the homeless, mentoring these young men or just throwing the football around – something important is happening here and it’s because of Dick Lewis.”

Though he shies away from attention, his good deeds have not gone unnoticed.

In 2010, the Salvation Army honored Lewis with its Partners in Mission Award for his dedication to helping the homeless. Lewis became the first San Diego-area citizen ever to win the award. The award, presented during National Salvation Army Week, recognizes service, heart, passion and commitment to the Salvation Army’s mission of doing the most good for those in need.

Lewis was honored by the San Diego Police Museum in February 2010 in honor of Black History Month.

During his tenure in the SDPD, he worked as a patrol officer, a member of the department’s school task force and an assistant to the Chief of Police for community relations. He is highly regarded for his work in keeping a lid on racial tension and gang activities in San Diego during the 1970s and ’80s. while in Vietnam he earned numerous accolades, including a Purple Heart, a Vietnam Service Medal, and three National Defense & Good Conduct Awards.

To quote Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Dick Lewis has made a life by making lives better.
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