Difference Maker: John Spear using serial volunteerism to help youth, community

John Spear (Photo by Aaron Eisenhauer)

John Spear’s willingness to help others dates back to his childhood. That volunteer spirit has not changed.

“Even as a young child I’ve really always looked forward to the Friends of the Park days where everybody goes out and cleans up the parks,” Spear said. “I just think that lending a helping hand was just in my DNA from day one, and I always try to help out.”

However, as an adult, Spear worked in retail and rarely had time to volunteer. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing a career change. Spear made the decision to go into real estate. One reason this new job appealed to Spear was its more flexible schedule. He would have time to pitch in again.

“I wanted to have time to do mentoring and community service like Old Town Cape litter pickups and volunteer in my kid’s school,” Spear said. “Real estate lets me make my own schedule, and that was huge for me.”

When Spear joined the team at Edge Realty, he discovered the satisfaction of helping people find a home they will love forever. He said while he found similarities between retail and real estate, he approaches the home buying experience from the opposite direction.

“I’m no longer trying to talk a client into making a purchase,” Spear said. “In real estate, I probably spend half my time talking clients out of what I think is the wrong home for them.”

As a fellow member of the Cape Girardeau community, Spear said he wants to be sure he’s “doing people right.”

In 2022, Spear was given the Southeast Missouri Realtors Community Service Award for his community involvement.

Taking full advantage of the flexibility gained from his new career, that community involvement includes serving as vice president on the United Way of Southeast Missouri Board of Directors and as president of the Southeast Missouri State University Redhawks Club.

As a mentor through the NEXT Project, which shines a spotlight on Southeast Missouri youth who are thinking “big picture” about the future, Spear was connected with one student. However, when he heard another student was without a mentor, he said he would be “happy to double up, because I wanted him to have that same experience.”

“Both these kids, they’re just impressive young men, and they could mentor and teach me,” Spear said.

When his friend, Roy Diamond, approached him with the idea of providing breakfast to Cape Central athletes on game days, Spear said he was thrilled to join in. Spear and Diamond started the program with the football team in fall 2023 and continued through the basketball and baseball seasons. Spear said he hopes the tradition will be a lasting one.

“We get out there and grill breakfast — pancakes, sausage, bacon — just give them a good hearty breakfast on game day,” Spear said. “It helps to take the burden off the school and the coaches and the players’ families that normally would have to try to provide that stuff.”

Spear credits his volunteer spirit to community members he witnessed while growing up. He saw them in the congregation at church and said he looked up to them and the way they treated others “the right way,” in his opinion.

He said the coaches he had while playing sports with the Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department were an even bigger influence on his mindset.

“They took time out of their busy lives to work with these kids,” Spear said. “They helped every child be a little bit better and really put that care and effort into it.”

Spear said he tries to continue that tradition, not only in sports by coaching his own son’s soccer team but also in the community. He said he tries to encourage and inspire others to help out by leading with action.

“I get people all the time saying, ‘Man, you’re everywhere doing everything,’” Spear said. “I appreciate that, but I tell them, ‘You know, if you do a little bit more, I could do a little bit less.’ I say that half-jokingly, but at the same time, there is some truth to that.”

Three years ago, when he decided to change his career from retail management to real estate, Spear said he thought a lot about how it might change the way his son looked at him.

“At that time, he was only 8 years old,” Spear said. “I thought, you know, I’m never gonna be at my kid's career day doing work at a counter in a retail store. So, I really wanted to be somebody he could be proud of. Him and my wife, as well.”