Even on his most stressful days, Jim Godbout carves out moments to give back to his community because it brings joy to his life.

Godbout’s commitment to the communities that helped him when he needed it most has inspired hundreds of volunteers to come together to mentor teens, educate students about the dangers of substance abuse and band together to save and restore Biddeford’s beloved Waterhouse Field.

“It gives me a good feeling inside to help others. If someone hasn’t had that feeling before, it’s something they need to experience,” said Godbout, owner of a plumbing and heating business. “I always tell my guys this every day: ‘We’re only here a very short time. See what you can do to make a difference in someone else’s life.'”

Godbout, 55, says he grew up fairly poor in Saco. His family fell apart after his twin brother died of leukemia at age 5. After his father left, Godbout went to work to help support his younger brothers, relying on the generosity of his aunts and mentors in the trades to help him through his teens. By 17, he was coaching Little League and finding other ways to help people around him. Over the years, he has coached youth sports and became president of the Waterhouse Field Association, the nonprofit that owns and rents the field to the city of Biddeford for youth sports.

When Waterhouse Field was shut down because its bleachers were deemed unsafe, Godbout organized volunteers to take down 6,000 seats in one day and inspired a campaign to reopen the field in time for the fall sports season.

“People respond to him because he never asks people to do something that he wouldn’t do,” said Jeremy Ray, superintendent of Biddeford schools. “That’s what’s inspiring about him. He clearly does it for no other reason than to do good.”

Godbout, who lives in Saco, joined the Biddeford-Saco Rotary Club 15 years ago because he identified with its “tremendous mission to help others.” Rotary has the resources to help continue the work he loves, including programs to train teens to work in the trades and fill labor shortages. Godbout spearheaded an initiative with the Biddeford Regional Center of Technology for students torenovate and sell tax-acquired properties given to the program by the city.

Since the 1970s, 52 of Godbout’s friends, colleagues and students have died from substance use and abuse, he said. Motivated by those losses to help make a culture change, he challenged his Rotary Club to tackle the issue. The Red Ribbon Committee now develops and supports educational programming about substance abuse in Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach schools.

Even after years of volunteer work, Godbout said he still is sometimes moved to tears by the way people in the community will come together to help others.

“I hope what I do becomes a little infectious in the community and others give back a little too,” he said.

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