For a while, not even Bergen Davis’ mom knew he was doing it.
When he was around 15 years old, Davis would save up money working as a lifeguard, and then quietly he’d make a trip to a grocery store. He’d pick up a couple bags worth of groceries and then drive downtown to the Glory Hall (which was known as the Glory Hole at the time) homeless shelter.
He wasn’t looking for credit, but just wanted to give what he had. His mother, Amy Bowers, said she didn’t know Davis was doing that until one day he asked her if she could help him get groceries at Costco — the deals were much better there and he could get more for his money.
Davis’ desire to give back was apparent early on, Bowers said.
“Bergen has just always had a heart, I think, for other people and he always reaches out,” Bowers said. “Ever since he was tiny, he’s reached out to people he saw that kind of needed to be brought into the fray. He was willing to give what he had.”
As a child, Davis attended church and participated in tithe — giving a portion of your money to your church. Davis didn’t have much to give, of course, but he gave what he had. Eventually, he wanted to have a more personal experience with his donations.
“As I grew up, I wanted to do something, rather than just giving money to my church or something like that,” Davis said. “I wanted to do something more personal, where I could really see the impact. Like, I could actually go to the Glory Hole and give them something. It was really cool getting to meet people there and people are grateful and it makes it a lot more personal.”
So he started doing that, bringing groceries and spending some of this time at the shelter. He met a variety of shelter patrons over the years, and said it was valuable to get to know them.
Though Davis, who is currently 18 and a freshman at Oklahoma Christian University, wasn’t looking for recognition or attention, a statewide contest recently honored him.
Alaska Communications’ annual Summer of Heroes program scours the state searching for young people who are making a difference in their communities. This year’s crop includes six people, Manager of Corporate Communications Heather Marron said. Marron said Davis is the first recipient from Juneau in the program’s eight-year history.
Alaska Communications awards all its recipients with a $1,500 scholarship, and at Monday’s City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting, Davis was presented with a large ceremonial check. Mayor Beth Weldon, who knows Davis, spoke about him for a few minutes and a full house in the Assembly chambers gave him a round of applause.
Afterward, Davis reflected on the work he’d done and said getting involved isn’t as difficult as some people believe it is.
“Just begin with doing whatever you can,” Davis said. “I know some people think, ‘I only have $10 to give’ or, ‘I only have two hours of time,’ whatever it is, start somewhere. You don’t have to be able to fix homelessness in Juneau. Start where you can and do something you can do to help, because every little bit helps.”
Davis, who was homeschooled, was a standout swimmer in high school and currently swims for Oklahoma Christian. He’s studying business, but isn’t sure yet what exactly he wants to do for a career. He said he’s starting to get involved with a church there, but the adjustment to college and swim practice has taken most of his time.
Bowers stood in the back of the Assembly chambers and watched with pride as Davis held the huge check and shook Weldon’s hand.
“It’s the best you can hope for your kids,” Bowers said, “is for them to grow up and love other people.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.