Tim Jenkins, 70, Louisville, Kentucky
Tim Jenkins is in awe about how his life has turned around since he found Senior Games in 2018. At the time he had been homeless after decades of misfortune. “I was really homeless for most of my life,” he says. “Just because a house has four walls and a roof don’t make it a home.”
Tim grew up in a dysfunctional family. “No food. No toilet paper. No love except from my grandmother. My father deserted us at 14 after he had molested half of us. My first mentor molested me. I started doing acid (LSD) at 14. I only have a fourth-grade education, even though I got through eighth grade. I could not learn. I couldn’t even pass physical education.”
With limited education and skills, most of the work Tim could find was cash in hand jobs. His alcohol and drug use deepened (“I smoked crack from 1989 to 2010”) and he had given up hope. Then, when Tim’s roommate “got blown away” by a crack dealer he resolved to change his life. “After that, every time I got high, I felt God telling me I had been playing Russian Roulette with no bullets in the gun, but that I was now on my own.”
After being homeless for four years spanning five states, Tim heard about a tornado disaster in Alabama and moved there to volunteer to get himself back on track. He returned to Louisville and found a church that made him feel at home and encouraged his desire to minister to homeless people. “The Glory and Fire Worship Center in Fairdale supports me and really cares about the people that many others don’t,” he says emphatically.
Tim began weightlifting and bodybuilding. “But I thought I should be doing more than just flexing my muscles on a stage,” he recalls. “I prayed and asked God what can I do, and I felt Him say ‘Run’ deep down in my gut. I didn’t know what that meant.”
Then Tim learned about the Kentucky Senior Games and knew he had found his lane with track sprints. While still living out of his car, Tim started training himself and dropped 30 pounds. His 2018 debut yielded gold medals in both the 50- and 100-meter races. “The first time I ever heard a starting gun I set the Kentucky state record in the 50-meter race,” he says proudly.
Thanks to local help, Tim was given a small camper on a farm and gained a safe place to live. Having qualified, his next goal was to win a medal at the 2019 National Senior Games in Albuquerque. Finding the money to go seemed impossible until he was selected to receive a “Hand Up From Humana” grant in 2019 based on a nomination by the Kentucky Senior Games.
The learning experience from Tim’s national competition confirmed that he has the tools to be successful with more experience. “I have tremendous heart, determination, spirt and natural physical skill, kinda like Jim Thorpe,” he states. “I’ve learned about breathing, how to come out of the blocks and stuff like that by trial and error. I’m still a rookie with only 12 races, but I know I can be good.”
Tim is fired up to compete and win medals next year in both the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships and at the 2022 National Senior Games presented by Humana. More importantly, he’s established a foundation and set goals to ensure he is never homeless again.
“I’ve survived long enough to learn enough, and now I see the big picture,” he says firmly. “I feel like God wants me to tell my story to help change the lives of people in trouble. I hope I can get more people into Senior Games too.”