Mike Parham, founder of Texas-based Noah’s Ark Development, heard a call to create more than a successful self-storage business. In 1996, he formed the In His Steps Foundation (IHS), a nonprofit organization designed exclusively for charitable, religious and educational purposes. Numerous charities, students and churches have benefited from IHS funding. The seed of it all was planted by one little boy with a heartbreaking story: Russian-born Andrey McNaughtan.
During a pastor visit to Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital in San Antonio, Parham met Andrey’s adoptive mother, schoolteacher Pam McNaughtan. She told him of the boy’s brief and already harrowing past. Before his first birthday, Andrey was abandoned and left to die in a Russian orphanage. Born with nearly half his right ribcage missing, Andrey had an underdeveloped lung. He also suffered from severe congenital scoliosis, a misshaping of the spine.
When Andrey was 2 years old, Pam and Greg Roberts of New Zealand adopted him with little knowledge of the seriousness of his condition. A pediatric-orthopedic surgeon explained the urgency of a titanium-rib implant surgery to save the boy’s life. However, the technology was only available at Santa Rosa. Each visit would cost the family approximately $35,000 in New Zealand currency; 30 visits would be necessary throughout Andrey’s early years.
Inspired to help, Parham developed IHS to raise funds for the surgeries. “Andrey is now an active 12-year-old, expected to live a long and normal life because of technology and the love of others,” says Erin Keene, director of marketing for Noah’s Ark Development.
Since its first charitable mission, IHS has continued to aid those in need. The organization gave financial relief to a family whose provider was unable to work due to muscular scoliosis; a local church brought attention to the man’s hardships. In the spirit of “teach a man to fish,” the charity helped family members establish a home-based business to ensure they would have a livelihood into the future.
Every Thanksgiving, IHS supports the Eagle Scout bunk-bed project for the local Miracle Mansion. The effort enables hungry families to eat and celebrate together, and homeless families to sleep safely and warmly. IHS also donates to the Ronald McDonald House.
Recently, IHS awarded five recipients for its Col. Clayton R. Eldredge Memorial Scholarship, which assists college-bound students in financial need. The scholarship requires students maintain a 2.5 grade point or better. This year’s winners are:
- Leigh Gregiore, second-year student at Abilene Christian University
- Alexis S. Pack, first-year student at Blinn Junior College
- Bobbi Martin, first-year student at Oklahoma Baptist University
- Peter Lewis, second-year student at University of Texas San Antonio
- Fritz Loeschel, first-year student at University of Texas San Antonio
Act of Faith
Parham doesn’t stand alone in his dedication to IHS. The foundation is funded by the employees of Noah’s Ark Development, NDS Construction and Joshua Management Corp. Victor Lopez, president of NDS Construction, is a trustee as well as a contributor, as is Leatine Fasano, vice president of Noah’s Ark Development. Fasano also oversees the foundation’s books, gifts and contributions, and correspondence. Other donations and labor for upcoming church-building projects will come from many of the companies’ employees.
Parham says giving is an act of faith—a duty inseparable from his deep religious beliefs. “Those who give from the heart understand they are only stewards of what they have received, gratefully knowing God is the rightful owner,” he says. “Therefore, whenever they are called to give, they do it without question.”
The religion-based IHS organization takes pride in participating in outreach programs to spread Christian teachings. Through the Mission of Mercy-Bethesda, the foundation supported 36 children in several Third World countries. IHS also contributed $18,900 to Mission Resource to build a chapel in Romania. Foundation members intend to do far more than donate dollars to the project—they want to “physically go over to help in the construction of the church and to witness to the community,” Keene says. Due to political unrest in the area, however, the foundation has been forced to delay travel plans until a tentative departure in 2005.
As IHS’s charitable activities reach beyond the borders, they stand as a clear testament to the influence of one human being’s inspiration—and the power of a single child to serve as spark.
Noah’s Ark Development, based in Bulverde, Texas, is the producer of the Noah’s Ark Self Storage chain in Florida and Texas. NDS Construction has designed and built more than 250 properties totaling more than 8 million square feet in the past 20 years. Joshua Management is the property-management firm responsible for the day-to-day leasing and operational activities of the Noah’s Ark chain and a variety of other properties for investor groups. For more information, visit www.noahsgp.com.