Durham’s fisherman-philanthropist JT Tate proves that giving – in all its forms – can transform the lives of those around us.
Barron J Damon, host of the Giving While Black podcast, sat down with JT Tate to dive into his inspiring journey of using fishing to make a difference in his community. JT shared his story, revealing how he turned his passion into a philanthropic organization dedicated to changing lives, one cast at a time.
Born and raised in Durham, JT faced the challenges of growing up in a broken home. His parents' separation could have set him on a perilous path, but a family member intervened.
Discovering the Healing Powers of Fishing
JT's uncle recognized the importance of guiding his young nephew away from the pitfalls of the streets. He introduced JT to fishing – a simple yet profound act that would alter the course of his life.
JT's childhood fishing experiences, both with his father and his street-savvy uncle, instilled a deep love for the sport. He believes that without these early exposures to fishing, he might have ended up on a dangerous trajectory. Little did he know that this passion for fishing would later become the cornerstone of his philanthropic efforts.
As an adult, JT found himself working in the school system, and this is where his journey toward philanthropy truly began. He realized he had a gift for connecting with young people, and he wanted to make a proactive impact on their lives.
Instead of reacting to behavioral issues, he aimed to prevent them. Thus, the "Sons" program was born. This initiative provided troubled youth with an opportunity to improve their academics and behavior, with the reward being a fishing trip with Mr. Tate himself.
JT's voice brightened as he recounted those early fishing trips with his students. For many of them, it was their first experience with nature, the outdoors, and the calming serenity of a fishing expedition.
These outings served as a profound contrast to their inner-city lives. They marveled at turtles, deer, swans, and ducks, experiencing a world they had never known. The impact was undeniable, and JT saw the transformative power of fishing.
Creating a Nonprofit
Years later, JT was compelled to establish "Casting Your Cares Fishing," a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing not only fishing experiences but also an escape from the pressures of life. The name reflects his vision - to help people cast away their worries, if only for a short while, and immerse themselves in the therapeutic joy of fishing.
"Casting Your Cares Fishing" is not just about catching fish; it's about fostering an appreciation for nature, relaxation, and the importance of taking a break from the daily grind. JT's organization provides everything needed for a day of fishing, from rods and reels to bait and chairs, ensuring that finances are never an obstacle to experiencing the joys of fishing.
What sets JT Tate apart as a philanthropist is his belief that you don't need immense wealth to make a difference. He debunked the common misconception that philanthropy requires vast financial resources. In his own words, "You don't have to have a lot of money. And if you don't have a lot of money, you can still give. Give $1. It's all about making things happen for the next person."
JT's philanthropic journey has been deeply personal and rooted in his own experiences. He attributes his commitment to giving back to his uncle, who invested time and resources in him when he needed it most. Today, JT continues to emulate that generosity by ensuring that every young person who joins his fishing excursions is equipped with the tools and experiences they need to thrive.
His commitment to philanthropy extends beyond the youth, encompassing the elderly, making sure everyone has an opportunity to connect with the outdoors and each other.
One of his proudest moments as a philanthropist was organizing a fishing trip for seniors. Many of these individuals had never fished before, and witnessing their joy and amazement as they reeled in fish was immensely gratifying.
Giving Your Time, Not Money
JT's philanthropic journey is a testament to the idea that philanthropy isn't just about giving money; it's about giving your time, talent, and resources to create meaningful experiences and opportunities for others. He embodies Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s belief that "everybody can be great because everybody can serve."
JT’s philanthropic journey is far from over. He dreams of providing homes for those in need and continuing to introduce young people to the wonders of fishing and the great outdoors.
JT Tate's story is a testament to the power of passion and purpose in philanthropy. He has shown that you don't need vast resources to make a difference; all you need is a heart full of compassion and a willingness to cast your cares away and reel in dreams for others.
If you have a passion, something that you really love, don't keep it to yourself; share it with others. Check out the Giving While Black podcast series to hear more about black people and people of color who are giving back to their local communities, nationally, and internationally.