Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 29
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
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Princeton Personality by Jean Stratton

BIKING FOR OTHERS: “I loved riding my bike, and I began to think that there might be something I could do to help people that could include bike riding.” That thought led Charles P. (Chuck) Inman, Jr. to establish the Battle Against Hunger Bike Tour. He is shown riding near Gettysburg, Pa. in the 2005 tour.

Fighting to Eliminate Hunger Is the Mission and Ministry of Charles P. (Chuck) Inman, Jr.

“Many people have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”

Charles P. (Chuck) Inman, Jr. would surely agree with this thought from Helen Keller. His unswerving dedication and commitment has been a potent force throughout his life.

A strong Christian faith, desire to help others, enthusiasm for everything he undertakes, and his love of family create the foundation of his life of service to others.

A highly decorated helicopter pilot in Vietnam, seriously wounded in the line of duty; a university professor, a successful businessman, and founder of the non-profit Battle Against Hunger organization, Mr. Inman focused on service to others at an early age, notes his friend of 53 years, Bob Riggan of Richmond, Virginia.

“Chuck comes by his giving nature from his mom and dad. They did a lot for other people, and they were a real example to Chuck. He will do anything for anybody. Since he has moved to Princeton, it doesn’t surprise me that he continues to be involved in the fight against hunger. Whatever cause he takes up, he is very dedicated. He’s also an all-around great person.”

Baby Boomer

A member of the Baby Boom generation, Chuck was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1946. His father, Charles P. Inman, Sr., had served in the infantry in World War II, and his mother, Evelyn, was a teacher and business woman. His sister Carol is four years younger than Chuck.

He liked school, and attended John Marshall High School in Richmond. Math, science, and history were his favorite subjects, and he especially remembers one teacher.

“Mrs. Hulcher was my favorite teacher. She taught a lot of math, including algebra and pre-calculus. She was just a great teacher.”

Chuck played on a league basketball team, as well as on the football and tennis teams, and ran track. He also loved riding his bike over a wide area. As he got older and bigger (eventually growing to 6 feet four inches), he piled his golf clubs on his bike and rode off to the golf course.

“From about the age of five to 13, I went to the movies every Saturday afternoon. My mom would drop us off, gave me a quarter, and with that, I could get a hair cut, buy the movie ticket. and have something left for candy! I especially liked the westerns.”

Chuck was also a Boy Scout, and involved in his church youth group during high school. This had a profound impact on his understanding of living as a Christian.

Role Models

In addition, he worked in the family business (established in 1880) after school and on weekends. “It was the Chas E. Brauer Company, which was a wholesale distributor of candy, tobacco, and institutional food. As far back as I can remember, my grandfather and then my father, were involved in helping to provide food for the hungry.

“I really admired my father and grandfather, and also my uncle, Seabury Stoneburner. He was a PT boat commander in John Kennedy’s squadron in World War II. They were great role models for me. They worked hard and were family people.”

Mr. Inman likes to recall an incident in his early life when he went astray from the example set by these role models. An early entrepreneur at the age of five or six, with intentions not strictly on the up and up, he set out with his little sister, pulling her in a red wagon. “It was Thanksgiving, and we went door-to-door, asking the neighbors for candy, which we said was for the Red Cross. That wasn’t true. We intended to keep it ourselves.

“When we got home, my sister said to Mom, ‘Do you know what we did today? We collected candy.” Mom asked about it, and learning what actually happened, was not pleased. She made us go back to each house, tell the neighbors what we had done, and give back the candy.”

An early lesson in “honesty is the best policy”, he says, smiling.

The family spent much of the summer at the North River, some 60 miles from Richmond, where they had a boat. They also traveled to Maine, Chuck’s father’s home state.

Helicopter Ride

A love of flying emerged early, and Mr. Inman remembers a day when he was 10, and had his first helicopter ride. “My dad took me to meet a friend of his who flew helicopters in World War II. He took me up and showed me how to fly it.”

That first flight stayed with him. After graduating from high school, he spent two years at the University of Richmond, then left to join the army, intent upon flying helicopters.

He was successful, becoming a warrant officer, and was sent to Vietnam, where he flew 252 combat missions, and was shot down 13 times,

On one mission, he was instrumental in saving the life of his company commander, Major George Burrow, whose helicopter had been shot down. Many in the crew were wounded, and North Vietnamese soldiers were attacking them. As Mr. Inman describes it, his 2-man observation helicopter “was sitting at 1500 feet, and I told my gunner that we’d have to get down and help them. We radioed for assistance, and I went down to 750 feet, where my gunner could bring fire to the North Vietnam Army. In a few minutes (which seemed like an hour), there was an air strike, and then another helicopter came to pick up Major Burrow and his crew.”

In 1968, Warrant Officer Inman’s luck ran out, when his helicopter was shot down during the Tet Offensive, and he was severely wounded in his hand, arm, and face. There was a strong possibility he would lose his hand.

Doctors were able to rebuild it, however. He had 15 major surgeries, and spent two years in Walter Reed Army Hospital. Mr. Inman is the recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star, the Army Commendation Medal, and the Purple Heart, among many other decorations.

Teaching Instructor

After a medical discharge from the army, he returned to Richmond and went back to the university on the G.I. Bill. Majoring in accounting, and minoring in finance and economics, he graduated in 1972, first in his class. He enjoyed his college experience the second time around, noting, “I joined every society and club I could find, including accounting organizations and fraternities. And I tutored other students in accounting, and found I enjoyed teaching.”

After graduation, Chuck attended the University of Texas, earning a masters in taxation and computers. He was also a teaching instructor, and opened his own accounting practice. In addition, he took course work for a Ph.D, but didn’t finish the dissertation.

Chuck had married his University classmate, Pamela Buss, in 1970, and while they were in Texas, their son, Charles P. Inman III, was born.

Then, in 1978, the Inmans left for Miami, where he taught accounting at the University of Miami for five years.

Following that, he took a job at the international (“Big 8”) accounting firm of Peat Marwick Mitchell. “I was an accounting supervisor,” he says, “and it offered me an opportunity I wanted to try.”

He enjoyed the experience, but in 1983, he left to work as financial/operations officer for VIP Enterprises, a national paint manufacturing company. It was especially memorable because of the influence of the president of the company, Ivan Morales. “He was a big role model for me,” points out Mr. Inman. “He really taught me how to deal with people and size up business operations.”

Family Business

During the time he was there from 1983 to ’85, the company opened a second plant in San Francisco and a third in Memphis. Mr. Inman was responsible for opening each building and overseeing the operations.

“Then, my family wanted me to come home to the family business in Richmond,” he continues. “And I was glad to be back in Richmond. My job was to oversee operations and handle the finances.”

While in Richmond, he also became active in a number of volunteer programs and charities. He served as assistant Scoutmaster in charge of the Venture Scouting program, ages 14 to 18, very much enjoying the opportunity to mentor boys as they grew to young manhood.

In addition, he worked with the STEP program of his church, gathering food, clothing, and other items to distribute in the projects in eastern Richmond.

Then he became involved with the Central Virginia Food Bank, which provided food, clothing, and other supplies to its 400-plus agency network in central Virginia. He worked in all aspects of this operation — from separating food and stocking shelves to fund-raising and adding new agencies to serving on the board and eventually being named chairman of the board.

This was an enriching experience for him, he says, in particular, the interaction with the clients. “The personal time spent with these wonderful people helped me to ‘get’ it. These were people who had had bad luck or circumstances intervene in their lives, and we were offering them assistance to get back on their feet and to start living productive and enriched lives.”

New Opportunity

When the family business was sold in 1993, Mr. Inman had a new opportunity and new places to see. He worked in a mail order consulting business, which took him all over the country, from Virginia to New England to California. Eventually, it lead to another career change.

“One of our clients was the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA),” he explains. “Their contractor was having some trouble running the catalog business. So, we went to evaluate the operation in 1996. Their distribution center is in South River, N.J., and I was still living in Richmond, so from November to May, I commuted to New York.”

Mr. Inman became MoMA’s director of fulfillment operations, and was charged with its reorganization and development. “I make certain that the product we distribute gets to our customers quickly and efficiently. We re-designed operations so that business would function more effectively. We sell thousands of items from our distribution center, and many products are unique to the museum. My main job is to see that everything goes smoothly, that items are received, warehoused, and organized properly, so that shipments to our customers and retail stores can be picked, packed, and be delivered promptly in order to satisfy the customers’ specific requirements.

“This is probably the most enjoyable job I’ve had. I like the staff, the customers, and the products. I have been blessed to work with some highly creative people at the museum, and I’ve learned more about modern art. I’ve been able to hire a team and oversee administration, fulfillment, and customer service.”

Close Friends

Medardo Rios is operations manager at the distribution center, and has worked with Mr. Inman for many years. “Chuck is very hard-working, and he gives a lot of time to people. We have become very close friends. He is really like a part of me.

“He gives a lot of time to the Battle Against Hunger, but he is also a very good advisor if anyone needs help. He is a very nice person, always willing to give his time. He is a very good person.”

Attending church is an important part of the Inmans’ life, and after they moved to Princeton 13 years ago, they wanted to find one with a congenial fit.

“We had been members of small Bible study groups in Florida and Virginia,” explains Mr. Inman. “When we were moving, Pam had talked to some people in Virginia about this, and they had met a wonderful gentleman, George Gallup, who was in a small group in Princeton. At the time, he was attending All Saints in Princeton, so I went to All Saints with the express purpose of meeting George Gallup.”

They hit it off immediately, with each impressing the other with the strength of their convictions. As Mr. Gallup notes, “Chuck is a born leader — people are instantly drawn to him and his causes. If he had stayed in the armed forces, he would surely be a general by now. As it is, he is a five-star general in his favorite cause, the Battle Against Hunger.”

Mr. and Mrs. Inman joined the group headed by George and his late wife Kinny Gallup. It was a nice mix of people, he reports, including a chemistry professor, physician, teacher, and graduate students, representing ages from the early 20s to the 70s.

Different Groups

“One of the things I had been involved in in Virginia was Alpha, an idea out of England offering a chance to get a 14-week overview of Christianity,” explains Mr. Inman. “It helps people see the value of a Christian life, and George knew about Alpha.

“In our small group Bible study that met at George and Kinny’s, a number of us were at work with with different individuals and different groups to help others in some way. These were our individual forms of ministry. Kinny had once pointed out that there were so many people in our own area who were less fortunate and struggling. I realized I personally wanted to do something about that.”

This coincided with a time when Mr. Inman thought he needed to get more exercise, and he had taken up bike riding, something he had always loved as a boy. And he did so with fervor. He began by riding 10, 20, 50, 60 miles and more. Over one winter, he rode 3600 miles!

His background in food distribution had always remained in the forefront, and he considered the possibility of combining biking with raising money for food for those in need. “When I was on the board of the Central Virginia Food Bank, we distributed more than 8 million pounds of food a year,” he states. “I thought how can I put together distributing food with my bike riding? There is such a pressing need in the greater Trenton area, and God was telling me to get personally involved.”

Together with his wife, colleagues from work, and friends, he came up with an idea which would become the Battle Against Hunger. The plan was to focus on bike tours as a way to raise money. The group investigated various agencies and found that the Rescue Mission of Trenton and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) could be recipients of funds that would be raised.

“We went to see the Soup Kitchen and the Rescue Mission, and it was instant love with both directors and their missions. So I said, ‘we’ll have a bike ride, and people will contribute to ride, and also get sponsors to raise funds.”

Misty Day

Scouting possible destinations, they decided on Gettysburg, Pa., 200 miles away. As Mr. Inman recalls, “We went to Gettysburg, and it was a misty day. We really felt the presence of the ghosts of the soldiers who had fought there and died for the causes they believed in. Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War, and we felt this connection when we first came.”

The first ride took place in 2003, with five riders, including Mr. Inman, a support team of eight, and they raised $13,000. Last year, 33 riders participated, with 35 support staff, and $87,000 was raised. In the seven years since its inception, the Battle Against Hunger has raised $408,000.

“Some well-to-do benefactors help us with getting insurance and advertising, etc. Then, the riders each pay $260 to cover hotel and food expenses for the ride. In addition, riders are required to raise $750 from friends and sponsors. One hundred percent of these funds goes to the agencies,” he explains.

Rides are held the weekend after Labor Day, taking back roads to Gettysburg. It is a scenic ride through the Pennsylvania countryside, reports Mr. Inman, and riders range in age from their early twenties to 67.

In addition to the Rescue Mission and TASK, the Battle Against Hunger supports other agencies, including Crisis Ministry of Princeton, Atlantic City Rescue Mission, Jewish Family Services of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, Cast Your Cares, a Kensington, Philadelphia Food Pantry; and Toni’s Kitchen in Montclair.

The Battle Against Hunger was also instrumental in establishing “Kinny’s Walk” in honor of the late Kinny Gallup. This 1, 3, and 5-k walk is held in Mercer County Park the first weekend in June, and raises funds for Team Trenton, Mercer Street Friends, HomeFront, as well as the Rescue Mission, TASK, and Cast Your Cares.

Time and Effort

For the past five years, Battle Against Hunger has also sponsored the Children’s Ride on Pennington Day in Pennington. Approximately 40 children ride, and beneficiaries are TASK and the Rescue Mission.

For the time and effort he has expended in the fight against hunger, Mr. Inman has received honors and acknowledgment, including the 2005 Jefferson Award from The Times of Trenton, and in 2009, the George Washington Award for Human Development from the Trenton Cyrus Lodge #5 of Free and Accepted Masons in Pennington.

Grateful though he is for such recognition, he says, “What is most meaningful to me about the Battle Against Hunger is first, the ladies and gentlemen who are recipients, the look in their eyes, the look of hope. Second, is to see people who have not really seriously ridden a bike go 200 miles. To see them do that is inspiring.

“Through this, I have been able to work with people in Trenton, and I’ve had the opportunity to help them and be a mentor. It’s wonderful to help people who are trying to get a new start. When you can interact with people this way, you share yourself.

“It’s really important that people get involved, that they give back,” he continues. “We are all so blessed in this country, and there is so much opportunity to give back to others. That is something that was instilled in me by my father and grandfather.”

Mr. Inman is very pleased to have found such opportunities to help in the Princeton area, and he has become a fan of his new home town. “I think Princeton is the northern-most southern town,” he says, with a smile. “The people are open and loving — not anything like I thought New Jersey would be! People are so friendly If you go out and meet them, you see real, honest people.

“And, on my bike, I can ride and be out in the country in just a few miles. It’s beautiful countryside.”

Cultural Advantages

He and Mrs. Inman also enjoy the cultural advantages Princeton offers. “We go to plays at McCarter, and I also enjoy going to the University Art Museum on the campus.”

When they can, they travel to California to visit Mrs. Inman’s relatives, and also to Maine, where his family has a camp on a lake. In addition, they love spending time with their two-year-old granddaughter, Sydney, in Arlington, Virginia.

It is giving back, however, that informs his life and fills his days. He volunteers his time to help with accounting at the Trenton Museum Society, and through their church, St. Matthew’s Episcopal in Pennington, the Inmans sponsor a young boy in Honduras. They travel to a village there for a week once a year to help repair the orphanage and provide whatever other assistance is needed.

Mr. Inman has passed this strong sense of commitment on to his son Charlie, of whom he is very proud. “Charlie is a fine man, a wonderful son, husband, and father. I have told Charlie that you’ll be a success in life no matter what you do, if you see life as being made up of concentric circles. The center circle is God; the next circle around God is family; next is country; and next to that is friends and work. If you see life this way, you will be true to yourself and others.

Guiding Principle

“I have to say my proudest achievement is Pam and Charlie,” he continues. “To see how Pam has been the direct force for Charlie as he grew up has meant so much. She helped him know there was that little internal mechanism inside you that tells you what is right and wrong, and emphasizes the value of family.

“And for me, she was there when I came back from Vietnam and all I went through. You’re a young man, raised as a Christian, with that as a guiding principle, and then, suddenly, you’re in a war, in combat, and wounded. Pam was so supportive during that time, and throughout my schooling and Christian development. The most important person in my life since my parents and grandparents is Pam.”

He also deeply admires George Gallup, whom he has come to know well after moving to Princeton. “One of the people I try to emulate in my life is George Gallup. He is a wonderful man who truly lives a Godly life. And, at the same time, he is a very down-to-earth guy.”

Now, Mr. Inman is planning ahead for the next Battle Against Hunger Bike Tour, to be held September 10-12. This year, the tour will begin in Gettysburg and travel to Trenton, arriving in Cadwalader Park.

These tours and the Battle Against Hunger have become a major part of his life. As he points out, “We, in the Battle Against Hunger, believe passionately that no one in a place as plentiful as New Jersey should ever have to suffer the ravages of hunger. We are committed to uniting businesses, organizations, groups, and individuals throughout the area for the express purpose of assisting those who provide food and shelter to those in need.

“We believe a well-nourished citizen is an empowered citizen. Together, we can make a difference.”

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