Bryant Hileman is a local man with a big heart – he’s fervently trying to help those in need. He began HEART USA which would later become the model for a statewide program called Kentucky Prescription Assistance Program (KPAP). He is a father of four who is in the process of implementing his next big program in the Pomona Project. iMeet this inspirational man who knows first-hand the difficulties of those in need.
Welcome to iMeet, Bryant. We’re excited to find out more about you...
I grew up in a rural part of southern Illinois. It was the second poorest county in the state and bordered the first. I often watched good people struggle with situations they never should have had to endure. When you grow up that way, you assume that’s how the entire world works. I feel fortunate for being exposed to the human side of poverty. The majority of people in poverty manage to live their lives with grace.
Tell us about your family…
I’m married with four children. A majority of the children seem to actually like me, so if this were baseball I would be an MVP champion with that high of a batting average!
Tell us about Project Pomona...
All of my projects, from Heart USA, Project Helios, to Project Pomona address community needs in a sustainable way. I believe we have to build on what we have. Having tight budgets or scarce resources is not an excuse to cross our arms and ignore problems. It means the opposite. We have to be creative, actually listen to the people who have needs instead of scolding them and organize around those problems with sustainable solutions.
We have close to $10,000 raised so far. We have partnerships with Mercy Health Lourdes Hospital, Paducah Cooperative Ministry, and Family Service Society. The money raised will help transform a vacant lot in the City of Paducah into the first ever nonprofit dwarf apple orchard. The fruit produced from this orchard will help stock the shelves of the Paducah Cooperative Ministry and Family Service society food pantries for decades to come.
What inspires you about Project Pomona?
We have 2,900 food-insecure children in our community. That’s just unacceptable. Donating food is more important than ever, and each of us should do it, but we also need to develop a sustainable solution to address the increasing problem of food insecurity. Doing it with healthy, fresh food is even better. Healthy food is a human right.
How can we help?
People can donate here.
Why is this project close to your heart?
When I was a child the adults seemed like the ancient Gods. Some were merciful and some were cruel. I never understood why anyone with the awesome power of being an adult wouldn’t do everything they could to make things better.
As a child you have no power, and these adults would walk around with what seemed like unlimited power, but they didn’t always use that power for good. How could adults allow kids to go hungry? How could adults allow kids to be homeless? How could adults allow violence against the vulnerable? I couldn’t understand, and to be honest I still don’t.
We have lost our way when these things are no longer a priority. I’m the adult now. What would I say to my 5-year-old self if I didn’t do everything in my power to make things better? I wouldn’t be able to look that kid in the eye. He would be disappointed in me, and he would still be right.
What do you do for a living when you're not working on this project?
Twelve years ago I co-founded HEART USA. HEART USA would later become the model for a statewide program called KPAP. In 2008 the Kentucky legislature passed a law creating the KPAP program. For the past 10 years for KPAP I have organized communities in more than 100 counties across Kentucky to help our friends and neighbors find free prescription medications. Because of that effort we have found over $500,000,000 in free medications. Half a billion dollars in free meds is exciting, and I can’t wait to do half a billion more!
What are other ways people can contribute if they can't donate money?
The muscles in your back. Next spring we will begin planting the trees. We will have 76 of them to plant. We could use all the help we can get. We will announce the details next spring on how to sign up.
What do you like to do in your free time?
My free time is spent enjoying my family or working on community-based projects, If I had more free time, I would end up just doing those things even more.
What's your favorite genre of music?
I only have one favorite genre of music. The Hi Fi Ninja. The lead singer is mean to me, but I like their music anyway.
Tell us three unique things about yourself that even your friends might not know...
I hit a game winning double in a baseball tournament to win first place.
I’m proficient at breakdancing.
I have a Professional Sports Authenticator graded complete set of Topps baseball cards, ranked 5th in the world, of the 1961 St. Louis Cardinals!
Would you rather eat only pizza for the rest of your life or never eat pizza again?