By Melissa Goslin
Sonny Floyd, founder of Floyd Properties and Development, understands communities are built from more than bricks and mortar. He’s constructed buildings in and around Fayetteville for over sixty years, leaving an indelible mark on the city’s landscape. His greatest legacy, however, is less concrete. Through ministry and outreach, Floyd has strengthened and fortified the lives of the people who live here.
“That’s my hero,” Greg Floyd said, pointing down the hall of his Arsenal Avenue office toward his father, Sonny Floyd. At 86-years-old, Floyd still comes into the office, although he leaves business operations to his sons, Greg and Steve. He trusts them and he should… he taught them everything they know.
Steve got his first hammer at age 13 and went to work at Texas Truss making roof trusses. After three summers there, Floyd let him join the framing crew during high school. Finally, while at Methodist College (now Methodist University), Steve moved to the inside trim crew, staying on permanently after graduation.
Greg’s path to the family business wasn’t as straight forward. He considered careers in medicine and missionary work, but eventually, he took an engineering degree from North Carolina State University and hasn’t looked back.
“Daddy let him literally learn from the trenches. He was down in the ditches, laying sewer pipe to start. That’s the engineering side of building,” Steve said.
Floyd taught his boys not to cut corners.
“Daddy couldn’t stand to let anyone sleep longer than him, so Saturday mornings were about rakes and shovels. There were no video games and cell phones back then, so we got outside. And I’m glad. He gently guided us and showed us the right way to do things,” Steve said.
“He also showed us how to forgive people and how to treat people,” Greg said. “Because people liked him, they worked hard for him.”
Steve appreciated the way his father made people feel like they worked with him and not for him. It’s a principle they’ve carried on since Floyd turned the company over to them, one passed down from Floyd’s own father, Soggie.
“My old man raised me with the philosophy that you sit at my table, so when I work, you work,” Sonny said. “I value a dollar bill because they were hard to come by growing up.”
Floyd grew up walking behind a tobacco plow south of Fayetteville in Fairmont, NC. He held several jobs, including driving a Curtis candy bar delivery truck, before joining the Marines at age 17. In 1951, he built his first house in Fayetteville alongside his brother-in-law J.P. Riddle. Then, in 1953, they started building in Drake Park. The rest, as they say, is history. In 1980, Floyd renamed his business and handed over the reigns to his sons.
Answering the Call
At age 50, Floyd felt the tug of a higher purpose on his life. He gave his life to Jesus Christ. It was something his golf buddies chocked up to a phase and they gave it a year to pass. But it didn’t. Instead, he dug in and let his real life’s work begin. Floyd began to construct more than buildings. He started to see needs in the community and he did his best to fill them.
In 1980, Floyd helped build Calvary Chapel at its initial Ireland Drive location where he also helped build and begin Fayetteville Christian School. There, he felt called by what he found in scripture, specifically the words in Isaiah 58:6-10, which outline the true fast of sharing your food with the hungry and oppressed. Through the Salvation Army, Floyd founded the Love Lunches program, renting out an old building and providing food and devotionals to 150 homeless people per day. The program grew so rapidly, Floyd and the others were afraid it might dissolve. So, they raised around two million dollars for the new building on Alexander and handed the program fully to the Salvation Army.
Floyd continued to help wherever he was needed, as President of Full Gospel Businessmen and part of the Set Free Prison Ministries. True to his character, Floyd worked in the trenches, bringing pizza and drinks to the prisoners and praying with them one-on-one.
In 1982, Floyd embarked on his biggest mission yet when he opened a local chapter of Operation Blessing.
“The Lord called me to do that one,” Floyd laughs. “I’d have never done that on my own.”
The organization offers food and clothing, emergency financial assistance and parenting support to people in crisis.
“It’s my aim to make sure people know they have worth and value regardless of their circumstances,” Operation Blessing executive director Peggy Middleton said. “People deserve your best when they are at their worst.”
In 1996, after experiencing loss and difficulty in her own life, Middleton joined Operation Blessing. She also credits her involvement with divine intervention.
“God prepared me so that when I talk to people, I don’t just sympathize, but I know how it feels to be in their situation. It’s a calling and an opportunity to not only give back, but to stay human. Life touches us all in different ways and in different seasons,” Middleton said.
Floyd still sits on the board and takes an active role in Operation Blessing. “When he believes in a vision, he supports it whole heartedly,” Middleton said.
One of the programs Floyd is most proud of is Earn While You Learn, giving parents the opportunity to earn “baby bucks” by attending a twelve-week course covering important topics such as parental well-being, child safety and budgeting. Graduates can spend their earnings in the Operation Blessing baby store on items like brand new pack-and-plays, strollers and cribs.
The food pantry provides four days worth of food to families in crisis, and the clothes closet ensures people have something clean and seasonally appropriate to wear. Since the mission of Operation Blessing is to help people in crisis, they partner with other agencies and organizations that provide sustainable assistance to the people they assist.
Last year alone, they served over 11,000 household members. For Floyd and Middleton both, the true reward is in seeing people return, often bringing back their children and sharing their stories—of hope and health and what was possible because of the blessings they received.