Spotlight: Author with a purpose

courtesy Lorimer Press

courtesy Lorimer Press

by Jessie Ammons

Paul Leonard has always been an intentional observer. “When I have experiences and they move me, I write about it,” he says. “I don’t necessarily journal every day, but when I see something that means something to me, I try to capture it.”

He’s been privy to quite a few of these moments, first as a Presbyterian minister in Charlotte who founded a non-traditional church focused on community action and service, and then as president of a real estate company, where his focus was using federal housing programs to build low- and moderate-income housing. He ultimately served as an interim CEO of Habitat for Humanity and remains a member of the U.S. Council for Habitat for Humanity International. Over the past 40 years, Leonard’s captured moments have amounted to inspiration worth sharing.

His new book, When the Spirit Moves, is a collection of personal stories from his life and his faith. “Some of these were written as a Mother’s Day card to my wife,” he says of the poems, essays, litanies, and short stories. This is his third book; he’s also written a book that provided an inside look at Habitat for Humanity, and a memoir.

When the Spirit Moves isn’t the sort of title you pick up and read cover to cover, though. “One reader told me she kept it on her bedside table and picked it up each night to read something at random,” Leonard says. “That’s the kind of book this is.”

Leonard’s upcoming author appearance at Quail Ridge Books is also atypical. Instead of the standard meet-and-greet event, the Davidson resident will first spend a few days here leading workshops with four local nonprofits and counseling them on working together.

“There is a lot of pride and ownership in getting a nonprofit started,” Leonard says, “but there comes a point in time when that needs to be laid aside to look at other people and other nonprofits doing similar things, to think of how you can all work more efficiently and effectively.” Leonard has seen how easy it is for local nonprofits to be distracted by competing with one another for limited resources. “It just takes a little bit of a different perspective,” he says, “and then we can look at how we can cooperate.”

Don’t miss Leonard’s appearance at Quail Ridge Books, when folks from Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, StepUp Ministry Raleigh, StepUp Ministry North Carolina, and Wheels4Hope will also be on hand to speak about their workshop, from which those in the nonprofit community – or in any line of work – might glean a few pointers.

When the Spirit Moves is about “using faith, trust, love, and commitment to lead more meaningful lives,” Leonard says. “That can apply to everything and everybody.”