Don Neal: ‘Never met a stranger’ demeanor opening doors

Originally published at Western Recorder –

Richmond – Don Neal has a “never met a stranger” personality that is ideal for serving in the greeter’s ministry at First Baptist Church of Richmond.

“His favorite thing to do is to be a greeter at the door of the church,” Floyd Price, director of senior adults at First Baptist, said. “He is very involved. He thinks if you’re going to be a part of a church, you’d better participate, so he participates in almost everything we do.”

Neal and his wife, Donna, joined the church after moving to Richmond in 2007 to be near their son, Lance, and two grandchildren. Neal and his wife have two children, their son and a daughter, Sonja, who lives in St. Louis.

“My wife and I have been married for 51 years. First thing we ever did when we got to town was look in the yellow pages and try to find a Southern Baptist church,” Neal, who grew up in a faithful Baptist home and has been a deacon in various churches for 68 years, said.

“We had visited the church numerous times throughout the years, so whenever we moved down here it was pretty much a no-brainer to join First Baptist,” he continued. “We really found a home there.”

Immediately after joining, Neal found his heart in the greeter ministry. He was the chairman of the ministry for about eight years, until he decided to give up the responsibility this past January. He still uses his time to be a greeter each Sunday.

“My personality is that I have never met a stranger. I just walk up someone and say, ‘Hi I’m Don Neal. How are you?’ and strike up a conversation. I guess some other people saw that right away and put me in charge of the greeter ministry,” he said.

He added, infusing his humility, “Maybe they didn’t have anybody any better. I wasn’t much, but I was all they had or something like that.”

Neal retired from the Navy in 1993 after 20 years. He officially retired from the workforce in 2007. He now uses his time to not only serve in the greeter’s ministry, but also to help with the senior adult ministry.

“Don is such a committed Christian, and his commitment is with senior adults at this point in time,” Price commented.

“It’s meeting and encouraging and supporting people and doing what you can to make their life a little bit easier, a little bit better,” Neal said.

He praised the director of senior adults for the things that he has done to help the ministry grow, including weekly luncheons and regular day trips.

“Basically, since he’s been here in the last seven years, our senior adult ministry grew from having 35 at a luncheon to where now we’re having 85-125. Things have really taken off under the leadership of Floyd Price,” he said.

When Price retires in six months, Neal hopes to see the group continue to grow. He said that will be part of his job as chairman of the senior adult council.

“It’s hard to explain. I guess you find something that you’re good at or something that you like and no one can make you want to do it. You have to want to do it,” Neal said.

“Like with the greeter ministry, I don’t do it because I have to. I do it because I want to and I enjoy it,” he explained. “With senior adults, it’s pretty much the same way.” (WR)