Name: Jon Costa
Where were you born and raised?
“I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1953 and lived in the Ninth Ward of the city growing up, but as an older teen my family moved to New Orleans East. As a young adult, I also lived and worked in that part of town. In 1978, I moved to Gadsden for a job with the State of Alabama. Since my dad grew up in the Ensley area of Birmingham, it was like a homecoming to live and raise my family here in Alabama.”
What is your occupation?
“I am a Licensed Social Worker here in Alabama, having started as a Child Protective Services Worker with the Etowah County Department of Pensions and Security. I remained with the agency for over 32 years, retiring as the director of that same but renamed Etowah County Department of Human Resources. Although I worked a couple of years after state retirement as a part-time program specialist with the Council on Aging of Etowah County, I retired again in 2015 when my uncle needed in-home care before passing away later that same year.”
What made you decide to work in your field?
“When I was a senior in high school sitting in a social studies class one day, I saw a video about a missions project and was impressed to help others in my life’s vocation. A short while later, a cousin shared with me about her work in a children’s home, and then I knew in my heart I wanted to be a social worker. As a result of that choice of major, even before I began college, God’s hand of provision guided me throughout undergraduate school, finishing with no financial debt, and graduate school with very little debt because of a church agency scholarship.”
Tell us about your family and pets.
“Mary, the love of my life, and I have been married 44 years. We have a 29 year-old son, a 27 year-old married daughter, a 23 year-old married son and a two year-old granddaughter. Throughout our marriage, we have had many dogs and cats because she’s always loved dogs and I’m the cat lover. Currently, we have just two very spoiled cats that have trained us well.”
Describe an average day in your life.
“When I was working at DHR, I would get to the office very early to work and most often put in a 10-hour day, plus an extra day just about every weekend or holiday. Working with what I considered to be the best staff any administrator could have, it was gratifying to achieve the results of our mission to protect vulnerable children and adults while providing various support services to help families become self-sufficient. Now in retirement, I wake up early most mornings, work out for about 20 minutes in my basement exercise area, come back upstairs to do some Bible study, and then cook breakfast for Mary and me. Several days every week, I am involved with different volunteer activities – coordinating the food pantry ministry for The Church At Wills Creek, studying to teach a weekly Bible class, planning presentations to senior groups, arranging classes as an instructor for the AARP Driver Safety Program and staying in contact with other seniors involved with my church. In my evenings, I usually watch the news and a movie when college football or LSU baseball games aren’t on.”
What school or schools have you attended?
“I graduated from the University of New Orleans with a BA in Sociology Cum Laude in 1975 and from Tulane University with a Masters Degree in Social Work (MSW) in 1977. While on the job at DHR, I completed training in Certified Public Management (CPM), passed the examination for Alabama Certification Training (ACT) and obtained certifications from FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute (NIMS).”
What do you like to do in your free time?
“I love studying the Bible along with commentaries and researches, attending Sunday School and church services, staying in contact with my adult kids and relatives, volunteering with several different kinds of organizations, watching the news or a movie, having my granddaughter over to our house to play, weekly dancing with the Gadsden Twirlers Square Dance Club, visiting church friends who are hospitalized and keeping up my home’s yard.”
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
“It is to have the undeserved privilege of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, which gives me eternal life and the assurance of a home in heaven one day. To better understand why I can’t even take credit for this accomplishment, I need to explain how it happened. After finishing graduate school, I began working as a family and marital counselor. One day, I had just ended a session with a recently divorced man who, before leaving my office, asked me a life-changing question: Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? All I could say in reply was “I’m a Christian.” The truth really was that I didn’t know the Lord nor did I have assurance of going to heaven one day. Within months of that encounter, I accepted the social work job with the State of Alabama, and through the ministry of a close group of new friends here in Gadsden, I received Christ into my life, 1 John 5:13.”
Name the one person that has been the most influential in your life. Why?
“That’s an easy answer, but an important one that I get right – my wife. Mary is my best friend and a life companion I can’t live without, especially as old age has crept up on me. She is in tune to my interests, works alongside me in many volunteer activities, and is self-sacrificing in helping our entire family become successful, 1 Peter 3:7. Her godly qualities are certainly a blessing to all who know her, Proverbs 31.”
To what do you credit your success?
“God’s hand on my life, even before I was saved, is the One who deserves the greatest credit for any success I have achieved. From the family I was born into to my “blind date” with Mary 46 years ago, and then the move to Alabama, these and many other past and present circumstances are all part of the plan He had for my life.”
Are you involved in any service organizations?
“The foremost involvement I have is with my church, which includes the ministry roles of Sunday School/Bible teacher, food pantry coordinator, senior adults leader and trustee. Other organizations I’m significantly involved with as a volunteer are The Council on Aging of Etowah County (Medicare counselor), our local Red Cross Chapter (Gadsden-Etowah EMA Liaison), AARP (Driver Safety Instructor) and the Alabama Network of Christian Community Ministers.”
What is your favorite thing about this community?
It is the number of wonderful Christians in this community, as compared to the city of New Orleans where I’m from.”
What would you like to see change in the community?
“I would like to see an improvement in the way denominational churches work together to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28) and minister to the needs of others in our community. Events like the CommUnity Thanksgiving Celebration and the Etowah Pregnancy Testing Center’s annual banquet, along with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, are good examples of what can be accomplished for the kingdom of God when His people work in one accord.”
What are three words that describe you?
“Faithful, kind and fun-loving.”
What is something surprising that many do not know about you?
“In 1968, at the age of 15, I was a first baseman on a Babe Ruth League All-Star team from the city of New Orleans that won the World Series in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Upon returning home, the mayor gave each of us a Key to the City of New Orleans.”
What is your favorite quote?
“My life Scripture is Romans 8:28 – “For we know that all things work together for good, to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Why this quote from the Bible is so special concerns my mother’s passing when I was only 14 years-old, but the changes that happened afterward the Lord used to open my heart to other hurting people and decide to become a social worker, besides orchestrating circumstances that led me to meet Mary a few years later.”
What is on your bucket list?
“I would like to see my three adult children have families sooner than later so I can get to know all of my grandchildren, to live long enough to retire from driving and to still be alive for Jesus’ Second Coming.”
What is your hidden talent?
“I’m very good at writing up things, but nothing like an author who pens books. When I was in college, one professor said that I wrote the best essay answers to test questions of any student he had ever taught. This skill I developed came from taking an Evelyn Wood Speed Reading class, which also instructed students about writing detailed outlines before starting essays or other narratives. I hope this exercise in writing my own profile is a good example!”
If a movie were made about your life, who would you want to play you?
“Tom Hanks, but I would have preferred James Stewart from “It’s A Wonderful Life” fame, if he was still living.”
What advice would you give yourself as a child?
“Don’t live with any regrets.” When facing challenges that might seem fearful, I would have told myself to boldly step out in faith because it will all work out as the Lord meant it to be, Philippians 4:13.”
If you would like to nominate someone for the People of Etowah column, email email@example.com or call 256-547-1049.