MANATEE -- If it weren't for adults who helped him along when he was coming up, Herb Moller is certain he would not have survived this life.
The Manatee County resident is now paying that forward.
Here is what he says about volunteering as a mentor to youth: "You don't know until you try it. A lot depends
on the match. I think people ought to give it a shot. If you are just starting, Big Brothers and Sisters is a good way to start and involves younger children and is more social.
"Take Stock in Children is a wonderful thing if you want to help someone make it to college," he said. "If you are zealous about children who need protection, look into being a Guardian Ad Litem. There are many different opportunities out there. Choose one and go for it."
Moller has chosen all of them.
For his work as a non-profit volunteer in Guardian Ad Litem, Jump Start, Project Heart, Big Brothers and Sisters, J.O.Y. & Next Step and Take Stock in Children, the 73-year-old Moller has been named a Bradenton Marauder "All-Star Among Us."
Moller, who will be honored at the Florida State League All-Star Game on Saturday, will receive a $500 check from the Marauders and $500 for the charity of his choice, which is Take Stock in Children.
"Herb feels it is his God-given duty to give back to those in need as he was once a homeless immigrant himself," said Diana Dill of Take Stock in Children. "Guided by mentors, he was able to realize his personal potential and went on to become the vice president of The Gillette Co. and had a 33-year career, with duties including overseeing shaving and toiletries."
Born of German parents in Romania, Moller ended up with his mother and stepfather in Philadelphia. At 15, they had a fight and both left the country, leaving young Moller by himself.
"My mother told me she would leave and come back, but she didn't," Moller said last week.
He went knocking on doors, and a woman let him rent a room in her house. He got a job as an usher at a movie theater.
"I was never able to go back and tell that woman, Rosa Reis, or that movie theater manager, Mr. Risley, what they had done for me," Moller said. "The one person I did go back to thank was Charlie Scott, an All-American soccer player and college coach who helped me get into the University of Pennsylvania on a scholarship to play soccer. He never gave up on me."
Moller lost his wife, Beverly, to cancer 10 years ago.
Moller's work with Victor Michel through Take Stock in Children is a good example of what can happen between a mentor and mentee.
Michel, now 19, first met Moller when he was 15.
"Herb is an extraordinary person," Michel said. "But honestly, the first time I met him I didn't think it would work between us. The reason is because there was a cultural barrier. I was usually with Latino people, and this was the first time I was with someone outside that.
"But little by little he earned my trust," Michel continued. "The thing about Herb, he doesn't ask anything in exchange. He gives his time, wisdom and knowledge and does his best. He shows you the path, the way to improve yourself and pay forward what you have learned. There is no word for our relationship. It's better than friendship -- he's like a second father to me."
In 2013, Michel graduated from Southeast High School's International Baccalaureate program.
He is getting his AA degree in finance at State College of Florida, following in Moller's footsteps.
Michel, whose father, Victor, is a roofer, now has a clear dream: to get a master's degree in business and go on to a corporate executive in finance and marketing.
"Before I met Herb I had no way, no path," Michel said. "He taught me how to sit down, write down my goals and dreams and ambitions. That was the first thing, to learn the technique to do it and little by little get it done. It started with simply goals like trying to pass a test, getting an A in a class.
"Later on he taught me larger goals," he said. "Before Herb, the only goal I knew was to finish high school. Most of us in my family don't graduate. But I wanted even more. I knew I had to go to college, but I didn't have that push."
Now Michel, who even coaches his little brother, Reynson, 12, wants to travel the world.
"I want to be everywhere," Michel said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond