This simple act of kindness happened Christmas morning last year, and it was beautiful.
A woman and her 15-year-old nephew were delivering Christmas presents in Southwest Detroit as part of Jimmy’s Kids annual program to help those in need in the area. They stopped at the home of a man, who was a double amputee with diabetes. He had four sons and a daughter.
When they stepped inside, they were greeted by a small Christmas tree in the living room with no presents under it and a man sitting in a wheelchair.
They chatted with the family for a while then left. They hadn’t gone far when the young man asked his aunt to turn around, he’d forgotten something.
The young man went back in the house and gave the man the new leather jacket he had just received for Christmas.
Acts of kindness like that are what the holidays are about, says Jim Tuman, who founded Jimmy’s Kids 32 years ago.
For many of those years he spent Christmas morning working with as many 1,500 volunteers from the Muslim and Jewish communities, Christian churches and others, delivering gifts to those in need in Southwest Detroit.
“One of the best things to come from Jimmy’s Kids is the three faiths working together,” Tuman says.
This year there will be fewer volunteers. Tuman expects about 300 as those who traditionally would be there are staying home because of the COVID pandemic. Still, some of the stalwarts from Chicago and Boston have told him they are coming.
This year Tuman won’t be there either.
At 79, he is high-risk for the disease and is taking every precaution. He wants those volunteering to do the same and has been working with doctors and others to make certain the right rules are in place so the gifts can be safely delivered.
“I was not going to sit around and watch this unfold,” he says. “We moved to create a sense that all is not lost. We can do this safely.”
The gifts will be safely put in the volunteer’s cars. Those volunteers will drive to the homes of those receiving the gifts and put them on the porch or steps. This year there will be no visiting in the homes and everyone will wear masks, socially distance, and not congregate.
“We need to pay it forward,” he says. “We didn’t forget these people. “There is a need, and we had to step up and make it work.”
Unfortunately, this year no toys will be delivered because of safety concerns and because shippers cannot bring them to Jimmy’s Kids, Turman says. Instead, the volunteers will deliver food, hats, gloves, and blankets to those in need.
There are many in Southwest Detroit.
According to Tuman, the median income for a family of four there was previously $12,000, but that has dropped to $7,300 during the COVID pandemic.
To help deal with that crisis, Jimmy’s Kids is working with Marathon Oil on a year-long project to provide clothing, food and relocation help to residents of the 48217 area code, which is home to families with some of the biggest needs. That zip code has been cited as one of the most polluted areas in Michigan because of its close proximity to industrial sites.
The oil company just announced plans to spend $5 million buy up homes and clear them out and create a green buffer between its refinery and residential areas. They buyout is voluntary and homeowners and renters on Edsel and Patricia will be eligible to participate, according to a story in the Detroit News. Residents must sign up for the initiative between Feb. 1 and June 1 and can opt out any time.
Marathon Oil also gave a significant donation to the Jimmy’s Kids’ Christmas event as did the 100 Men Club, which is dedicated to helping the communities and families of metro Detroit.
“We want people to feel loved,” Tuman says. We should cherish every life. This is the way we should live. We must be others centered.”
As he points out, “in 20 years those who struggled for power and prestige will be forgotten. Those who helped will be remembered. We never forget caring actions and acts of kindness.”
To donate to Jimmy’s Kids please click here.