We have all come across the homeless in the city and had thoughts or passed judgment on those we see. We may think, ”Why don’t they just get a job?” We may even glare and mumble, “Why are they always begging?” But, have you ever thought about finding a way to help?
One Detroit businessman made a decision more than ten months ago that is impacting the lives of the less fortunate and it’s for all of the right reasons – because it needs to be done.
Every Wednesday, with his own money and taking time away from his business, Jerrold Boykin, president of Boykin Construction feeds 200-plus people a hearty lunch of a sandwich, water, chips, a piece of fruit and a dessert. At this point, according to Boykin, those in need in the area of Woodward and Peterboro have come to expect him to be there – grateful for the food, a smiling face and a word of encouragement from someone treating them with a little respect.
An entrepreneur, father and Detroit native, Boykin talks about one childhood event as shaping his current commitment. “When I was really young, my father took me out to feed the hungry one time and I never forgot it or the impact it had,” he said. “I left feeling really grateful and blessed for what I had and that feeling stuck. Giving back has always been a part of who I am and a part of what my family does.”
On a recent Wednesday, he was out there, with his brother Jeff, his nephews and niece doing what they have done for nearly a year like clockwork – smiling and passing out food. One person asked him who made the sandwiches – Jerrold jokingly said, “Chef-Boy-R-ME!”
The need in cities like Detroit is huge because of a number of factors, including the economy and sagging job market. Organizations across the city do their part, but still the need continues to grow. Contrary to what many people might think, the homeless or seriously underemployed come from all backgrounds and communities across the state. There is no “typical” profile of the homeless or of someone in need of a meal either temporarily or longer.
Research by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness estimated that as of 2010, more than 16% of the families in Michigan were living in poverty. And, that number is likely higher given economic realities.
There are a plethora of agencies, churches and companies offering help but still, there’s more that can be done.
With such a large number of homeless out there, does 200 lunches really make a difference? Boykin believes it does. “I am doing my part, regardless of what any other person or organization does. This is my part, this is what I do to help.”
While he is happy to provide the weekly lunches out of his own coffers, anyone interested in helping can visit his organization’s (We are One Community Unity) Facebook page.
In addition to the lunches, Boykin is also beginning an effort to provide new or slightly-used bicycles to the homeless. With a goal of 200, he is determined to make it happen – not for any attention or notoriety – just because it needs to be done.