If you come to Southwest Detroit on Christmas morning you will see a very different version of Santa’s sleigh with elves dressed in street clothes helping Santa, a jolly old elf named Jim Tuman, who believes every child should feel safe, valued and loved.
They’ll line up behind the truck parked in front of Stephen Lutheran Church. That line will snake around the block as the volunteers step up, take the gifts, head to their vehicles and begin delivering them. Last year they emptied the truck in an hour and half.
“On a corner in Southwest Detroit for a few hours we will have achieved world peace,” says Tuman, who began the Jimmy’s Kids Christmas Morning Program back in 1988. That year they took toys to 22 children. This year the program will deliver them to 25,000 kids in Southwest Detroit plus other cities in New York, Texas and Michigan.
Check out this WXYZ-TV coverage about last year’s deliveries.
The names of the families receiving the gifts are provided by local agencies. The volunteers do more than just drop off the gifts at the door. They spend time with the recipients and pass out the gifts in their living rooms. Whenever possible a bilingual speaker rides along with the volunteers.
Many volunteers come back year after year and many bring their children. What a wonderful way to teach them the true meaning of the season.
This year Tuman got a very special surprise from his bank, Comerica. He’s banked there for more than 20 years. So when his branch in Troy called and asked him to show up for a focus group he thought nothing of it. He was told the session would last about 20 minutes.
It was a ruse.
“I am so blessed,” he said. “I was greeted with two carts of toys for my Jimmy’s Kids Charity as well as other gifts.”
Those gifts included $1,000 for Jimmy’s Kids. In addition, top executives from the bank’s headquarters in Dallas and the Detroit office pushed in the shopping carts heaped with the items donated by the local branch. Mike Ritchie, president of the Comerica Bank – Michigan Market, was among the execs.
The Christmas deliveries are only one part of Tuman’s commitment to making all children feel safe, valued and loved. He spends much of his time as a motivational speaker in schools around the nation. He’s spoken to more than two million young people in more than 2000 schools. It’s a tough job that requires patience and understanding.
“(Before each engagement)) I will get down on my knees in the dirtiest bathroom (in a school) and ask God to help me make a difference,” he says.
He has made that difference to those students and the families who receive the gifts Christmas morning.
“I’ve been speaking in schools about the importance of kindness and relationships for many years, and realized that some children and their families were not able to afford a Christmas celebration, because they were falling through the cracks of the system,” he says.
“If you want to feel the real spirit of the season, come and join us for this very special experience.”
Volunteers will gather Christmas morning 9 a.m. at Stephen Lutheran Church 1235 Lawndale, Detroit. For more information, visit http://www.jimmyskids.com