Most of my meetings aren’t conducted over hot chocolate with a bouncy eight-year-old and his mom. But, then again, most nonprofits aren’t Jake’s Heart, a nonprofit that uses care and compassion to help solve homelessness in America.
“You know, he’s a normal little boy,” one of Jake’s moms, Kimber says. “He just wants to make the world a better place.”
“I like video games,” Jake puts in. Other interests include dancing to Imagine Dragons and P!nk.
“When Jake was three, we went to Austin on vacation,” Kimber explains. “We’d just left a beautiful hotel and breakfast.”
Jake noticed people sitting on the street, or sleeping in the shade, curled in on themselves. Instantly, they captured his attention. He wanted to know why they were there.
“It wasn’t something you expect your three-year-old to notice, so when he did, we knew he was a special kid,” Kimber recalls. “The more he learned, the more it started to take a toll on him. He’d say, ‘I feel sad, I feel bad for them. I can feel that they are sad,’ and he’d start crying.”
What we learned about homelessness in Collin County at the Freedom Forum
Sometimes on winter nights, Jake can’t sleep because he knows people are suffering outside in the cold.
“He wanted to help them,” Kimber explains and turns to Jake. “So, Jake, how do we help?”
“We deliver bags of things,” he replies. “Socks, toilet paper, sleeping bags, water and snacks and toiletry bags.”
They started collecting donations over Facebook, making requests on Jake’s behalf. First, they asked for socks. Over the five years since their initial ask, their requests have evolved. Today, Jake’s Heart hands out complex bags of supplies. The Jake’s Heart network has grown far beyond their Facebook friends, to the point where sometimes Kimber doesn’t even know how people have heard of their little grassroots nonprofit. Jake makes his deliveries in person and has become a pretty well known figure in downtown Dallas, where they take most of their donations.
This year, on Jake’s birthday, he asked his friends for sleeping bags to give out.
“It makes me feel happy when they’re happy and when they’re sad it makes me feel sad,” he says, sitting up on his knees and wrestling his sweatshirt off, hanging it over his chair. He doesn’t want to keep still.
“Jake, pay attention to her,” Kimber says patiently and grins. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a normal kid.”
Honestly, though, Jake isn’t a normal kid. He’s confident beyond his years and the nonprofit that has grown with him and around him isn’t just a gimmick. People take him seriously. He’s been invited to meet with mayors and judges to talk about his experiences and to discuss his ideas for aiding people struggling with homelessness.
They recently travelled to New York City where Jake went on Harry Connick Jr.’s daytime talk show. He gathered up the complimentary shampoo and conditioner bottles to take with him, just in case he ran into someone who needed them.
In 2017, Jake’s Heart officially filed as a nonprofit and in February 2018, Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney recognized Jake for his philanthropic heart and proclaimed the month of February “Homelessness Awareness Month” in Frisco, calling Jake a model and inspiration for everyone to follow.
Jake has big plans. He’s got a keen interest in science and wants to join military and study robotics. His longterm dreams include building robots to help grow food and build homes for homeless people, and starting job programs for people so they can learn coding and other valuable skills.
Whatever the future holds for Jake, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.