As we close out 2020 and head with hope toward better days in 2021, I am so grateful to end this brutal year by sharing a beautiful short story that's long on love, highlights the best in us, and brought me to tears this morning.
As you all know, Mayra Jackson, Latwian Jackson and their sons Jordan, 9, and Nicholas, 4, lost everything last Wednesday when an early-morning fire gutted their apartment at Judson and Dempster. On Tuesday, Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens wrote about the Jacksons and the immediate outpouring of community support in response to their plight.
This morning, I popped open my computer to find the first email in my inbox was from Jeron Dorsey.
Jeron, who was born and raised in Evanston's 5th ward, is the program coordinator at Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center. I've known and appreciated him for the last several years because he's the guy who has always helped me reserve the Center for the DE Racial Justice Book group, oversees set-up, and makes sure we have everything we need.
The last time I ran into Jeron was over the summer when he spoke at the Black Male Alliance - Evanston rally on Church and Dodge following three gun homicides of young Black men in Evanston in quick succession.
I've missed connecting with Jeron during the pandemic, so I was curious to read his message.
I wasn't expecting to read what he wrote.
(Jeron has given me permission to share his emails):
I hope all is well with you and your family. I heard about the family who lost everything in a house fire the day it happened and I was devastated. I was able to donate gift cards but I feel like I need to do more. I want to donate my entire next check to the family as well as $150 worth of gift cards.
Please let me know who I should connect with to make this happen. I would really prefer to place it in the hand of the father who I particularly feel for as a Black dad who has to be the strength for his family. If possible please see if you can arrange for this to happen as soon as possible.
His entire paycheck.
I replied to Jeron and suggested he contact the Jackson family directly because he wanted to make sure he could personally hand over the money and gift cards to the Jacksons.
Here's what he wrote to Mayra:
Hello Ms. Mayra Jackson,
My name is Jeron Dorsey and I'm a lifelong Evanstonian, born and raised in Evanston's 5th ward. I learned about your story last week from an Evanston Police Officer who reached out to me the day it happened for resources. At the time I did not know all the details but I quickly agreed to provide gift cards and a cash donation.
When I awoke this morning, I received a newsletter via my work email from a leader in the community who I have a lot of respect for and have a wonderful working relationship with (Nina Kavin, Dear Evanston).
It was her story and the link to the Tribune story that provided me with the details of what exactly happened and it brought tears to my eyes.
I could not even imagine what you and your family have been through over the last week and it quickly reminded me of how quickly someone's life can be negatively impacted in a matter of seconds. I too have two kids, a 5-year-old daughter and an 8- month-old son. I also know what it feels like to be down, but I'm also a firm believer in God.
As I read the story and my eyes began to tear up, God spoke to me and said, "You have to do more for this family." With that guidance, I have decided to donate all of my paycheck tomorrow to you and your family.
I would like to schedule a time hopefully tomorrow where I can meet you and personally place this money in your hand. The amount will be $2,500 cash as well as more gift cards to Old Navy and Target.
This donation will not come anywhere close to replacing what you have lost but I want you to have it and be able to use it however you choose. I'm praying for you and your family and better days are ahead.
As an African American father who is the strength of my family, please let your husband know that I sympathize with him and I'm praying that God gives him strength to overcome this adversity and continue to be the strength for you and the boys.
Please let me know if it's possible for me to drop the cash off to you tomorrow? If so, please provide me with the time and location and I will be there.
Tomorrow, Jeron will be meeting with the Jackson family at Mayra's sister's apartment.
New Year's day.
Happy new year, Evanston.
If you're inspired by Jeron's gesture and would also like to help support the Jackson family, you can contribute via the Klava Fund.
You can also reach the family directly by emailing email@example.com (note: no 'e' in liv).
Many other Evanston residents have reached out with clothing, pots and pans, furniture, home cooked meals, art supplies to replenish those Mayra lost in the fire (she is a stained-glass artist), and toys for the children. The Jackson's are overwhelmed by and so grateful for everyone's generosity, recognizing that so many of us are struggling ourselves during these times.