JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Chances are you see them every day. People who are struggling...who have nowhere to call home. Living out of their cars, or carrying everything they have in a backpack. But, there is a vision to change that and one GR8 Acts of Kindness winner believes we all have a part in it.
"It's a no judgment zone," Susan Johnson, the September GR8 Acts of Kindness winner, said. "The people who walk through these doors; we're all the same."
The HUB, or Helping Underserved Belong, a project to help the homeless is located in Jonesboro on Union. But, miles away from here—lies all the things that could make a home for someone who has been living on the streets.
"It was good stuff," Megan Turner said.
Furniture and furnishings for a new life sit in a small storefront near the pharmacy that Susan and her husband run in Weiner.
"I think it is better if you give from your heart and give the things that you have," Johnson said.
Johnson doesn't know we, along with personnel from First Community Bank are waiting outside to surprise her, as the next winner in the GR8 Acts of Kindness.
"Surprise!" everyone yells.
"Do you have any idea why we might be here?," I asked Johnson.
"You are our next winner in the GR8 Acts of Kindness," I proudly announce.
"Y'all!," Johnson said as her eyes welled up with tears and she clasped hand to her mouth in shock.
"You go above and beyond," I explained. "I think you even have a donation station just off of your business."
"Yes, we do!" Johnson responded.
It's here that Megan Turner donated her great-grandmother Belva's furniture when she died.
"What am I gonna do with all of this?" Turner said. "Because I don't want to see all of it. That doesn't make you feel good to sell your loved one's belongings."
"It just mushroomed from there," Johnson said of her involvement with the HUB-Jonesboro.
One donation led to another, and another, as Susan began to learn of needs at the HUB in Jonesboro. One woman with no furniture...
"We go down to her bedroom and there is a big air mattress and they were all sleeping on the air mattress. No sheets. No nothing," Johnson said. "That's when I knew I had to do something."
That "something" grew into a colossal effort. Susan recruited friends.
"It just breaks your heart," Gwyn Hughes said.
Gwyn Hughes volunteers with the HUB and so does her husband, moving lots of furniture.
"They're sleeping under the Main Street bridge, or they're walking the streets at night trying to find a place to rest," Hughes explained. "We had a vet who was living in his truck with three dogs."
And those in need are not always who you would expect.
"He was dressed very nicely and he didn't look like he belonged," Johnson said.
That man had lost his job at a Memphis bank.
"No one wants to employ a 60 something-year-old man," Johnson said.
He moved to Jonesboro with what little he had.
"I knew it took a lot for him to come and ask for help," Johnson said.
Stories like those abound—and we sometimes have misconceptions.
"All of us need help and it's not just druggies and people who make wrong decisions," Johnson explained.
"I'm a laborer," Turner said of her involvement with the HUB, and her work helping Johnson in Weiner.
After she donated her great-grandmother's furniture, Megan began to help Susan, too.
"She doesn't talk about this. But she buys a lot of things," Turner said. "She spends a lot of her own money and this building is right off of her pharmacy."
As soon as donations come in, Johnson rounds up a crew to get them to homes and people that need them.
"Oh, my goodness! These are my people," Johnson exclaims as she hugs both Hughes and Turner.
"They have helped move furniture, they have helped with everything," Johnson said.
That included nominating Johnson for the GR8 Acts of Kindness.
"And we want to reward you with..." I said.
Then I reach down and pull $408 out of a First Community Bank envelope.
"Here's the exciting part of the day!" I said.
Johnson clasps her hand over her mouth.
"$300, $400, $405, $406, $407, $408 dollars for being the next GR8 Acts of Kindness winner," I said.
"Susan, that money will leave you," Allen Williams, Community President of First Community Bank said. "Here's a check you can always keep to remember this day."
"I have been so blessed in my life," Johnson said. "I know that I didn't do anything any differently than these people have done to be born with the things that I have, and I think we are all here together to help each other."
Johnson is hoping someone might loan the HUB warehouse space closer to Jonesboro where donated items could be kept.
Right now, you guessed it!
Johnson is using her $408 to buy everyday necessities for more homeless people served by the HUB.
To learn more about the HUB, Helping Underserved Belong, just go to their Facebook page. There you can find ways to help.
And to nominate someone for the GR8 Acts of Kindness, click here and fill out the form.
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