OKLAHOMA CITY - Helping others, and never expecting anything in return.
Jackie Lenk is someone who thinks first about other people, especially those going through a hard time who have ended up on the street.
Every Friday, Jackie passes out food, blankets, socks and anything people living on the street need to get by.
Her work isn’t easy, and it didn’t go unnoticed with her good friend, Cheri Waddell.
“We went out to lunch one time and I noticed, 'Oh, you have a nice new jacket,'” Cheri explained. “And she says, 'Well, I had to get a new one. I met a man, and he was so cold he didn’t have a jacket. I gave him mine.'”
“Cheri told me and said, ‘She gave her coat!'” Richard Waddell, Cheri’s husband said. “I mean how many people would do that? The expression goes they’ll give the shirt off their back, and she will. She literally will.”
That’s why Cheri and Richard nominated Jackie for the Pay it Forward Award.
When award sponsor First Fidelity Bank heard about Jackie’s story, they sent branch manager Michelle Fox to Cheri’s house to give her a surprise for Jackie.
“Cheri, thank you so much for nominating Jackie,” Michelle said. “She does a lot for our community, so on behalf of First Fidelity Bank, I’d like to present you with $400 to pay it forward,” Michelle said as she gave Cheri the money for Jackie.
“Thank you!” Cheri said. “I am so excited to give this to her. I wanted to have this to help her to help them. It just opened my heart to her.”
When we decided to surprise Jackie, our team had to come up with a scheme to make sure Jackie wouldn’t find out about the award.
Jackie thought she was coming over to Cheri’s house for lunch and had no idea our camera crew was waiting for her at Cheri’s house, until she opened the door.
“Hey, what are you doing?” Jackie said as she gave Cheri a hug and our camera came out from a hallway.
That’s when we broke the news to Jackie that her good work had gotten her nominated for the award.
As she broke into tears, Cheri paid her the $400 from First Fidelity Bank.
“Thank you!” Jackie said. “This will feed a lot of people! God bless you.”
True to form, Jackie immediately said she planned to use the money to help more homeless people.
Every week, Jackie manages to make more than 50 lunches to hand out to people living on the streets, and when it’s cold, Jackie does what she can to help those who are suffering.
“When they need blankets, we give blankets,” Jackie said. “When they need coats, we get coats. Gloves. Socks. Whatever they need for the season that is.”
Jackie, who was still overwhelmed by the award, took our camera crew to a place in downtown Oklahoma City where she hands out food and goods every week.
But when we arrived, Jackie broke down in shock.
The homeless people she helps were gone.
They had been packed up and cleared out. We didn’t know where they had been taken.
“I tell you,” Jackie cried, “I’m broken up about this because I don’t know where to find them! I don’t know what to say!”
Jackie searched frantically for one of the groups she’s been helping.
She explained that there were eight tents pitched where we were just a few days before, saying everyone who lived there looked out for each other.
Then, Jackie found some of the people from the group sitting under a tree.
They had just packed up their things as they looked for a place to get away from all the commotion.
“It’s a little harder for me because I like this camp a lot,” one woman who was living on the street said. “Some of them are leaving now.”
“It’s gonna be ok, honey,” Jackie said in tears as she hugged the woman. “It’s gonna be ok, ok?”
Moving a homeless camp makes things even harder for those living there.
Jackie explained that those who lived in the camp who may have left their things behind for the day would suffer the hardest consequences.
“All this stuff’s gonna get throwed away if it’s not out of here by a certain time, and they’re starting over, with nothing,” Jackie said.
Homelessness has been around for ages, and it probably won’t go away any time soon.
But people like Jackie are there to help until it does.
“They make me a better person,” Jackie explained. “They’re very special people, and they make me better.”
Pay It 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.