Email #61: The Gift of the Bellman (3/31/17)

I just spent a week in Chicago, coordinating Areena’s book drive across the city in partnership with Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. What did coordination involve? There are now dozens of locations across the city – bars, restaurants, grocery stores, ice cream parlors – where folks can donate books to the young men and women of the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

When I arrived I spent the day running around town, collecting posters and pledge cards and boxes. I brought them back in waves to the Drake Hotel, where I was staying. When I got back to the hotel in an Uber with 75 extra large boxes from Home Depot, the bellman – Keith – asked what I was doing.

As we brought the boxes up to the room in several trips I told him about Areena. I told him about the work of Commissioner Gainer and the JTDC. I told him about the book drive and how important these books would be to the kids receiving them.

When we got the last boxes to my room, something happened that choked me up. I don’t have any problem admitting it. I was on the verge of tears.

Before I could tip Keith for helping me, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a $5 bill and said, “I want to donate.” I tried not to take it but he insisted. I saw in his eyes that he wanted to do this.

That moment made the work of the next six days some of the easiest of my life. It put fuel in my tank that won’t run dry anytime soon. And it’s a memory I will keep with me forever.

Jeff Hughes.
Executive Director. Areena.
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