The first thing Shawn Henderson noticed about the young man was his very warm and touching personality. Mrs. Henderson, a resident of Monroe, was volunteering this past evening at Solid Rock Church at 77 Wadsworth Street where the God's Work program was feeding those in need. It was there that she met 16-year old James Talbert. He was also volunteering at God's Work that night and has been doing so since school started in September. He not only volunteers at Solid Rock, but also at the God's Work at St. Joe's Church and 924 E. 2nd Street. Mrs. Henderson was very touched at the caring nature of this young man and she enjoyed the opportunity to get to know him over those three short hours.
Mr. Talbert helped the entire night. He talked to Mrs. Henderson of moving here from Dearborn with his mother back in June, how he attended Monroe High School where he will be a senior next year, and he talked about going to college for business technology or possibly becoming an electrician. Someday he wants to travel. Most of all, he talked about volunteering at God's Work every Monday and Wednesday and was excited to show off the certificate he received for his efforts.
As remarkable as Shawn Henderson's experience was with this young, well-mannered volunteer, what happened toward the end of the evening made that experience take on a whole new meaning, a revelation that not only surprised Mrs. Henderson, but also many of the God's Work staff and other volunteers. While the God's Work program passed out Christmas gifts to the homeless, James Talbert's name was called out. Mrs. Henderson had no idea that James was homesless and has been in and out of that situation for the past several years.
"Everyone just thought he was a volunteer," Mrs. Henderson said. "He never said anything, he just wanted to help others."
After receiving his gifts, Mr. Talbert did not immediately open them. "He was actually more interested in helping with God's Work," Mrs. Henderson said. "I finally went up to him and encouraged him to open his gifts."
What happened next brought Mrs. Henderson to tears. "When [Mr. Talbert] opened his gifts, a digital camera and a pair of slippers, he was more excited about the slippers than the camera."
Mrs. Henderson was so deeply moved by James' story and everything that happened Friday night, she could barely sleep. Just before 4 AM Tuesday morning, she felt she needed to share the whole experience with her friends on Facebook.
"I was so touched," Mrs. Henderson said, "I just knew others would be touched also, especially around Christmas time."
THe replies she received to her Facebook post, offering this young teenage boy and his mother help and assistance, were overwhelming. One reply was from Jason Jones, a former classmate of Mrs. Henderson and also a resident of Monroe. Mr. Jones and his family attend Lakeside Church in Newport, a God's Work location that serves on Thursday evenings. Mr. Jones and his family wanted to invite James and his mother to their homes for a traditional family Christmas.
"You hear about so many people in need this time of year," Mr. Jones said, "But for such a young man to rise above his own needs to help others in need, now that's a person I wanted to know."
When asked about what kinds of things they would want, Ms. Talbert simply replied, "Our needs are far more important than our wants." Mrs. Henderson has begun accepting gifts that will be given to them on Christmas morning. Ms. Talbert, currently employed at Heartbeat of Monroe, could use work and church clothes for bother her and her son as well as winter coats, hats, gloves, and shoes. THey are hoping to find a permanent residence, but they currently receive no assistance. Please contact Mrs. Henderson at 734-777-4827 or Mr. Jones at 734-735-5006 if you wish to help bring the spirit of Christmas to this remarkable young man and his mother.
Gifts can be dropped off at the Frenchtown Fire Department on Monroe Street care of the Talbert Family. Also, Mrs. Henderson and Mr. Jones will pick up gifts from Monroe residents that want to donate. Monetary gifts can be made at any Monroe Bank & Trust on behalf of the Talbert Family, or you can go to www.paypal.com, "Transfer," and then click "Send someone money." Send your donation to firstname.lastname@example.org 100% of funds received will go directly to helping James and his mother. They are temporarily staying at the House of Restoration in Monroe.
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