When Jake Garrett-McCann was just 3 years old, he already knew he wanted to make a difference in this world. While some people spend their entire lives looking for their true purpose, Jake knew helping people who had no home to return to each night, no comfortable bed to lay their head on and no roof above to protect them from the elements was his calling. Today, five years after Jake’s first encounter with homelessness, he is making a significant impact on the homeless situation in Dallas and throughout the metroplex. At his young age, he is the founder of Jake’s Heart, a local nonprofit charity.
It all started one day while he was driving with his parents through Austin. Jake noticed homeless people sitting and laying on the sidewalks. After an explanation from his parents about homelessness and realizing they had no home to go to that night, Jake knew this was a problem he wanted to fix.
With a group of volunteers and his parents, Jake delivers supplies like sleeping bags, socks, toiletries and anything they can think of to make the life of a homeless person a little easier. Anywhere he sees homeless people in need, Jake is eager to take action. When he is not delivering supplies to the homeless, he is meeting with the mayor of Frisco, receiving proclamations or connecting with CEOs and helping run a major charitable organization. Other than networking with adults, he is just a typical kid in second grade at Hosp Elementary School. He loves video games, building robots and hanging out with his friends, family and their dog, Cappy.
Jake’s Heart relies heavily on donations and other efforts to raise funds for the organization. “Currently, we raise funds through various forms,” says Jake’s mom, Kimber. “Monetary donations can be made through the website (jakesheart.com) or in real time by texting “Jake” to 91999. We will begin fundraising efforts this year and plan to do several key events such as fun run/walks, bowling, a casino night, swim laps and many more fun events,” she says. “We also work with several corporations to help raise funds through employee collections and contests. We are currently working with companies to be an honorary guest at their annual sales kickoffs to bring awareness and raise funds.” Kimber says future plans include partnering with local businesses that will donate part of their sales per month to Jake’s Heart. “We hope to bring on 10 local businesses in the next couple of months.” Once the funds are raised, they are used to purchase the supplies needed to provide basic essentials for the homeless, as well as to provide a nice, dry storage area to house all the supplies collected.
When asked about being homeless and what that means to him, bright-eyed and bubbly Jake becomes reflective. You get the sense that homelessness is an issue this young boy has thought a lot about and he is determined to make a change. Bringing awareness is just one aspect of his mission. “People might not think there are things happening that are bad, but there are,” he says.
Dallas has had a growing homelessness issue for many years. Last year, The Dallas Morning News reported the number of homeless people living on the streets of Dallas and Collin counties was up drastically. According to the article, there were 3,789 homeless people counted in Dallas this year, of those people, 1,087 were unsheltered — living on the streets, under highway overpasses and in parks. Kimber says they deliver supply packages to homeless people wherever they see them. Jake likes to personally deliver supplies, meet the homeless individuals and talk to them. She says most of the homeless living in downtown Dallas know Jake by name. They see homeless people near soup kitchens, under bridges and near the farmers’ market. “He gets personally involved with the deliveries of supplies and makes sure he introduces himself to each one and makes it personal. This is just who he is. He shakes their hands or gives them hugs when he provides them with supplies he knows they need. They welcome his desire to help and not judge. He brings smiles to their faces. When we pull up in our truck in downtown Dallas, they know Jake is with us,” says Kimber. “They come over and say things like ‘Hello, little man’ ‘God bless you’ or ‘We are so excited to see you.’ Newbies, which are homeless people who are just recently homeless, see Jake doing his thing and are in awe. They are always in amazement that a young boy has such a caring and compassionate soul.”
As our area grows, so does homelessness. Traumatic events like job loss, domestic violence or a personal crisis like social, substance abuse, gender identity or mental health issues can happen to anyone. One resource for the homeless near Frisco is City House in Plano. Founded by a Plano ISD teacher and a counselor, City House provides emergency shelter and transitional residential services to at-risk children and young adults who are in need. Executive Director Sheri Messer says clients are referred to City House by school counselors, teachers and administrative staff, as well as partner agencies such as the North Texas Job Core, other transitional living homes, local emergency shelters and agencies in the area. City House offers services similar to Jake’s Heart. Through a roving team of volunteers, on a weekly basis, the City House van takes to the streets to distribute street survival packs to homeless individuals with flyers on the services City House offers. Ms. Messer says the average length of time clients stay in their Transitional Living Program is 10-12 months.
Although we may not easily see it, homelessness exists in Frisco, as well. Recently, Jake received a proclamation from Mayor Jeff Cheney’s office naming February Homelessness Awareness Month. “Jake is a great representative for Frisco because there are many similarities. Jake and Frisco are young, ambitious and have a big heart. Like so many Frisconians, Jake is compassionate towards others. The impressive aspect about Jake is that at a tender age, he actually put his thoughts into action. I am proud this young man is leading the way and showing people much older that everyone can make a difference,” says Mayor Cheney.
Jake’s Heart has already raised thousands of dollars and the organization is looking to expand. Kimber says they would like to raise $20,000 in 2018 so they can make a huge impact on the homeless right here in our community. “Jake’s short-term goal is to make sure we have a continuous supply of basic essentials for all those in need and supporters who will keep Jake’s Heart going strong. His long-term plans are so much bigger. In 2018, we are on a path to bring so much awareness to the community and a laser focus mentality to build quickly. Jake wants to almost ‘franchise’ Jake’s Heart across the U.S.,” says Kimber. “He has visions of every state having a Jake’s Heart facility and an awareness program for communities. As his parents, we told him we would need to start out small, with only a couple of states/cities and build from there. This way, it will allow his team here at Jake’s Heart to understand how to build the facilities and awareness programs to work really well.”
Kimber says Jake’s Heart is a labor of love and something the entire family has poured their hearts into. “It is a full-time commitment, along with our careers, but we would not have it any other way. Go big or go home is what we say! Getting involved is extremely rewarding for us and we are just so proud. We get to see him do what he loves to do. We are here to nurture him and help him with his mission. We love to see him introduce his friends to his mission and get them to try and help. We have met many wonderful people along the way and cannot wait to become more involved as this evolves.”