Putting Other People First

Article by:
Robert Verdun, EO Detroit
Robert Verdun
EO Detroit

Sometimes as a business owner, you have to take a step back from work and really see how good you have things. I did that recently, and I learned a valuable lesson in the process. In November, an entrepreneur friend of mine, Brandy, and I were talking about how hard some people have it, what with the economy, people losing their homes, financial troubles, etc. As we talked, we realized we had an opportunity to give back and help those less fortunate. We didn’t just want to write a check; we wanted to dive in and really help someone.

A few days after this conversation, Brandy called and asked me if I was serious about giving back. I was, and through a mutual friend, we found a family that needed help. We decided to meet this family to see where and how we could offer our services. Another friend, Jennifer, joined in, and the three of us set out to make a lasting difference in strangers’ lives.

The family we met had gone through a lot over the years. The matriarch of the family, who I’ll call “Linda,” told us her sad story. Linda’s family lived in the worst part of Detroit, Michigan, USA. A few years ago, she was abducted from a bus stop, shot five times and left for dead. Though she managed to survive, she is paralyzed from the waist down. While recovering over the last few years, she has been robbed several times. The worst was a year ago during Christmas, when she came home to find everything stolen and her house ransacked.

Linda decided it was enough, so she moved her family out of Detroit and into a new town. Her new house was OK, but unfortunately, it wasn’t handicap accessible. Linda didn’t have the means to make her surroundings amenable to her condition, especially since her son, who goes to college on a scholarship, lives with her just six months out of the year. If that’s not enough, Linda also takes care of her mentally challenged brother, who also lives with her. This brave mother and sister had been through a lot, and we were determined to help her and her family out.

By pooling our resources together, we began re-making Linda’s house. We started off by making her bathroom accessible so she could use the shower, and went on to add new fixtures throughout the house: curtains, furniture (she had her stuff in boxes), handicapped ramps, a counter she can reach (she prepared food on her lap because she couldn’t reach the counters), a working medical bed, a wheelchair that wasn’t falling apart, and many other items. The more people from the community got involved, the more we were able to help.

In the end, the results were nothing short of amazing! Throughout it all, fellow EO members, friends, family members and strangers chipped in to help. Local contractors donated their time, suppliers donated materials and other people donated money, furniture, food, a refrigerator and even an Xbox game system for her son. While we were working, we put Linda and her family up in a hotel for two weeks. By the time they returned home, they discovered a fully accessible living environment built from kindness. Words can’t express the feeling we got after presenting her family with their new home. The tears, surprise and warmth ... for me it was almost life-changing.

What made us come together to help a woman in need? As entrepreneurs, it’s so easy to get stuck in the work mindset and forget about what we all truly have. This experience opened my eyes to the ugly parts of the world, where people struggle each day to live a prosperous and fulfilling life. Linda was not on a “list” waiting for help; she was going about her life trying to do what she could. From our perspective, this was the kind of person who needed a break. By coming together and leveraging our resources, we gave her that break. Overall, the experience was as much a gift to all of us as it was for Linda and her family.

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