JACKSON, MI — This week’s Good Neighbor, Brenda Hughes, is one of a kind. Within 5 minutes of meeting her, you will be overwhelmed by her dedication to making a difference.
We walked into the building that houses her non-profit, Jackson Michigan Giving Back To The Community, to meet her. Suddenly a young man named Shayne walks in without a shirt. Brenda quickly stops the interview to greet him.
“Shayne, you don’t have a shirt. Let me get you one so you can keep warm tonight.”
Shayne responds, "Thank you, Brenda. You are an angel."
This is a typical day for Brenda.
Shayne says Brenda is always helping him and he is so appreciative.
“She is a beautiful, amazing person who gives back to the community. She helps people live their lives peacefully and easier. She is an angel in disguise.”
Brenda gives Shayne a clean shirt and a bag as she hugs him goodbye. Immediately she begins to cry.
“I know he is a good kid, and all he wants is someone to love him, appreciate him, and care for him. I’m so appreciative to be a part of his life, and I wish him nothing but the best.”
Brenda is all about giving back. She works full-time as a house painter, but she is back at her building in downtown Jackson as soon as her shift is over. It serves as a food pantry, clothing, and personal needs store and a safe place where people can relax and get help.
Britany Marcia assists Brenda at the store.
“She would give the shirt off her back to anybody. She'd do anything just to make somebody smile; to make their day just a little bit better. You know she's always putting quotes out, and she hosts giving back Tuesday events. She goes out and posts positive quotes around town and then gives out free chili dogs and hot dogs to people. There's not one thing that she wouldn't do for somebody else.”
Brenda started volunteering at a local shelter in 1991. Then in 2009, she began collecting clothing and food to give away on her own. Today, she spends more time volunteering each week than she does at her full-time job — Some weeks up to 60 hours.
Every Thursday, Brenda travels an hour each way to visit the food bank, where she uses her own money to purchase items to give away.
Brenda says her volunteerism started when she was young.
“When we were younger, my mom was working two jobs. She had to feed five kids, so her choices were to feed the kids or pay the bills. And my mom, you know, made sure we ate! We survived. And I told my mom, ‘Mom, I'm going to make a difference one day.’ And she just looked at me and smiled.”
Brenda also organizes free community events such as comedy movie nights. Every year she gives out free back-to-school supplies to kids, and during the holidays, she organizes free Thanksgiving meal boxes and Christmas presents.
Edward Crout also helps Brenda at her store.
“She is an awesome neighbor, just in general for everybody. It doesn't matter what's going on out here what's going on out in the community. She's going to help you!”
Brenda says she believes strongly in helping out other people.
“I'm blessed to be here! I thank God for allowing me to be here and be the one to be able to shine some light in this dark world!”
If you would like more information on Brenda’s non-profit, Jackson Michigan Giving Back To The Community, you can visit their website at www.jacksonmichigangivingback.org.
Brenda Hughes, you are this week's Good Neighbor for your dedication to giving back to the Jackson community.
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