12-Year-Old Delivers Essential Care Packages to the Homeless and Elderly

Through his nonprofit Project I Am, Jahkil Jackson wants to prove kids can be change agents and make a difference in their communities.

portrait of jahkil jackson wearing tiger shirt
Photo: SOCKO

After more than a year of hardship, there's never been a better time to celebrate our nation's unsung heroes: everyday families working to help others. "At Parents, we often talk to experts about how to raise kind kids, but in truth, many of the best experts are our very own readers," says Julia Edelstein, Editor in Chief of Parents. Tyson shares this view: "Everyone has experienced this past year in different ways, but we recognize the significant impact the pandemic has had on parents and caregivers who have had to restructure their routines and take on wearing even more hats than they already do. We are happy to recognize parents and the important role they play every day, but especially this past year," says Lauren Talbert, senior brand manager at Tyson.

That's why Parents has partnered with Tyson for its first annual search for America's Kindest Families. The winning family will appear on the November cover of Parents and receive $10,000. In addition, Tyson will generously donate $15,000 in food products to a deserving charity in honor of the family. In 2020, Tyson Food donated a record 30 million pounds of protein (equivalent to 120 million meals) to fight hunger–more than ever before in its 85-year history. "Our company is part of communities across the United States, and we see the wonderful impact that families of every kind have on their local communities. We are proud to sponsor the America's Kindest Families contest and recognize those families who are making a difference in the lives of others through generous acts of kindness," says Talbert.

The contest runs through May 31, 2021, so it's not too late to nominate a family you know or enter yourself! For details, visit parents.com/kindcontest.

And in the meantime, take inspiration from this story of another great family spreading kindness.

In March, just before much of the country entered lockdown, Jahkil Jackson and his family rang in the fourth birthday of his nonprofit, Project I Am. Created when Jahkil was 8 in response to rampant homelessness in his hometown of Chicago, the project distributes needed supplies—via "Blessing Bags," filled with manufacturer-donated items like tissues, toothpaste, and water—to the city's street population. "The community has embraced Jahkil," says his mother, Na-Tae' Jackson. "They think he's admirable and adorable, and we love showing the good side of Chicago. The media would have you believe everything in this city is negative. That's not true."

As COVID-19 spread, Jahkil, his family, and their team of volunteers, which can range from ten to 200 on any given day, shifted their focus. In addition to helping those experiencing homelessness, Jahkil knew the elderly could benefit from his bags too. Says Na-Tae', "Senior citizens were not receiving basic necessities because local stores were sold out." Masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper were all frighteningly scarce—and all found their way into Jahkil's packages.

Now he has higher hopes for Project I Am, including a plan to build tiny homes in Chicago. "The big picture is to demolish homelessness," Jahkil says. "It's a big goal, but I hope to accomplish it." Ambition comes easily to Jahkil, who'd also like to mentor kids across the country to help them start their own projects. "My message is: Don't wait to be great," he says. "I believe kids can be change agents just as well as adults can. Find something you're passionate about, and translate that into making a difference in your community."

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's November 2020 issue as "The Kindness Hall of Fame." Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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