Residents of the 2Life senior community in Brighton, Massachusetts, have a new pep in their step, thanks to James Humphries.
Humphries, 25, is a front desk ambassador at the affordable housing community. Last year, he noticed that many of the seniors wore shoes that were worn-out, and in some cases several sizes too big. Humphries worried that they might trip and fall, and he was especially concerned about a resident who is partially blind.
"He is Haitian and only speaks Haitian Creole, so it was a months-long journey to gain his trust enough to get his shoe off to check the size," Humphries told The Week in an email. "Finally, with his trust gained and the help of a colleague who also speaks Creole, we were able to discover his true shoe size. Lo and behold, I had a pair of blue suede New Balance sneakers in my closet at home in his size."
Humphries brought the shoes to work and gave them to the resident. When one of his colleagues heard what he did, she slipped him the number to a contact she had at New Balance. The person no longer worked at the company, but "the people there were so gracious and there was a domino effect of references until I landed in the right hands," Humphries said. "They generously offered to donate 20 pairs of shoes, and with the help of the resident service coordinators at 2Life, we were able to fulfill the order with residents we felt needed them most."
When they received their surprise shoes, the residents were "taken aback" and "super happy," Humphries said. Working at 2Life and with colleagues who "foster such a deep sense of community" has been a gratifying experience for Humphries, who aims to help others wherever he goes. "I want to see the community around me thrive; not having to worry about basic necessities such as shoes, food, water, and shelter can give people a better quality of life," he said, adding, "helping others is the most rewarding and gratifying act of life — we have all been in a place where we need someone to reach their hand out and say, 'I got you.' I want to be that person for others whenever possible."
Humphries is passionate about fashion and style, and started designing his clothing line, Le Ann Dotti, in 2018. He doesn't plan on stopping there, though; Humphries is also inspired by the mission of 2Life, and wants to one day open his own community center that is a "safe haven" for people who are homeless, in transitional housing, or need assistance accessing resources and professional help, where they can take showers, eat a hot meal, watch a movie, and get career counseling. "This model not only gives people a safe place to exist, but a place where they can play an active role in changing their own lives with autonomy, dignity, and support, all while regaining a sense of purpose by building self-worth and hard skills through proper help and giving back to their community," Humphries said.