Metro-East News

Repo man doesn’t see himself as hero for act of kindness

Tuesday wasn’t the typical day at the office for Jim Ford of Illini Recovery, Inc.

Mixed in with his usual duties, which primarily consist of repossessing property, Ford was busy fielding calls from people all over America. Thanks to a story published Monday by the Belleville News-Democrat that told of the good deed Ford had done for Patty and Stanford Kipping of Red Bud, people felt the need to call and thank the repo man.

“I can’t believe this,” Ford said while taking a break from his usual 16-hour work day. “I’ve had phone calls from all over the United States. I’ve heard from California, Colorado, Atlanta, Arkansas. People read the story and felt like they needed to call me and thank me.”

Ford showed up Monday at the Kipping’s house to return a 1998 Buick that he recently was forced to take from the family, which includes 82-year-old Stanford, 70-year-old Patty and their dog, “Baby.” After failing to work out a deal with the bank so that the elderly couple could keep their car, he set up a GoFundMe page. In a day, Ford raised enough money to not only pay off what was left on the car, around $2,500, but also gave the Kippings a $1,000 extra to help them pay for other bills.

Money continued to flow into the GoFundMe account on Tuesday as the fund drive neared at $5,000 goal Ford had set up. He has since transferred the account over to the Kippings so he no longer has to play the middle man when it comes to helping the couple.

“I hope we can raise 10 grand,” he said.

Many of those who have called to thank Ford said he was a hero for what he did for the couple. He brushed off any hero talk.

“I’m really ready to crawl under a rock,” said Ford, who had been interviewed by several St. Louis media outlets and was called by CNN to tell his story. “I don’t need to be thanked. People don’t need to call me a hero for doing that. Heroes are the (police) sergeant in St. Louis who was shot over the weekend and the Army guy from Southern Illinois (Tyler Iubelt of Tamaroa) who was killed in action. All I did was set up a GoFundMe page.”

A day after she became a bit of an Internet sensation, “Baby” got her nails done.

“I’ve been wanting to take her to the vet, but we didn’t have any money,” Patty Kipping said of her dog. “She looks like a girl again.”

Patty Kipping said the acts of kindness have continued to pour in since Ford’s gesture hit the news. Some neighbors paid off the couple’s tab at a local grocery store on Tuesday. The extra money that is being funneled into the GoFundMe account will pay off medical bills. Kipping was eager to go to Keil Pharmacy and pay off a $500 tab.

Kipping said it took her a while to realize what had happened to her and her husband.

“Yesterday I was a basket case,” she said. “I didn’t understand what was going on. It’s so much like a miracle. One of these days I’ll be able to repay the kindness of what everyone has shown.”

Kipping said she was at one of the lowest points in her life when Ford took their car away. She said she didn’t want to see or talk to anyone.

“I was at my wit’s end,” she said.

Then Ford came back into their lives and made things better.

“There are good people out there, and Jim is our guardian angel,” she said. “What he did is worth a million dollars to take the stress off my husband and I. We live in a wonderful town and have wonderful neighbors.”

Ford admitted to being a bit overwhelmed with all of the attention the story has brought him. He said he and one part-time employee handle about 100 calls a month for the Belleville business. He was working on little sleep Tuesday after a late night on Monday.

“I still have a job to do,” he said.

Don O’Brien: 618-239-2626, @DOBrienBND