Editorials

Compassion begins with a fellow human sleeping in the cold

Project Compassion founder speaks at last year’s Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Belleville.

Rachel Jackson, executive director of Project Compassion, was the guest speaker at the annual Belleville Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in 2018.
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Rachel Jackson, executive director of Project Compassion, was the guest speaker at the annual Belleville Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in 2018.

Rachel Jackson was surrounded by leaders this week, and she took the opportunity to remind them of what that means.

“Anybody can wear a title, but it takes a real leader to make a change,” she told those at the 53rd Belleville Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.

Jackson is the leader of Project Compassion. She started the charity when she was 25 and saw a homeless man sleeping in a box.

The mission grew from handing out sandwiches in 2005 to gaining national recognition by helping 70,000 people as they struggled with life’s basic needs. Project Compassion not only provides the basics, but trains people to deal with life and get a job.

Her message came nine years after a dispute with the city over checking for sex offenders closed the Salvation Army homeless shelter in Belleville. It came days after that shelter building was razed.

There are efforts to get help for the homeless in Belleville during the day at the Salvation Army and at Trinity United Church of Christ. Still, on a cold night there might be a motel voucher, there might be a metal shed, or there might be a cardboard box.

Nine years. Still working on a solution.

“You see, I believe that when you’re given a position, you’re given a power. You cannot just become the ‘yes’ and the ‘no’ person. You have to become the person that’s willing to impact,” Jackson said.

“Impact. What does that look like? It means that when you show up, you make such a difference that everybody knows you were there. Everybody realizes that you were there.”

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