Even small gifts change lives

Pay It Forward

Child’s Question Ignites Movement to Help Homeless

After he and his family encountered a homeless man, commercial lender Aaron Cooper was inspired by his young son to do more. A child’s simple question led to the creation of a program to help feed the homeless.

“It’s such a simple act of kindness, and what’s beautiful to see is that when our kids pack [meals] and see our new friends, they say, ‘There’s John.’ … They don’t see a homeless man anymore. They see a person.” – Jill Cooper, Aaron Cooper’s wife and co-founder of Hope Packed from the Heart program

Bell Employee

Aaron Cooper, commercial lender

Chandler, Ariz.

Recipient

Chandler-area homeless population

The Need

Aaron and his family were in their car when they passed a homeless man with a sign asking for help. Later, Aaron’s son, Levi, asked why the man was holding a sign. Aaron and his wife, Jill, explained that the man didn’t have any food to eat or a home to sleep in.

That’s when Levi asked if they could go home and make him some food.

“That’s what we did,” Jill explains. “We went home, and as a family, we packed lunches, and we went back and we shared with this person in need. That day, we had a full, packed schedule, but my boys had more enjoyment doing this for him than anything else we had done.”

The Impact

Levi’s simple question inspired the Coopers to start a project called “Hope Packed from the Heart.” They pack meals for the homeless on the first Sunday of every month and have partnered with local churches to do some larger-scale group packing projects.

“They need to eat. They need to drink water,” Aaron notes. “But they also need compassion. They need to know that people see them – that they’re not just invisible – and I think that’s part of what we’re trying to teach our boys is that you don’t just look past someone or think less of someone because they don’t share the same status as you do.”

Aaron plans to put his future Pay It Forward funds toward Hope Packed from the Heart, and one of his co-workers, commercial banker Douglas Hawes, donated some of his funds to the program this year. The Coopers have formed an organization so they can expand the program’s outreach, and are working on establishing 501(c)(3) status.

Through the Pay It Forward program, Bell gives employees money each year to donate to people and causes they care about.