Five years after becoming St. Vincent de Paul’s Sunnyslope dining room manager, Jack Chapman has been recognized by the Arizona Community Action Association as the recipient of the nonprofit organization’s annual Heart and Hand award. The award honors those who go above and beyond to better their communities and improve lives of limited-income families.
He received the award during a luncheon earlier this month, accompanied by his wife.
Jack said he couldn’t have been more surprised when he heard about it.
“You could have knocked me over with a feather,” he said. “I immediately thought of the hundreds of other people who have been doing what I do here in the Valley for much longer, and could have been chosen. It really is an honor.”
The dining room, located in north central Phoenix, offers lunch and dinner service to around 200 guests each day.
Jack said he has found a good balance to make the place as useful as it can be for guests. Every day, a handful of guests who have started to volunteer at the dining room, work alongside other volunteers to make sure the food and dining room are ready.
Meanwhile, Jack meets with guests to work one-on-one with them to try to find permanent housing, medical and mental help, as well as drug and alcohol addiction treatments, among other things.
“We have a pretty close community here,” he said. “We face the same issues many other places who work with the homeless face: alcoholism and drug addiction, mental illnesses and things like that, but here, all guests look out for each other.”
As soon as the gate opens, people begin lining outside Jack’s door waiting to talk to him. He helps them by pointing them in the right direction and helping them find the resources they need.
In the last couple of years, Jack, with the help of Southwest Behavioral Health and other organizations, has managed to help 34 guests find permanent housing. He said he attributes a lot of the success to thinking outside the box.
Since he began the job, he has expanded the bus fare program from 30 to more than 100 tickets to give out each month. He was able to do so after contacting various churches and convincing them to donate tickets.
Jack said he always knew he wanted his role to be more than just a dining room manager.
“People kept telling me ‘You can’t help everybody,’” he said. “I kept responding ‘Why not? I can certainly try.”