The non-profit Project I Am gave 150 Chicago youth an opportunity to both support the city’s homeless community and view a screening of Dreamwork’s “The Boss Baby” to start their spring break on April 10 at Studio Movie Grill, 210 W. 87th St.
Launched by nine-year-old Jahkil Naeem Jackson, Project I Am creates “blessing bags” to benefit Chicago’s homeless population. Blessing bags typically consist of travel-sized baby wipes, socks, deodorant, hand sanitizer, granola bars, toothbrush, toothpaste, bottled water, and more. Jackson decided he wanted to find a way to help the homeless after joining his aunt on trips to assist the homeless.
Project I Am has donated blessing bags to Cornerstone Center, Pacific Garden Mission, Teen Living, Olive Branch, Franciscan House and True To Life Foundation. Additionally, it has previously partnered with Hashtag Lunchbag Chicago, which creates individualized lunch bags for the homeless population and distributes them to homeless shelters.
The free event at Studio Movie Grill allowed youth and their parents an opportunity to create their own blessing bags before watching the movie. Jackson said he believed the homeless will be “happy” to see the blessing bags complete with individualized hand-written messages of encouragement because the bags will remind them that someone cares for them. He said he wanted to help the homeless because many of them don’t have the basic items to start or close their day. Seeing youth participate in the event was important to him as well.
“I think it’s good because other kids can know about the homeless and maybe they will start wanting to help them and also to know that homeless people are people, too,” said Jackson
Jackson was joined by his parents Na-Tae’ Thompson and Jamiel Jackson, who helped him organize the early afternoon event. The young social entrepreneur said it felt good to have his parents there because of the support they provide.
We had no idea this would turn into what it turned into, said Thompson, who shared that the first inklings to starting Project I Am began when Jahkil would ask her and Jackson to give homeless people money whenever he would see them while riding in their car. The first event he held was in February 2016 with maybe eight to 10 of his friends; they made about 100 blessing bags.
“We want to see it grow more and more,” said Thompson. “He has a goal of expanding it across the country to have other kids in other cities do things like this in their cities so we are here to support him.”
Thompson had a unique method of getting the word out about the event.
“I’m part of an organization called Chicagoland Mom Squad and I posted on their Facebook page and people started emailing afterwards about RSVPing,” said Thompson. “It’s good to see the word being spread and to motivate other kids to help those in need.”
“This is divine order; we instilled this message into him early and we named him Naeem for a reason –which means ‘to be magnificent’ – it’s coming to fruition to see him put this event together now,” said Jamiel Jackson.
Venisha White-Johnson, event sales manager at Studio Movie Grill, said donating the screening of “The Boss Baby” was the theater’s way of helping Project I Am create more bags. She said the event quickly sold out once the announcement of the screening was made.
“Studio Movie Grill believes in helping out the community and we very familiar with the projects Jahkil has done in the past so we thought it would be nice to help Jahkil get blessing bags together for the homeless by bringing together kids on their spring break,” said White-Johnson.
Individuals interested in donating blessing bag items or monetary donations, or who wish to learn more, should visit https://www.iamnaeem.com/.