- Associated Press - Monday, January 1, 2018

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - After a relationship went sour in May, James McNorton found himself homeless. All he had were the clothes on his back and his ID.

But he said he would not change a thing. Being homeless brought him to Degage Ministries, where he is trying to help others less fortunate than him, who he refers to as his “brothers and sisters.”

“Just because I’m homeless doesn’t mean I can’t help my brothers and sisters,” McNorton told The Grand Rapids Press .

McNorton is originally from Maui, Hawaii, and is both an artist and a poet. He said he was blessed with a lot of ideas.

This Christmas season, McNorton channeled that creativity to help his “brothers and sisters” at Degage, using Christmas cards as a medium. He designed and created custom Christmas cards, which he offered for donations, hoping to both help make money and bring awareness to the issue of homelessness.

All the profits of his work go to the homeless, McNorton said.

He presented the cards for donations to two churches, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and Fountain Street Church.

McNorton kept half the donations for the work he did making the cards and each church took the other half to purchase Degage vouchers.

The church then would distribute the vouchers to its congregation, who would in turn distribute them to the Heartside Community when they saw someone in need, said Bob Kreter, marketing manager for Degage Ministries.

Degage Ministries has a voucher program, where $2 vouchers can be redeemed for services provided there.

McNorton described it as a “win-win-win-win” situation. He said he has made about 700 cards, and gathered about $1,200 in donations this Christmas season.

The ministry, based in downtown Grand Rapids, offers both immediate help, like a warm meal or shower, and long-term assistance for things like housing, according to its website.

Kreter said patrons at Degage often want to help, but what McNorton did stands out.

“It happens a lot that patrons want to give back even while they’re patrons but they’re giving back more in their time,” Kreter said. “They’re volunteering in the kitchen and in other areas to help, but James did it financially, and that just blew us away.”

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Not only is McNorton giving Degage Ministries half his money, Kreter said, he’s ensuring it goes straight back to the homeless the ministry serves through the vouchers.

“God’s just in his heart, to help people,” he said. “We just love him.”

Although McNorton is done making cards for this Christmas season, he said he has big plans for next year. He wants to raise enough money to pay for 10,000 vouchers for the homeless.


Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, http://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids

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