INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Jake Carpenter is the kind of person who’s always giving. For the past four months, Jake has been volunteering at the Martin Luther King Community Center on 40th Street in Indianapolis.
The kids are often in need, sometimes just for a safe place to have a meal or to do homework. Many people drive by and never know what happens inside, but Jake stopped one day and simply asked.
“Jake is a volunteer who just showed up one day and said, ‘How can I help?'” said Allison Luthe, Executive Director of the MLK Center.
“I noticed the place was kind of dilapidated, kind of falling apart for the most part,” said Jake Carpenter.
Jake is a firefighter with the Indianapolis Fire Department but he used to be a police officer and patrolled that very area. He knows firsthand the challenges these kids face. Instead of wiping his hands of the issues, he rolled up his sleeves.
“He comes to me and says, ‘Is it okay? I have an idea. Can I do this? Is it OK if i do this?'” said Luthe.
Jake bought a new television and hung it in the teen room, purchased kickboxing equipment and assembled it, picked up new video games, put up a new basketball goal and hand-painted the court.
“He has suggested we apply for money from the Colts for a summer program and we got the money. He got money from his union. He got money from his coworkers. He got money from his friends and family on Facebook to raise money for the carpet,” said Luthe.
So what would motivate a complete stranger to give so generously? To find out, we have to go back to 2003.
“I was on a motorcycle trip and for some reason, me and my partner weren’t wearing helmets on I-74,” said Carpenter.
Exiting the interstate, Jake lost control of his motorcycle and his head slammed into a guardrail. He was airlifted to Cincinnati where a priest was called in to read him his last rites.
After a month in a coma, Jake came to with a new perspective and a second chance at life.
“At that point in time, I knew that what I had to do to give back for my second life, I guess, is help people,” said Carpenter.
In June, the MLK Center reached out to the WISH Patrol for help thanking Jake. He was unable to attend their annual volunteer appreciation dinner and the staff wanted to do something special just for him.
The WISH Patrol team sprang into action, and teamed up with the Indianapolis Indians to surprise Jake with an afternoon he would remember forever.
The Indianapolis Indians welcomed Jake and kids from the MLK Center to a game and even gave Jake his own customized jersey during a special ceremony on the field.
“Jake, (we) just wanted to congratulate you on your service and for setting an example as to what it means to be a good public servant and really carrying on the spirit of volunteerism and civic pride that we take so much pride here in the city,” said Charlie Henry, Director of Communications for the Indianapolis Indians.
On top of that, Jake was surprised with a night out to relax and enjoy. The Cunningham Restaurant Group supplied Jake with dinner and the Marriott Indianapolis North – Keystone at the Crossing hotel pitched in with a free hotel stay so he could enjoy some rest and relaxation.
“Marriott – Keystone at the Crossing is happy to be part of honoring Jake for giving his time and talent to the MLK Community Center,” said James Jackson, General Manager of Indianapolis North – Keystone at the Crossing. “Jake’s compassion and spirit inspires all of us.”
Don Helbig from Kings Island talks about giving back to the kids.
David Hamilton from Rowe & Hamilton wants kids in the community to know that there are people that care about them.
Richard Hill with Defenders says Jake is a great example for the community.
Next, came a surprise for the kids.
Kings Island donated 40 tickets so the kids could enjoy a day of fun and thrills.
Defenders Security Systems in Indianapolis came next, donating $2,500 to help Jake complete more projects at the MLK Center.
“Your story really resonated with us, the giving back that you do for the MLK Center really inspired us. You’re a humble servant. You give your time energy and resources to improve the lives of others and that aligns with what we do at Defenders. We’re honored to make a donation to the MLK center on your behalf,” said Richard Hill, Chief Marketing Officer for Defenders.
Just as the players were about to take the field, one last surprise from David Hamilton with the Rowe and Hamilton Law Firm in Indianapolis.
“Jake, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Heard your story and on behalf of Rowe and Hamilton, we are donating $2,500,” said Hamilton.
To the kids, it’s more than paint and carpet, it’s more than money. It’s knowing somebody cares about them that matters.
“I think of a nice kind man who helps a lot,” said 13-year-old, Dahwee Jackson.
“It makes me feel happy that somebody is caring enough to do all this,” said 11-year-old Damya Lee.
“He’s nice. He’s compassionate and he really cares about how we feel about the MLK, so he keeps upgrading it and gives us what we want. He’s very nice,” said 11-year-old, Yahshuah Jackson.
A second shot at life for Jake is giving these kids their best shot at a successful one.
“If I can save one or two and give them a better chance in life, then it’s worth it. I’ll spend every day, every money I have there for those kids,” said Carpenter.
WISH-TV would like to give special thanks to our sponsors who helped make this story possible. They include: The Indianapolis Indians, The Cunningham Restaurant Group, Indianapolis North – Keystone at the Crossing Hotel, Kings Island, Defenders Security, and the Rowe and Hamilton Law Firm.
The MLK Center always welcomes new volunteers and donations. If you would like to help, click here.
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