(TMU) — For those who grew up in circumstances of poverty, it can be hard to break from what can often be a never-ending cycle. And for those rare few who do break from the cycle and succeed financially, it’s often tempting to never look back—let alone to give back to the poor community one came from.
But one man who was dealt a rough card in life is making sure that he can give back to the children living at the low-income housing complex he once called home.
This past weekend, the man visited the courtyard of his old Harris Gardens Apartments with $12,000 worth of toys in tow for the children at the 200-unit complex, where half of the residents have Section 8 vouchers granting them government-subsidized rent and the other are low-income tenants who enjoy no housing assistance.
The man brought a range of presents for the children—including bikes, balls, remote control toys, and other gifts he brought in a 26-foot-truck.
The man, Adam Armstrong, told NBC News:
“You see these kids and you hand them a baby doll, or a Nerf gun, a bicycle, two little boys throwing a football and you can’t put a price on the feeling that gives you.
I consider myself very blessed.”
Armstrong grew up in the poverty-stricken town of Harrisonburg in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where he had a troubled youth and had lived on his own since he was only 16. At the age of 18, when he was barely an adult, he landed in hot water for selling marijuana. Armstrong explained:
“I remember Harrisonburg being a friendly small town … I remember government housing and a lot of poverty, crimes, drugs, violence and things of that nature. Every time I see kids, I know it’s not their fault where they are.”
After serving a three-month sentence, Armstrong lived in the Harris Gardens Apartments—a 200-unit complex where half of the residents were low-income tenants and the other half had Section 8 vouchers granting them government-subsidized rent.
At some point, Armstrong, who is now 35 and has a 3-year-old daughter, decided that he needed to make a change in his life. He told the Washington Post:
“I looked in the mirror and said, if I don’t do different I’m not going to get any different.”
At that point, Armstrong packed his bags and moved to the suburbs of Baltimore where he simultaneously worked several jobs, ranging from waiting tables to managing a telemarketing line. He eventually became a loan officer at a mortgage business and began to save his money before moving on to a successful career in the real estate business.
After some years of success, he made the decision to return to Harrisonburg and nearby low-income developments to donate to youth who may not be having the best time during the holiday season.
Sara Lewis-Weeks, the property manager at Harris Gardens, was doubtful when Armstrong strolled into her office last Wednesday and asked her to gather residents so he could distribute toys to the children. She told NBC:
“He comes in and says,`What are you doing on Saturday? I’d like give away a lot of toys’ and I’m like, `Yeaaah, I don’t know about that,’ … I’m very skeptical at that point.”
After she confirmed his identity and spoke to him again—while he was at Walmart shopping for the presents, no less—she made flyers to post across the property so that kids could gather to pick up whatever little toys he had to offer.
However, Armstrong’s haul wasn’t simply stocking-stuffers or plastic junk from the $.99 Only Store. Weeks explained that Armstrong, wearing a Santa cap, was giving away much more expensive toys. She said:
“It wasn’t like stuffed animals, he was giving away bikes, remote-controlled cars, real Barbie dolls, not Dollar Store Barbie dolls … He didn’t miss anybody. His heart was truly in this.
They thought it was going to be a couple of stuffed animals, not, ‘And you get a bike, and you get a bike, and you get a bike,’ like an ‘Oprah’ for little kids,”
Armstrong has been distributing toys like this for roughly six years, if not through his church, than to the Salvation Army and other charities. This time, he felt like doing it himself. He told the Post:
“The kids were so innocent and sweet … They’d say, ‘Thank you.’ Some would be shy or reluctant. You can’t put a price on looking at these kids’ happy faces.
Some of them have nothing, and to be able to give them a small toy … the reward and the pleasure was mine.”
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