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Now it’s your turn

By Kevin Cullen
Globe Columnist / December 20, 2011
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Gidget Jachney was walking down Boylston Street in Back Bay one night when she saw the woman sitting there on some steps, next to the Walgreens store.

Jachney could have averted her eyes, but she didn’t. The woman wasn’t begging. She was just sitting there, looking off, to a place that no one wants to be. She was surrounded by her five kids, wearing something called quiet desperation. There was a look on her face that pulled Gidget Jachney toward her.

“Is everything OK?’’ she asked the woman.

The woman could have said everything is OK, but she told the truth, and the truth was, “No, everything’s not OK.’’

Her name is Vicki, and her kids range between 10 months and 15 years. Her husband, Ted, was inside the Walgreens, getting diapers for the baby. Ted and Vicki have names like Kennedys but no Kennedy money. Ted’s a mechanic and a handyman.

It was one thing after another. Their car got towed, with Ted’s tools inside. They didn’t have the money to pay for the impounded car, and the tow lot wouldn’t let Ted have his tools, so he couldn’t work. They had come to the Back Bay from their East Boston home because some guy had promised Ted some work, but the guy never showed. So there they were, outside the Walgreens, broke, wondering what to do next.

“I can help you,’’ Gidget Jachney said.

She took Vicki into Walgreens and filled a basket with diapers and baby formula and peanut butter, and Vicki started to cry.

“I can’t take advantage of you like this,’’ Vicki said.

“You’re not taking advantage of me,’’ Gidget said. “I want to help.’’

She took Vicki’s number and promised to check on her. And then she went back to her life and her job and got busy until her husband Kyle said, “Did you ever call that woman?’’

Gidget and Kyle drove from Back Bay over to Eastie and met Vicki and Ted and the kids again and realized how little this family had. They gave them a couch. They gave them some clothes. They gave them some books. They got the car and Ted’s tools back.

Gidget and Kyle met another couple for dinner at Towne on Boylston and told the story of a family down on their luck, how a few missed paychecks made the difference between getting by and getting desperate. Their friends drove home and sent out some e-mails and soon there were a dozen people on the South Shore who wanted to help.

They bought Christmas gifts for the kids. Someone found Ted some part-time work at a garage in South Boston.

Gidget Jachney and her husband were reluctant to talk about this. Their friend who sent out the e-mails and everybody who helped didn’t want their names in the paper.

But Ted and Vicki wanted people to know, so that somebody somewhere else might do what Gidget Jachney and all her friends did, which is save a family.

“Gidget looked me in the eye and made a human connection,’’ Vicki said. “They didn’t just give us stuff. They gave us a belief in other people again. It was hard to accept help, but we needed it.’’

We met at a McDonald’s in East Boston, and Vicki and Ted brought along their friend Patricia, just moved back from Miami. Patricia’s got six kids and three grandkids with her and no home, no money. A few weeks removed from the lowest point of their lives, Vicki and Ted are trying to help someone even lower.

“We’ve got to pay it forward,’’ Vicki said.

UPDATE FROM LAST WEEK’S COLUMN: Comcast did the right thing, clearing up a misunderstanding over an old cable bill, and Jake Miskin, the college kid from Needham, got his college loan approved and will not have to quit school after all.

Merry, merry.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at cullen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeCullen.

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