James Schweikhard took his daughter to school every day, but something started to seem very wrong when school administrators looked a little closer at the pair. The girl’s elementary school called the police who tracked the father down to his SUV and were taken aback by what they found inside.
The 41-year-old dad had recently left Oklahoma with his 10-year-old daughter and turned up in Lakewood, Colorado, but their situation wasn’t your average relocation. James Schweikhard said he had to flee his home state because it was a bigger risk to stay there than to start anew in the Denver metro area. However, it didn’t take long for him to run into the police, who were about to change the course of his day when they looked closer at his vehicle.
The two had been living in Colorado for a few months, and James enrolled his daughter in school. After several weeks of going to and from campus, administrators noticed she was arriving at classes late and appeared very tired. One day, after walking his daughter into school, James returned to his parked SUV and found it surrounded by Lakewood police officers. “I saw them looking at my truck, I said, ‘Officers, what is going on?’” James recalled.
The officers were only there to help, but it was an odd occurrence to James, who is not used to getting help from cops. James and his little girl had been living in his SUV, which was jam-packed with their belongings, after leaving Oklahoma in search of a better life. “I packed everything up that we own in the truck there and we just drove here,” he said. “It was more of a risk staying in Oklahoma. I couldn’t get a job for anything, couldn’t get a place to live.”
The homeless family was just trying to survive, but just when things were starting to look up, James’ truck broke down. Unfortunately, not having reliable transportation also cost him his job. He had been driving his daughter to school before it broke down, and it became obvious to campus personnel that the vehicle was more than a means of transportation, it was also their home. They alerted local authorities out of concern for the young student.
Lakewood Police Officer James Butler was on the scene, investigating the school’s call when he started talking to James and learned about the heart-wrenching ordeal that he and his daughter had endured. Butler didn’t just listen, he decided to act, and he did so with an urgency out of compassion for this man and his child.
Butler immediately got the family into a shelter. He also arranged for Ace Towing to transport their car to Sun Valley Automotive, and both companies generously donated their services. “It was the right thing to do,” Butler said. “Because at any point in time in our lives, any one of us can be in that same situation. Offering assistance to another human being is the right thing to do.”
After hearing about James Schweikhard’s story, people in the Lakewood community offered to help, and a handful of businesses offered a job to James, who has struggled with homelessness for a long time. As a result, James and his daughter were able to move into their first apartment in almost two years. “I’m in shock, I think,” he said. “This has actually restored my faith in humanity.”
People donated cash, dishes, furniture, and clothes for James and his daughter. Sgt. Dave Hoover saved donated items in his garage for a couple of weeks, waiting for James to get his housing application approved. “It’s all about being a part of the community,” he said. “I’m amazed we’ve been able to do this so quickly. I’ve always been taught that you always give a hand up and not a handout. James has done a lot of the work getting himself together.”
James Schweikhard is touched that anyone, especially a cop, would go to these lengths for the least of those in their community. “I’m very excited,” James said. “I think it’s awesome, I think it’s really cool, very unexpected, but very cool,” the appreciative father added.
We all have the ability to help others in need, and we may be the one who could use that compassion at some point in life. An entire community stepped up for a family that had been knocked down. We can all do something, big or small. All acts of kindness make an immeasurable difference in people’s lives.