Thanks for joining us at Nobody’s View for the Secret Millionaire write-up. I know the Olympics are taking up most of our TV-watching attention, but still…
[You already know we blog America’s Got Talent here, because we believe that regular people living their dreams is worth a few words. Heck, that’s sort of why we exist! And, this season, we’ve decided to again blog Secret Millionaire. Why? Well, first, we’ve noticed some of you coming back from last season looking for the write-ups. So there’s that. But we also like the idea of people giving back. And, we notice that sometimes people check in here for names and information on the groups that benefit. So, if we can help you find some information, then that’s fine by us. Enjoy!]
Ah, the Chicago skyline. Ah, Lake Forest, Illinois. Wait, did he just say a “2 billion dollar business?”
Lemonis says he was adopted out of an orphanage in Lebanon and brought to Miami before moving to Chicago to get into the RV and camping business.
It was interesting when Lemonis said that his work has been his life, but that he now wanted to be on Secret Millionaire to be a “better human being.” When the ticketing agent told him he was going to Miami, he looked like he was ready to break down.
It’s good to have memories of a place.
Upon his arrival in the rain, he donned an ancient minivan the color of primer and readied himself to be immersed in a 30% poverty line. He called the car, “humble pie.”
He admitted that as a child growing up in Miami, he’d never been to that part of town, and said that he had growing anxiety as he navigated the streets to his new home–a trailer park in Liberty City–where the crime rate is twice the national average.
Roaches, filth, and chartreuse. Everywhere. Lemonis didn’t looked thrilled, to put it mildly. And money? $34.27 for food. That small pile of money compared to what he’s used to…probably looked like a pothole to the Grand Canyon.
He happened upon a car wash (on a rainy day) as part of an anti-bullying campaign for the group NVEEE (National Voices for Equality, Education & Enlightenment) and founder Jowharah Sanders. They are committed to reducing the teen suicide rate associated with bullying. They go into the schools and provide services to help with prevention. The car wash is meant to benefit NVEEE’s mentoring program. Lemonis’ job? Hold the car wash sign. He should be good at that. He’s in sales, right?
One little girl said, “They’ll make fun of you for anything at all.” Talk. Gossip. Then, when Marcus said how he was bullied, the girl understood and said that “it should stop, but nobody cares.”
Ouch. Yes, this is a Hollywood show, folks, but I’m guessing her responses weren’t scripted. So again, I say, ouch.
Another girl said she was bullied so badly, that it stays with her every day…now she volunteers for NVEEE.
Afterward, Marcus admitted that as a child, he was “socially awkward.”
I think there’s a lot of us out here who would be in that same boat, Marcus. It’s too bad bullies have to remind us.
Day 2 brought Overtown. A tough part of Miami. Lemonis saw some homeless people and pulled over to ask how they thought he could make a difference. The men told him there a no jobs. When Marcus offered food, a man told him not to, because he could get a fine for bringing it. That news made Lemonis look like he’d had the wind knocked out of him.
His next stop was New Journeys, and director Kathy Cole. He found a flyer on his fence from the the previous day and thought he’d make his services available. New Journeys is a home for young girls who have aged out of the foster system or are homeless. Cole said the focus is to get them independent and self-sufficient. High school diplomas. Life skills. Real life. The group operates on “grace” and donations.
They put him to work putting up blinds. He met a girl trying to get her life back on track after years of being homeless. She took responsibility for some things she did when she was younger, and really celebrated New Journeys, and her new chance at life. I like stories like that. Stories that remind us that no matter where we are, it’s never too late to make a new start.
Kathy said that she is involved with New Journeys because she wanted to support a place for people who come upon hard times and “bad situations.” She wanted to be part of place where people could be safe to start over.
“They need a place to go.” They need a chance.
On Day 3, he said the noise of the trailer park kept him awake, but that he knew he had to get up and face the day. But imagine a lifetime of noise, little sleep….
It was off to Neat Stuff, a place that gives away new clothing and school uniforms to abused, neglected, and homeless kids. He met with Franklin Monjarrez who has been running the store for 10 years. All the things had tags. It was all brand new for kids who may have never been in a store before to buy anything new. Franklin said that $0.94 of every donated dollar goes back into the program.
Lemonis spoke to a volunteer who has been living in foster care since the age of six, but she will age out of that while she’s in her senior year of high school. I cannot even imagine how terrifying that must be for her. Her parents were in jail and have both passed away, so, she really needs an anchor. And right now, that seems to be volunteering and school.
That night, Lemonis took stock, saying he has to remind himself that he can’t fix everything. He can’t fix the world. But I say, keep that feeling (even if it’s not possible to do in reality). It’s that emotion that keeps us connected with other humans in the community of life.
Day 4 took him back to NVEEE, where he learned about an attack that Jowharah suffered at the age of 15, based on a confidence she shared with a friend about her thoughts of lesbianism. It was a terrible story of brutality, but a story that led to an agreement with a higher power and, eventually, the start of her organization, NVEEE.
At the intersection of gods and monsters can be real change. Positive change. And that seems to be what Jowharah Sanders and NVEEE is about.
At an NVEEE roundtable, kids, and Marcus, discussed their bullying stories. He shared about an eating disorder over weight issues…a disorder born of a desire to be accepted.
Later, he told the camera that being bullied is a lonely experience. And he’s right. It is. I think it’s because often, bullies bully to either cover insecurity or exert dominance and often, others join in to be accepted. That leaves the target of bullying left out of the club, so to speak, and feeling very isolated. The catharsis came when Lemonis broke down talking about how he has buried himself in work, so that he wouldn’t have to think about those experiences.
But then, when we reach the limits of work…what do we do?
Maybe a strong dose of reality is really the best therapy.
The next day, he was heading back to New Journeys for dinner. He went shopping with a girl who shared another difficult story–but a girl who was making a new start after being a “handful,” with a commitment to be an example to other kids. All because of a second chance.
Back at home with the groceries, Marcus asked Ms. Kathy about the issues facing the home, and she said it was the mortgage. Past due by eight months. Why? It’s her own money. These girls are depending on her for their chance. For their opportunity to stay off the street.
The girls talked about interview strategies over dinner, and it was great how much they knew. So many job seekers, at all levels, have no training in how to present for a job. It’s a basic skill that so so many people have no clue about. But these women do. And it will be a tremendous asset down the line.
On the final day, he got ready to give. But he also got ready to make a new commitment for himself for the rest of his life. He went back to NVEEE to say goodbye. And to give a check for $35,000. He also got her a car and mobile office to take her message to a wider audience. And most important? He gave a commitment to stay a part of NVEEE.
The next stop was Neat Stuff. He brought in a clothing donation, but also something else. He presented a check to Neat Stuff for $25,000. And then he addressed Roxana, the girl who shared her story with him. He said he didn’t want her to worry about her future, so he was going to set up a trust for her, and started it off with $5,000. She told him that nobody’s really done something for her. She just has her sister and nobody else in the world.
Well, now she has Lemonis as a mentor. And even if he didn’t have a penny to his name, that support would still be worth a million.
The last stop? New Journeys. It was like a homecoming. It really does seem like Lemonis has developed a family relationship with the women of that house. He presented them a check for $75,000, which pretty much blew the roof off the place. And next? A personal check for $10,000 for Ms. Kathy.
Ms. Kathy said that with that money, Marcus saved lives.
Not much more to say on that.
Marcus said that recently he’d been feeling selfish. But now? Now, he’s feeling more balanced. And he now has a bigger family.
Neat Stuff used the funds to buy clothing and uniforms for 500 children. Roxana bought a computer and wants to move into her own place.
Jowharah at NVEEE used her gifts to set up mobile outreach to help kids in the community.
New Journeys used their money to pay the mortgage and buy educational materials. As for Kathy’s money? She wants to buy a car.
Life gets busy. Things get crazy. But we do this at Nobody’s View because…well…we think it’s important.
It’s not about hits folks. It’s not about Google popularity. It’s about doing what you can, even if it’s just a blog.
Be good out there this week everyone, and thanks for joining us here.