Not long after Jeremy McDowell posted a request on Facebook for ways to get involved in the community, he received a phone call.
Honey Sparre, outreach case manager for Gateway Behavioral Health Services in Brunswick, was on the line. “Hey, you got 15 minutes?” she asked.
Sparre is well connected with the needs of Glynn and surrounding counties. She works every day with the homeless population in this area, connecting them with services and trying to meet their needs.
Sparre dropped by McDowell’s tattoo and piercing shop, Bigtime Ink, located at 4479 New Jesup Hwy., soon after. Those 15 minutes turned into an hour and a half of the two discussing the many various needs of people in Glynn County and the ways that McDowell and his shop’s employees could help.
“I just wanted to do something, because this is our home,” said McDowell, who also goes by “Fat Cat.”
McDowell’s first project aimed to directly support the work at Gateway. He and his employees pooled together their money and purchased enough groceries to fill up the back of McDowell’s truck.
Sparre said she’d be distributing the food to the homeless, to HIS Ministries in Brunswick and to anyone else who many need it.
“With nobody getting food stamps in February, it kind of slowed everything down,” Sparre said. “And the way they’re doing it in March is kind of going to be different too.”
McDowell had been inspired to start giving back to this community on a recent trip Walmart on a cold day, when he noticed two people on the side of the road trying to stay warm.
“I was like, ‘We’re pretty blessed with what we do,’” he said. “I’ve been really lucky, with 22 years in business.”
It’s easy to go about your daily life and not see the many struggles faced by people in Glynn County, he said. The homeless population in this area is large, many people struggle to find affordable housing and many also go hungry on a regular basis because they cannot afford food.
“So this is one of several things that we want to start doing,” McDowell said. “We want to do this once a month.”
He’s hoping to provide aid to a variety of local groups and organizations.
After the food donation, he already lined up a second opportunity to help someone. Sparre helped him get in touch with Darcelle Burandt, who recently opened the House of Hope, a residential treatment center for girls who’ve escaped from human trafficking.
Burandt told them that one girl in the house had been tattoo’d at an early age, as a symbol of ownership, and she desperately wanted to cover the mark up somehow. But the House of Hope could not afford to get her a new tattoo.
McDowell offered to tattoo over it for free, when she turns 18 in a few months.
“We’re going to get that gone for her, so that way she won’t have to look in the mirror and see this memory forever,” he said.
Only a week before McDowell called, Burandt said she’d been praying with the other girls in the house that they could find some way to rid the girl of the marking she detested.
“We all just started crying, because we knew it was an answer to our prayer,” Burandt said.
McDowell’s conversation with Sparre quickly launched several community service opportunities. He’s now looking for more ways to give back.
“This is our home,” he said. “We’ve been here for 22 years, and you just look around and you see it falling apart all over the place, and we can do something about it, even if it’s just a little, tiny bit.”