By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO
The work Maryland gospel singer JJ Hairston does with Ronald McDonald House is very close to his heart. “My mother transitioned from cancer over seven years ago and since then, I’ve worked with my management company finding ways to give back to people who are affected the way I was with my mother’s transition,” Hairston explained in a recent interview with the AFRO.
Hairston tried partnering with organizations like the American Cancer Society and worked with a number of food shelters. “They were great ways to give back,” he stated, but weren’t specifically focused on those whose lives were impacted the way his was with his mother’s illness.
All of that changed when Hairston began working with Ronald McDonald House approximately three years ago, as part of its McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration® Gospel Tour. The Ronald McDonald Houses are homes-away-from-home that provide comfort, support, and resources to families who must travel great distances for their child’s medical needs. The McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour raises funds for Ronald McDonald House Charities® and its mission to improve the health and well-being of children and their families.
Since 2012, the McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration® Gospel Tour has raised more than one million dollars to help families with seriously ill or injured children stay close when they need it most. “Ronald McDonald House is special to me,” Hairston stated, “because they care for families that are facing a number of different ailments and diseases including cancer, so it’s my honor and my passion to work with them. It’s exciting for me to be able to partner faith with action and that’s what we’re doing with the Ronald McDonald House Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour.”
Along with other high profile personalities involved in McDonald’s Inspiration Celebration® Gospel Tour, which include Pastor Mike Jr. in Birmingham, Al, Melvin Crispell III in Charlotte, N.C., The Walls Group in Houston, Texas, and Erica Campbell in Los Angeles, Ca. Hairston presented a total of fifty-thousand dollars in donations and gifts to Ronald McDonald Houses across the country in early December.
What resonates most with Hairston who is also pastor of All Nations Worship Assembly in Washington, DC., is the stress Ronald McDonald House removes from families already dealing with overwhelming situations. “The families don’t have to worry about the bills that they would normally have to pay and they can focus specifically on the child who is dealing with whatever illness they are dealing with.”
Apart from the very personal emotional connection that Hairston has to the issue, his faith itself plays a huge part of how he approaches philanthropy. “At my church our biggest passion is outreach and giving in our area. We often go to homeless shelters in areas that are not served very well. We go to supermarkets, where we know people don’t have a lot and we buy food and give it away and give away gift cards but we partner all of that with prayer and faith. Because we believe, we serve. We believe they will be restored and healed in whatever way God sees fit.”
To those considering starting their own habit of giving back, Hairston offers, “We believe in the Bible where it says ‘If you love me, feed my sheep.’ That goes for those who have, and those who don’t. Everyone has the opportunity to help those in need whether you’re a billionaire or you have ‘just enough. Just think about how you would want people to respond if you were in need.”
Hairston pointed out that he gets a lot back from his experiences working with Ronald McDonald House as well, often being emotionally moved by the children and their families. “I remember one young man in a wheelchair who just loved gospel music and he touched my heart,” Hairston recalled. “These are not just figures, these are real life families and I want to do everything I can to help those families because I have a family myself and I would want to receive help if I needed it so I give help because I’m able to.”
He and his family also get back in other, more tangible ways. “McDonalds has made a whole lot of money off of my daughter. She has to have her fries,” Hairston laughed, adding, “But what I love most about McDonalds, as a corporation, is they’ve helped entrepreneurs be owners in McDonalds and to help in underserved communities like those in Baltimore and other areas. I’m a huge fan now because I’ve seen their philanthropy and what they do for communities that need it.
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