By the door, he saw one of his students, a seventh-grader named Marcus. The boy was shivering, wearing an old T-shirt and shorts in wintry weather.
Spikes jokingly told him to put on some more clothes.
“I don’t have any that fit me,” the boy replied.
Spikes was stunned. When he went home that evening, he told his wife, Jennifer, about what he saw. She, too, was surprised and knew she had to do something.
Charles talked to some Jefferson School officials and asked if Jennifer could talk with Marcus’ mom, Nancy, to see if she could help.
Nancy, who asked that her last name and her son’s not be published, is a well-meaning woman, but she recently lost her job at Carl’s Jr. in Livermore. The phone call between Nancy and Jennifer was a tough moment for both mothers, as the admission of a need for help is something that’s not easily given.
Nancy, who is five months pregnant, cried as Jennifer asked if she could help Marcus, but she knew it was the best thing for her son. Jennifer and a friend took the 13-year-old on a three-hour shopping spree, buying him new pants, shoes, sweatshirts and coats to keep warm this winter.
For Marcus, it was like Christmas came early.
“They’re so generous, and I thank them for that,” the smiling but soft-spoken teenager said.
Eventually, Jennifer thought about opening the offer up to anyone who needs help. She has created an organization, called Because of Marcus, and she’s going through the application process to make it a nonprofit. She’s received bags of clothing from friends, family, teachers at Jefferson and members of the community.
Jennifer said the clothing drive, which she plans to run year-round, aims to help people of all ages, races and genders, not just kids. She said she gave business suits to a woman who got a job after struggling for a while, and she wants to help more people anonymously. So far, she has roughly 23 bins of clothing.
Someone also donated a crib for Nancy’s new baby.
“There’s a reason (Marcus) was brought into my life, and there’s a reason so many people have shown support,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer knows she didn’t really have to do this. She could’ve just shown concern and moved on with her life. But somewhere inside, she felt the need to give back.
The 1992 Tracy High graduate went through her own dark period after losing her job as a pricing department administrator with Safeway’s corporate office, something she loved. Jennifer said she turned to alcohol and later to painkillers after a surgery.
But while the pills took care of her physical pain, her psychological and emotional pain couldn’t be treated over the counter.
Then one day, Jennifer woke up and things were different. She saw where her life was going and didn’t want it to hurt her husband or her now 7-year-old twins, Cierra and Jahdai.
She said what she has gone through gave her a little more perspective on Marcus’ situation.
“I wasn’t thinking this — I just thought I’d get him some clothes,” Jennifer said. “I had no intentions of this kind of thing. People would come to me, and I’m just so grateful that I can provide something.”
• In the Spotlight is a weekly profile in Our Town. To nominate someone or to comment on this story, contact Our Town Editor Justin Lafferty at email@example.com. Meet Jennifer Spikes
• Age: 35
• How long in Tracy: 15 years
Education: Tracy High School, 1992; bachelor’s degree in business administration, San Diego State University, 1998
• Occupation: Coordinator, Verizon Engineering
• Family: Husband, Charles Spikes; children, Cierra and Jahdai, both 7
• Help out: Because of Marcus clothing drive, 4 to 6 p.m. today, outside Planned Parenthood, 1441 Tracy Blvd.
• Contact Jennifer: 229-0549 or firstname.lastname@example.org