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Meet Carolyn Boyd of Humble Hearts Organization in East Garfield Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Carolyn Boyd.

Carolyn, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up in poverty, living in low-income neighborhoods my whole life, watching my parents struggle to make ends meet. I didn’t realize we were poor until I was in the 5th grade and a classmate gave me her sweater because she saw that I didn’t have anything on. I will never forget that day her name was Diana our class was on a bathroom break, and I told her I liked the color of her hoodie it was a deep Turquoise. She said, “you don’t have a jacket take this you can have it”.

Several days had passed it didn’t hit me right there but later on I actually felt a sense of embarrassment. She made me realized that what she had I didn’t have and apparently all because we couldn’t afford warm jackets. I then went back in time to third grade when I had a teacher who would wait for class to be over many times, and hand me a shopping bag full of clothes. Shhh, she says this s for you don’t tell the other kids. All this time I thought how special I am – wow my teacher Miss Connelly loves me only to be hurt by humiliation I wasn’t special I was poor and she knew it. I was her charity case I thought which broke my heart.

I was beyond poor walking to school without warm hats, and gloves I no longer wondered why people were always giving my mom clothes, why are we waiting in line for bags of food. It then hit me that we were poor. That is when the humiliation set in. From then on I grew up being embarrassed of the situation we were in. I was embarrassed of who was looking at us, I was embarrassed to be me, and the conditions we lived in. Our gas, and electric was always off, my brothers and I were going to school without bathing. We depending on school meals to feed us throughout the day until we got home to dinner which was important in our home and my mom focus on this meal. This was our lifestyle.

My father was an alcoholic, and both my parents were hard on us they were physically abusive. My mother seemed to be head of the house the one to take us all down as she was mentally, physically, and verbally abusive not only to us but to my dad as well. I was molested several times, by several different family members at the same time from the age of 7 to 13; I will also tell you that my very own mother prostituted me when I was about 8-9yrs old to an elderly male neighbor whom she allowed him to fondle me for money I say allowed because she was never there in person but always sent me there returning back with money that she handed over to my dad for beer, and cigarettes. Not once did she take the money to feed her children later on in life I burden myself with this anger.

From the age that I can remember about 6 or 7 My mother called me names such as a “dirty bitch”, and “whore”. I remember her saying things like, “I wish I didn’t have kids”. Or I wish you were never born. There are so many stories I could tell you, but will save for a rainy day. I just wanted to provide some insight into my upbringing to help you understand why it is that I do what I do. In my world, the people I help are no different from me, and that is why I am able to understand them because they too have been hurt or let down by someone they love, depended on or needed. My life didn’t get any better, in fact it got worse. When I turned 15 a few months before 16 I couldn’t take the abuse any longer so I ran away from home. I became homeless by choice. I didn’t have a clue where I was going to stay I just knew I wasn’t going to stay under the same roof as my parents. I have a handicap brother, and the other one is in prison. My brother begged me to take him along. He was fifteen at the time, and the youngest of us three. He had it the hardest, and though it broke my heart to leave, I had to save myself.

A year later he ended up in jail where he remains to this very day. I blame myself. My little brother and I had been through so much we plotted to kill my parents from all the years of abuse. I am not proud of this even a bit ashamed but this confession is only to express the damage of hurt and anger that had boiled up from our parent’s abuse. Perhaps I could have saved him from a life gone badly, a cycle my mom drove him to. I dropped out of High School to turn to the streets where I met a crowd that befriended me. I joined a gang where I was showed a whole new world of freedom, drugs, sex, and no rules a reckless crowd indeed but they showed me love and acceptance.

I got hooked on cocaine then moved onto smoking Sherms (wicked sticks) an addiction that led me to try other things like crack cocaine and acid trips. This turned me into a life of hustling, solicitation, and stealing. This life had me sleeping in and outside of places such a school arched doorway, hallways of opened doors to private homes, and enclosed gangways to empty buildings. I ended up moving in with my drug dealer who I traded for sex he took me under his wing. He was 11 years older than me he gave me a roof over my head he was a 27 year old man I had turned 16 where I became his possession and he would lock me in. I became his and went under his form of abuse until he got arrested for murder. Once again I became Free but homeless. I went back to the hustle until I couldn’t do it any longer as I was 3 months pregnant a close friend took me in until I decide to go back home at 7 months pregnant to the house I ran away from.

My mom was a changed woman she no longer put me down with words and instead she became a proud grandmother trying to make up for lost time. My daughter saved my life. I stopped smoking Sherm,( marijuana combined with PCP and formaldehyde) my main drug choice gave up coke, put myself on Public Aid, and went back to school. I graduated on stage at the age of twenty with my two year old daughter there cheering me on from the audience. A friend got me a job at her company pulling plant orders. From there on I changed my life and things just kept getting better for me. I was able to get off public aid and I worked my way up into the administrative industry where good money was being made. When I learned how to drive at the age of 23 I bought my first car brand new off the lot. Three years later I bought a 2 flat building on Chicago’s west side where I gave my parents the first floor, and I took the 2nd.

Until this day 17 years later I am still living in my building. Having a new life with a healthy, stable income, I started giving back in my community. I started a collection of clothing, along with miscellaneous items, to hand over to those in need. Over the years the people started to know me as, “Carol, the lady who helps people”. After doing this for about twelve years, my family encouraged me to start a company so that through social networking I could help others by collecting more; so I did. In 2011, Operation Humble Hearts went into effect.

On June 26, 2013 we were incorporated, and a year later on June 1, 2014 we were recognized by the state of Illinois as a 501c3 Organization. I never thought my life would take me to a place where I would be doing what I am doing today. As I grew, helping more and more people, it became a dream of mine to have my own foundation to serve others by helping those in need. Truth be told, I am being reminded of my daydreams as a child. I grew up wishing there was a Humble Hearts to come help me, rescue, & lift me in times of humiliation, and hopelessness. I come from the same place as others – I have been through so much. You name it; I have had a taste of it. That bad taste is no longer around and God has given me a second chance to not only better myself, but to help others do the same as well. I will never forget where I came from and that is why I named my company, “Humble Hearts”. It is a daily, personal reminder to myself to stay focused, and genuinely help those in need.

My goal is to invest in those that I help individually so that they get all the attention needed to feel special and know that someone relates to their situation. I want to change humiliation into dignity with comforting smiles. To show that no matter where you came from it doesn’t mean you have to remain there, it just means you have to work to get to that new beginning a little harder than others. Humble Hearts is a part of that beginning, and I am willing to help because I believe in chances, and I believe that God wants us all to help each other with compassion. Humble Hearts is not a religious foundation but because I carry God in me this leads me to help mankind – I am a humanitarian Charity Company doing philanthropy work in God’s name.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It was not easy but it wasn’t hard either – I knew what I was doing and how to do it – why not? I lose nothing but can gain so much more!

I grew up with people giving my family things all the time. All I had to do was the same and figure out how to do it so I started to constantly sort and go through my things and my kid’s things. If someone needed and I didn’t have in my house or money to do it with I ask around I had done so many humiliating things in my life that stepping out and asking people for money and their things were no bother for me. It soon became a challenge and a game to see how much I can collect. I would ask for leftover trays of food, or clothing that didn’t fit me but still wanted even asking for furniture that I liked in friend’s home. I even sought out friends with money telling them stories to see how much or if they would hand over a few bucks. I crack up sometimes as I reminisce about those days – pretty funny to me how bold I became and still is today.

Humble Hearts Organization – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Humble Hearts is a humanitarian Organization dedicated to working with the homeless, woman & children in shelters, & families in low-income disadvantaged communities. My Mission is to help people to receive items that they cannot get on their own. Providing furniture to moms out of the shelter or who has just been in a fire and they are low income with no means of financial support to rebuild a home. Humble Hearts works to lead you up in spirit by offering clothing, hygiene products, fresh water, food, even hosting events to feeding the homeless community.

I do not resell anything donated even during struggling times I also encourage others to give to someone in need rather than selling. We are growing in different directions every year to change and inspire self-respect by creating events, workshops, and motivational gatherings. No human should feel alone, hungry or go without proper clothing when surrounded by people who can help. I just work harder on seeking out the things and transport from my hands to the ones in need. My vision is to grow with as many working resources to help elevate ones spirit by promoting self-worth, mental and physical hygiene, as well as love with inspiration to want more in life and keep growing. To provide an individual with the leads to get into rehab if fighting an addiction, offers furniture to children sleeping on the floor, even locating shelters for an abusive woman.

I am known for surprising moms with a truck full of brand new furniture that has been donated by The Dump Furniture Store, for hosting free prom and graduation dresses to teens in need, for bringing home the homeless to live with me so far I have opened my door and taken in 37 homeless people to live in my house with me. for hosting a Christmas event where Santa comes and passes out presents to about 100 kids this year will be my fourth year – this was my dream come true as I never experienced Christmas growing up. For collecting and passing out winter cos this year I was blessed with over 700 coats that went to 300 homes.

I am proud because hard work does pay off, asking for help does come throw and I have met the most helpful giving people out in this world from my organization, I am not funded by the state I pay out of my own pocket so asking for help is needed all the time.

I am different from others because I get involved emotionally and show it my story is true its real and it relates to those that come to me for help. People accept help and tell you their truth as to why they are in their situation. Having that honesty up front with no judgment leads to an open respectful relationship and trust. When there is no bull-crap added you see past vulnerable souls and is able to give purely full wholeheartedly. I am known for giving quality and of quantity – I feel like Oprah passing out free cars when I am able to bless a home with furniture or food that I went shopping for. I don’t mind picking up a homeless friend to shower in my house. I am apart from others because my spirit is involved and it’s not about making money to get rich it’s about doing what we are supposed to do it’s about People helping people. Sounds cliche but to me its the truth I want God proud of me! I don’t get paid a salary but my heart gets paid back with love and respect that something I earned that something I want to pass on.

My Vision is to grow day by day as I am able to provide and promote HOPE back into lives of those I am trying to inspire & help.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Proudest moment of my career is when I was asked to be featured on Chicago Very own and they got to come out and talk to my homeless friends. They didn’t talk about how I fed them they didn’t talk about what I fed them instead they said my smile is what they wait for, My loud voice is noticed to all and they can hear me a mile away when I am screaming out is anyone here? I got pound cakes with dinner tonight. I hustle to get things the homeless do not get often such as snacks and candy. I was proud because they said Carol always gives us nice things she gives us good stuff.

Another proud moment I can go back on is when I got sick with cancer and couldn’t get out of bed to feed several called to check up on me. One came to my home to bring me cookies and flowers I felt so bad and sad cause I went from feeding 3 times a week to nothing at all. I had apologized over and over again when Tim told me I’ve seen your face so many times enough to keep me full you rest and take care of yourself everyone knows your not well. I was so proud of myself because I was not a woman any longer who dropped off food or clothes I was a true friend and that the respect I am talking about that I had earned.

Not to mention my daughter will know that when I am no longer here it is not my past of where I came from that they will remember but the mark I left behind from the work and labor I put out into this world for humanity.

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