Jacksonville man rewarded for good deed
Nate Wescott gives shoes to homeless man, inspires witness to 'pay it forward'
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – He's hard to miss. A man pushing a lawn mower while carrying a sign that says, "Will work for food."
Johnny Addison, 42, is homeless. He's set up camp behind a dilapidated home on Jacksonville's Westside, near the Normandy Boulevard off-ramp from Interstate 295.
The property owner knows he's sleeping on a mattress under the carport out back, but lets him stay because Addison keeps watch over the old house, even mowing and raking the lawn for free.
"I'm very blessed to be living like this," he said as he pointed to a small stack of books, his transistor radio and a couple of stray cats he considers his family. "I know it sounds crazy, but I make the best of a negative situation and this is, well, home."
Addison has been on the streets for about seven years now, living day-to-day, thanks to random work he's given by strangers.
Most days you'll find Addison on that busy interstate off-ramp, holding his sign, his mower within reach, hoping someone needs their lawn cut so he has money to buy food.
"Tonight's dinner is going to be peanut butter crackers," Johnny said as he pointed over toward his mattress. "The last of my peanut butter, but hey, I'm very content. I'm blessed. I can't complain."
When asked how he can be so happy, having only four or five blankets to keep him warm during the recent brutally cold nights, Addison replied, "I have a clean bill of health, I have access to make money with my lawn mower. It could be worse, but I'm blessed to be here."
Just a few weeks ago, when night temperatures dipped into the 30s and 40s, Johnny changed the request on his sign -- he desperately needed shoes.
Johnny was willing to do anything -- wash someone's car, paint their house, help them move -- just to make enough money to buy a warm pair.
Driving down off the interstate, 28-year-old Nate Wescott read Addison's sign and rolled down his window.
"He was like, 'Sir, do you really need shoes?' and I was like, 'Yes sir, I really do, and I'm willing to work for them right now,'" Addison recounts.
But after learning the men share the same shoe size, Wescott didn't hesitate. He took the shoes off his feet and gave them to Addison, before driving off as the light quickly changed.
"It was pretty cold, and really windy, hitting in the 40s, and he had thong sandals on," Wescott recalled, shaking his head.
That exchange happened so fast, Addison didn't get a chance to truly thank the good Samaritan for his generosity.
Wescott didn't realize the strangers in the car behind him were honking their horn in approval, wanting to anonymously reward him for his good deed.
That's where Channel 4 came in. That second driver contacted the Channel 4, asking to give Wescott a gift: some gift cards to a local restaurant, as well as a clothing and shoe store.
"What?!" Wescott exclaimed, shaking his head when Channel 4 showed up with a photographer to deliver the gift. "I didn't do it for anything in return," Wescott assured us.
It could be seen that Wescott was so uncomfortable even talking about the good deed he had done.
"You don't always get the perfect opportunity like that," Wescott said quietly, shaking his head. "He really needed the shoes, it was cold. It just worked out."
After meeting with Wescott, Channel 4 tracked Addison down, who seemed genuinely thankful for the man who gave him his shoes on that cold Sunday morning.
"You do something good, something good will find you every time," Addison said with a smile. "Never fails. Promise you! Now it's gonna get tough, like it always does every winter."
If you have any odd jobs for which you could use Addison's help, you may call 904-444-2477 to reach or leave him a message. He said he doesn't want any handouts or any sympathy, just work.
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