Friendship Forged in Memphis Parking Lot Leads to $300,000 – and a New Life for Struggling Teen and His Mom
"It's so awesome – my life has been completely changed," Chauncy Jones Black, 16, tells PEOPLE
A Memphis teenager who offered to carry groceries in exchange for donuts for him and his mom has now received more than $300,000 in GoFundMe donations to help lift his family out of poverty.
“It’s so awesome – my life has been completely changed,” Chauncy Jones Black, 16, tells PEOPLE. “I can’t go anywhere now without people recognizing me. They go, ‘Oh, my God, you’re Chauncy!’ And I’m like, ‘Yes, ma’am.’ I’m very happy and very grateful to everybody.”
On the evening of June 9, Chauncy went to a Kroger grocery store, hoping to get food donations in exchange for helping customers with their grocery bags in the parking lot. With his mom disabled and no food at home other than bread and condiments, “it’s something I do quite a bit,” he says. “I try to get whatever odd jobs I can.”
That night, he had no takers except for one man: Matt White, 30, a Memphis singer and songwriter who was touched by the teen’s plight.
“I could just tell that he was a good, sweet kid,” Matt tells PEOPLE. “He said, ‘If you’ll help me buy some donuts, I’ll carry your groceries to your car.’ And I thought, ‘I can do better than that.’ ”
“You have to want more than donuts,” Matt told Chauncy. “Let’s do some shopping.”
Thirty minutes later, he gave the teen a ride home and helped him carry bags filled with fruit, vegetables, frozen pizza, chips and toiletries into the apartment he shares with his mother, Barbara Black, 61, who legally adopted Chauncy as an infant from her daughter, along with six other children, now grown and on their own.
Matt was stunned to find no food in the Blacks’ refrigerator and no furniture in the apartment other than a sofa. There were blankets on the floor in the bedrooms, along with a few lamps.
“I found out they’d been living like this for years, getting by on Barbara’s disability checks,” Matt tells PEOPLE, “and I just knew I had to do something. Chauncy hadn’t had new clothes in three years. I’m not wealthy, but I live a comfortable life. I saw how he was living and it touched my heart.”
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Matt wrote about Chauncy’s situation on his Facebook page, hoping to get enough donations to buy his new friend a lawnmower to earn some summer cash before returning to high school as a 10th grader this fall.
The post quickly went viral, with offers of jobs, food, clothing, dental care and furniture, and Matt set up the GoFundMe account to raise money for a new home for the Blacks, along with a college education for Chauncy.
“Words can’t express my gratitude – I’m pinching myself,” Barbara tells PEOPLE. “I thought nobody cared anymore. But I see now that they do.”
On disability after years of ironing clothes to raise her seven adopted children (she has a multitude of health problems, including blood clots, high blood pressure and diabetes), “I did the best I could,” Barbara says. “The past few years, Chauncy has been taking care of me. He’s a good boy. I couldn’t ask for better.”
She and Chauncy say they also couldn’t ask for a better friend than Matt, who took a chance on a teenager he didn’t know in the parking lot that night.
“He’s the nicest person I’ve ever met,” Chauncy tells PEOPLE. “Nobody ever cared more than he did.”
“He’s family, that’s what he is,” Barbara adds. “He’s in our lives forever now. He’s family.”