DAVIDSON – Not enough “thank yous” exist in the world, Kenny Looman said of how the Ada Jenkins Center and others have turned his life around from being homeless and sick.
In 2012, Looman was in dire need of a home, a dentist and a doctor. Now with a roof over his head, a new set of teeth and medicine, Looman is giving back through his artwork.
Recently, one of his paintings went for top dollar at the Ada Jenkins annual ICE Gala fundraiser. The event, where he was an honored guest, raised $160,000.
“Before Ada Jenkins, I had it pretty rough with my family and my health,” he said. “They helped me get back on my feet and referred me to the right doctor. They all were so nice and welcomed me with open arms.”
Family and relationship problems left him no place to turn, having moved to Davidson a few years ago. He stayed with a friend a few months until the United Way helped him find Ada Jenkins.
When he walked in, Looman weighed barely over 100 pounds, was severely dehydrated and needed extensive dental work. He’s taken advantage of their medical offerings, Life Compass and Loaves and Fishes. He’s been able to get his Social Security Disability Insurance, which proves a meager income.
The doctors also discovered Looman suffers from ataxia, an injury to the cerebellum affecting muscle coordination, which causes blurred vision, slower speech and problems walking. He is now able to get the medicine he needs.
“He’s made a great amount of progress since the time he’s been here,” said his Ada Jenkins caseworker Cara Schlitz. “He's still skinny, though he looks much healthier. The clinic has done a lot with him and his diagnosis so they put him on a plan to being healthier.”
While there are treatments, there is no cure and his health may continue to deteriorate, taking a toll on his working abilities. But Looman's rekindling of his artistic talent may help.
Thanks to a partial scholarship from the Cornelius Arts Center and funding from the Ada Jenkins Center, Looman was able to take a painting class.
Looman said art makes him “feel comfortable. There is no pressure and no boss man. It’s something I can do by myself.”
He prefers painting landscapes like beach scenes and nature.
“I have a good feeling about it,” he said of his artwork. “It’s going to be my only thing now.”
In order to make that happen, however, Looman must find a way to get art supplies since his class at the center will soon run out. But the dream of seeing his artwork in area businesses “gives me something to look forward to. It puts on a smile.”
So does giving back to Ada Jenkins by volunteering.
“I want to show appreciation for all of the help they have given me,” he said. “If Ada Jenkins said they needed help, I’d be right there.”
Stories like Looman’s of trying to better themselves thanks to their services and the desire to give back is what Ada Jenkins is all about.
“It’s wonderful because you know that the Ada Jenkins Center has made a positive impact on someone’s life,” Schlitz said. “The work we do at the Ada Jenkins Center teaches client-partners skills and knowledge that motivates them not only to take steps to improve their own lives, but to assist others in their community.”
Want to help? To find out ways to help Ada Jenkins or any of their client partners like Kenny Looman, go to www.adajenkins.org.