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Mother, son spent Thanksgiving Day delivering turkey sandwiches to the homeless

David Floyd • Dec 4, 2016 at 4:16 PM

On Thanksgiving Day, 12-year-old Jacob Gross and his mom, Michelle Sheets, suddenly found themselves with a 14-pound turkey to split between the two of them.

Having already eaten (and not being a super big fan of turkey), Jacob had an idea: Deliver the whole 14-pound bird to homeless people in Johnson City.

Jacob and his mom cooked the bird, sliced the meat, put turkey and a couple slices of bread in a collection of Ziploc Baggies and traveled around Johnson City in their car, giving the food to any homeless people that they found.

The two of them traveled through the downtown area and eventually ended up at the Salvation Army, where a bunch of homeless veterans were staying. Jacob and his mom gave the veterans the remainder of their food and headed home. In all, they had delivered about 20 turkey sandwiches, which was the entirety of their 14-pound bird.

This showing of generosity isn’t out of the norm for Jacob, his mom says.

“He’s very observant of what goes on around him,” Sheets said. “When he sees homeless people he’s like, ‘Oh I wonder if they’re hungry,’ or ‘I wonder if they’re cold.’”

A year before that, Sheets remembers her son spotting a homeless man on the street while the two of them were about to pick up food from Burger King.

“He said, ‘Mom, I wonder if he’s hungry,’ ” Sheets said. “I was like, ‘I don’t know Scotty, you can’t feed everybody,’ and he was like, ‘but I really think he’s hungry.’ ”

In the end, Jacob convinced his mom to buy the man a meal.

On a semi-regular basis Jacob will ask his mom if they can purchase food for people in need, whether they be homeless people, firefighters or police officers. While she appreciates her son’s selflessness, Sheets said she doesn’t have the financial security to do that on a regular basis.

“I hate telling him no because I want him to grow up to be thankful for what he has and help other people,” Sheet said.

In October, Jacob and his mom learned that he had chiari malformation, a condition that has caused severe headaches for Jacob and might require brain surgery.

“There’s been a lot of prayers said for him,” Sheet said through tears. “Everywhere. People from Ohio, people we don’t even know have started prayers.”

Earlier last week, Jacob and his mom took a trip to Nashville to see doctors at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Jacob’s father and grandfather helped pay for many of the trip expenses, and the news that Jacob and his mom received was better than they expected. But surgery is still a possibility.

Sheets said they will be monitoring his headaches for the next three months, and after three months, she and Jacob will return to Nashville so he can get an MRI to evaluate whether he has fluid on his spine. If there is fluid on his spine, he will have to have surgery. Sheets said that if the doctors don’t find fluid, they will take a look at Jacob’s headache charts and judge whether surgery could alleviate his headaches.

If not, Sheets said he might have to deal with them the rest of his life.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster,” Sheet said, “but we pick up and we go on.”

After the success of their Thanksgiving celebration this year, Jacob and Michelle hope to turn their generosity toward the Johnson City homeless population into a holiday tradition of some sort, possibly helping at a local homeless shelter in the future.

“Some of them can’t help what they’re in,” Sheets said. “And that’s what I explain to him. … Sometimes other people have to stand up and say, ‘Here, have this.’ ”

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