All are served… All are welcome.

The following is a collection of news and press articles that have featured My Brother's Keeper.

January 2014

My Brother’s Keeper in Easton makes milestone delivery

By: Jennifer Bray, Enterprise Staff

A gingerbread house, a handful of gift cards worth hundreds of dollars, and a truckload of gift-wrapped presents was delivered to a family in need in Taunton on Christmas Eve.

For the mom, dad and four children, the delivery of Christmas presents by My Brother’s Keeper, a charity in Easton, made the holiday festive.

For My Brother’s Keeper, the Tuesday night delivery marked a milestone. It was their 100,000 delivery. The charity delivers furniture, food, and this time of year, gifts, free of charge for those in need.

“There were a lot of things that were very fitting about this delivery,” said Erich Miller, the president of My Brother’s Keeper. “It began in the town where the founders, Jim and Terry Orcutt, began their work 25 years ago in Taunton.

“We also included a couple of students in the delivery, and the five of us really presented the past, present and future of My Brother’s Keeper. Our young volunteers are carrying the mission forward in the future.

“The family that was helped in Taunton, they were delighted,” said Miller. “One of the things that struck me most, visiting with the family, was in their kitchen was a crucifix, which we had given to them as a gift several years ago.”

He added that it was a sign that the charity had already served them.

“It was an affirmation that this family had been helped by us before,” Miller said “We look for little messages and little signs from God that our work is in keeping with his will and we are on the right track.”

Jim Orcutt said he’s glad about the milestone, but for him the focus is on the future.

“The 100,000th delivery is important,” said Orcutt, who remains actively involved with the group and serves on its board of directors. “It’s an indicator of God’s blessing on our work, and God’s blessings on our mission. But we always have to be looking forward … Our mission statement is one sentence: to bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to those we serve,” Orcutt said.

Source

January 2014

My Brother’s Keeper makes 100,000th delivery in Taunton

By: Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff

A local Christian charity with roots in Taunton came full circle last week by making its 100,000th donation delivery to needy residents in the city.
Easton-based My Brother’s Keeper, which has been providing furniture and food donations for 25 years, made delivery number 100,000 on Christmas Eve day to a family in Taunton.

The organization got its start in Taunton 25 years ago, when married city residents Jim and Terry Orcutt started collecting donations for the needy, after being inspired by a life changing “Cursillo” Catholic retreat at Stonehill College. The original home for My Brother’s Keeper was very close to the site of the 100,000th donation, Jim Orcutt said.

“As it turned out, our 100,000th trip was less than a half mile away from where it all started,” Orcutt said. “It really was amazing.”

Orcutt said he’s glad with what the organization has accomplished since then, but that it’s important to keep looking ahead.

“The 100,000th delivery is important,” said Jim Orcutt, who remains actively involved with the group and serves on its board of directors. “It’s an indicator of God’s blessing on our work, and God’s blessings on our mission. But we always have to be looking forward.  … Our mission statement is one sentence: to bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to those we serve.”

Orcutt said that he and his wife, current My Brother’s Keeper president Erich Miller, and two teenage volunteers, went on the milestone donation delivery trip. Before they set out, volunteers from the group held a special ceremony in which they brought a jar of 100,000 mustard seeds, as a reference to a parable that Jesus gave to describe heaven.

“Anything like a milestone isn’t really about the past,” Orcutt said. “It should be a springboard for the future. We went on the delivery representing the history of the organization, but also invited our president, who represents the present, and we invited two teenagers to go with us who have been volunteering since grammar school, representing the future.”

Orcutt said that they brought the Taunton family Christmas gifts. “They were very grateful,” he said.
My Brother’s Keeper recently opened a second location in Dartmouth to serve people in the Fall River area, in addition to serving the Taunton and Brockton area based out of its main Easton office.

“We focus on not so much what we are doing, but why,” Orcutt said. “The people being helped are in terrible situations. They are invisible poor. … We are telling people God answers prayers through people. Whether the first of the 100,000 deliveries or the last, that’s the way we want to do it, lifting people up and letting them know God’s work.”

Source

January 2014

My Brother’s Keeper expands with second facility in North Dartmouth

By: Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. — My Brother’s Keeper, a Catholic ministry based in Easton that delivers furniture free-of-charge to families in need, has expanded its outreach by opening a second facility in North Dartmouth to provide more direct services to Fall River and the greater South Coast area.

The ministry officially opened and commemorated the new site earlier this month with a blessing and open house at the 9,000-square-foot leased facility. Bishop George W. Coleman, bishop of the Fall River Diocese, blessed and dedicated the new Dartmouth location along with Father John Denning, CSC, president of Stonehill College.

According to Erich Miller, president of the My Brother’s Keeper apostolate, the inspiration for the ministry came from Christ’s Words in the Gospel of St. Matthew, specifically chapter five, verse 15.

“Christ talks about letting your light shine … and not putting your lamp under a basket but, rather, to put it on a stand,” Miller told The Anchor. “We first started talking about (opening a second location) back in 2009. We have watched how profoundly My Brother’s Keeper has been touching lives through our Easton facility — the lives of those we serve and the lives of volunteers who come to us as part of our work. And we thought if we stayed in Easton and never tried to expand into a new community, then it would be like putting our lamp under a basket.”

The Dartmouth branch of My Brother’s Keeper and its three-person staff will be managed by Josh Smith. Smith began volunteering at My Brother’s Keeper in 2000 while attending Stonehill College and he joined the ministry’s staff in 2007.

“I lived in Fall River for a time, so I know there’s a tremendous amount of need down here and I’m very excited to be able to extend our service area to help these struggling families,” Smith told The Anchor. “We are really going to be providing an unduplicated service and there aren’t many options for families with limited savings when they’re moving into a new apartment and can’t afford new furniture. We’re going to have a real opportunity to lift these families up in Christ’s name.”

My Brother’s Keeper picks up gently-used residential furniture — no drop-offs are allowed at either location — and then the items are cleaned and delivered to needy families in the area. All donations are tax-deductible and no donated items are ever sold. All furniture is delivered free-of-charge to local families in need.

The ministry’s mission is simple: “To bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to those we serve.” Anyone living in the service area is eligible to receive help, regardless of religion. 

“That makes us unique — the fact that we have no prerequisites for service,” Smith said. “When you have families that are doing well and then someone gets laid off, you may not qualify for certain guidelines for (public) assistance. With us, we help anyone with no questions asked. It gives us a chance to accomplish our mission, which is much more than just delivering furniture — it’s about bringing Christ’s hope and love to them. By helping people with no questions asked, it’s no longer just a transaction. It becomes a chance to really connect with the family.”

As a Christian ministry, a symbol of Christ accompanies all deliveries. As a gift at each furniture delivery, for example, My Brother’s Keeper offers a crucifix with the message, “We’re just the delivery people … this is the Man Who sent you the furniture.” Families receiving help are free to accept or decline the cross.

“As we go into people’s homes we try to serve with dignity and respect and we always serve in Christ’s name, giving a symbol of Christ at the end of every delivery,” Miller said. “We really try to draw people to God … at a time when they may be in the greatest need.”

At the start, the new facility will exclusively service Dartmouth and communities to the west, including Fall River and the East Bay of Rhode Island. In 2014, after a sufficient volunteer corps has been established, the charity will then extend services into New Bedford and other communities to the east.

“We certainly have plans to do more in the future, we just need a little time to get our feet on the ground first,” Miller said. “One of the core principles with this expansion is that we did not want to do anything that would harm the good work we’re doing in Easton … and we didn’t want to take on too much, too fast. We have a long history of serving families in Fall River at Christmas and we love where we are because we’re very close to routes 195 and 24.”

The new location is sectioned off into departments — not unlike a retail store — with areas designated for the different types of furniture, household items, electronics and appliances. There’s also space set aside for furniture repair, loading docks, offices, rest rooms and a prayer room.

The facility is located on five acres in Dartmouth, but the charity does not release its address to the public in order to discourage anonymous furniture drop-offs.

My Brother’s Keeper in Dartmouth currently needs help in two ways: with volunteers and donations of residential furniture.

Volunteers are needed to assist with furniture pickups and deliveries; to help clean furniture and appliances; to do carpentry and light furniture repair work; to test electrical items; to sort linens and household items; to cut and sew fabric; to assemble box springs; and to do building maintenance.

Furniture items needed include couches, loveseats and chairs; coffee tables, end tables and lamps; twin-, full- and queen-sized mattresses and box springs; dressers and night stands; kitchen tables and chairs; refrigerators and microwaves.

“We have people of all ages and all backgrounds helping us,” Smith said. “You don’t necessarily have to be able to move a refrigerator to a second floor — we have a lot of ways people can help. We can always use people with different skills and talents.”

The Dartmouth location will rely heavily on volunteers, similar to the charity’s Easton facility, which hosts about 3,000 volunteers each year, including several hundred students.

“I first got involved with My Brother’s Keeper 12 years ago as a freshman,” Smith added. “Now I’m on the other side and I’ll be able to provide the same learning opportunities to students who will be coming to serve with us.”

Noting that he plans to reach out to area middle schools, high schools and colleges for assistance, Smith said volunteering for My Brother’s Keeper can be a “real eye-opening experience” for students.

“It really can have a tremendous impact on their lives and give them a chance to live out their faith,” he said. “And they can see first-hand the fruit of their efforts … which is what I think makes this place special. It’s not just that they’re volunteering, but they also get to meet the families they serve. It can be very powerful to hear the stories of what they’re going through.”

“My Brother’s Keeper provides the opportunity to serve the poor to hundreds of students from some 60 high schools and numerous colleges — about 150 students each year from Stonehill College alone,” said co-founder Jim Orcutt. “In serving the poor, if we are able to touch the heart of only one young man or woman … Christ may well yet be able to change the world.”

The opening of the Dartmouth facility is just the second of three milestones for the organization this year. 

My Brother’s Keeper previously celebrated its 25th anniversary last March. Co-founders Jim and Terry Orcutt began the ministry’s work in the cellar of their Taunton home on Mar. 21, 1988 before moving to its present base of operations on property adjacent to Stonehill College and Holy Cross Family Ministries in Easton.

“Twenty-five years ago, My Brother’s Keeper began spreading the Good News of God’s love and hope to the people of Taunton and Brockton,” said co-founder Terry Orcutt. “Over these many years our mission has widened to some 34 towns and cities. With the opening of the Dartmouth facility we now expand our efforts to spread Christ’s love and hope to 50 communities in the Diocese of Fall River and the Archdiocese of Boston.”

By December, the charity anticipates making its 100,000th delivery to a family in need.

“It’s really been a big year for us,” Miller said. “Based on our history of deliveries, we know in the days leading up to Christmas that we will be making our 100,000th delivery.”

With a new second location up and running and nearly 100,000 deliveries under its belt, it begs the question of whether further sites are on the horizon for My Brother’s Keeper.

“I would never rule anything out when God is in charge,” Miller said. “All things are possible with God.”

Source

March 2013

My Brother’s Keeper Planning Fall River Expansion

By: Justin Graeber, Enterprise

EASTON — My Brother’s Keeper has been serving the region for 25 years. Officials at the Easton-based charity, which focuses on delivering furniture to people in need, are now looking to expand that mission to Fall River.

The city will be home to a new facility, said My Brother’s Keeper co-founder Jim Orcutt, but a location is still being scouted. The facility is scheduled to open this summer.

“We looked geographically and did the research and saw that the greatest need was Fall River,” Orcutt said.

Executive Director Erich Miller said the new location will help with the organization’s multi-layered mission: to help people, but also to bring in volunteers to inspire service in others.

“I think the work My Brother’s Keeper does is too special to stay in this one place,” Miller said. “If it was just serving families, we could have just continued driving further and further. If we’re going to involve people in our work, then you have to go to where people are.”

“It’s all about mission,” Orcutt added. “It’s all about where people are in need. Not only in terms of their physical needs.”

Source

March 2013

Living Their Faith

By: Justin Graeber, Enterprise

The founders of My Brother’s Keeper, Jim and Terry Orcutt of Easton, sat down with The Enterprise to share their reflections on 25 years of serving others and what keeps them going.

Was there an event in your life that inspired you to create My Brother’s Keeper?

Jim Orcutt: (In 1986, two years before the founding of My Brother’s Keeper) we lived a retreat at Stonehill College with the Holy Cross Fathers called Cursillo.

It was a very profound experience for both of us. At that time, our faith got rejuvenated. We became more involved and we started taking our spirituality and our faith much more seriously. It’s like a farmer, before he plants the seed he prepares the ground.

In the early days of My Brother’s Keeper we had a spring board of people who got involved through that retreat. … The priest and brothers of the congregation of the Holy Cross here in Easton were tremendously encouraging and supportive.

I know you’ve said the pivotal moment for you both was seeing the movie “God Bless the Child.” What happened after that?

Jim: We stayed up until 3 in the morning, and we went into the bedroom and stood in front of the crucifix. We made a covenant really, with God, a mutual promise. … We said, “God, we want to spend the rest of our lives bringing your love and hope to people, but we don’t know what to do.” … The next day, we took magic markers and made up fliers that said we’d collect clothes for people.

We soon learned that the real need was for furniture. People have no access to get furniture, nowhere to deliver it, nowhere to buy it. That was the beginning, that’s how it came about.

Do you remember the first person you helped?

Jim: The first person we helped was a girl named Robin. She had three children and lived up on Warren Avenue.

Terry Orcutt: I can see her face.

Jim: When we got there, (with three beds) we also had sheets and blankets. The older brother, he was about 7, his brother was 3 or 4. I was talking to the mother, and he asked, “Do you have sheets and blankets for my brother?” And I said, “Sure,” so he took the sheet and went and made up his brother’s bed.

That’s not unusual to see that kind of protection. Growing up like that, you become mature before your time.

It seems like you often have a relationship with the people you help that goes deeper than just dropping off furniture.

Jim: We try to have a relationship with the people we serve, but at the same time we don’t want to be intrusive.

Terry: We have one woman who lost her son to the streets of Brockton, she’s had trouble with drugs, and we’ve helped her many times. We have a real friendship. She’ll say, “Terry, I know you people will always help me.”

Is there a typical person you serve?

Jim: Is there a stereotyped person? No. The working poor are all around us. A very large percentage of the people we help work, they just can’t make it in this economy, in this society. … We have no prerequisite for service, no questions asked. You do not have to qualify at My Brother’s Keeper for help.

You must get taken advantage of from time to time.

Jim: Of course! Do people steal from us? Of course. Is it rampant, no. But here’s the key, we’re not here to deliver furniture to people. We’re here to deliver the love and hope of Jesus Christ.

What strikes you the most about the people you help?

Jim: So many of the people we serve have such strong faith. Brief instance: I delivered furniture to a grandmother. Her daughter went into Framingham prison for dealing drugs. She had nothing, was sleeping on the floor. We brought her three twin beds, one for her, one for each of the children.

We got a call a couple months later (from the grandmother) for a bed. When we show up, there was only two beds. A neighbor was there, and she said, “Do you want to know what happened to the other bed?” I’m embarrassed by the question, we don’t ask that. She says, “No, no I’ll tell them. A week after you delivered to her, a young girl came out of MainSpring shelter with a newborn baby, she got an apartment upstairs and was sleeping on the floor. She (the grandmother) gave up her bed, and has been sleeping on the floor ever since.” What could I ever teach that grandmother about faith? I could only ever learn from her.

Sometime this year, My Brother’s Keeper will make its 100,000th delivery. What does that number mean to you?

Terry: It’s an honor to be able to witness that.

Jim: My gut reaction? Well, there’s the first 100,000. Let’s get started on the second.

March 2013

My Brother’s Keeper Founders Speak Out

Jim and Terry Orcutt, co-founders of Easton-based My Brother’s Keeper, talk about what has kept them involved in the charity for 25 years.

Watch the video here.

March 2009

“Giving = Happiness”

By Don Aucoin, Boston Globe staff

Not that any of you need more stress in your lives at this particular time, but Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd wants all you parents out there to take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you’re doing your children more harm than good.

For his new book, “The Parents We Mean to Be,” Weissbourd and his research team studied five high schools, including three in the Boston area, where they interviewed scores of students and parents and convened several focus groups.

What he found was an obsession with achievement passed from parents to children. What he concluded is that many parents are letting themselves off the hook (“dangerously so,” in Weissbourd’s view) by pointing to peer pressure and pop culture as the primary forces that are undermining their children’s “moral foundations.”

Being a sensible fellow, Weissbourd grants that there is a measure of truth to these arguments, noting that there are “aspects of popular culture that seem designed to obliterate every particle of their humanity.” (Any casual viewer of “South Park” can attest to that.)

But Weissbourd says parents need an urgent reminder that they are “the primary influence on children’s moral lives. The parent-child relationship is at the center of the development of all the most important moral qualities, including honesty, kindness, loyalty, generosity, a commitment to justice, the capacity to think through moral dilemmas, and the ability to sacrifice for important principles.”

Yet rather than foster those qualities by encouraging children to help those on the economic or social margins, Weissbourd told me, many parents consistently send a message that individual self-absorption is A-OK. “We let our kids write off other kids they find annoying,” he says. “We don’t ask our kids to reach out to a friendless kid on the playground.”

The overriding goals of many parents, he says, are to make sure their children are happy, loaded with self-esteem, and armed with enough achievements to dazzle a college admissions officer. Is it any wonder they look inward rather than outward?

“This intense focus on happiness is not making our children happier. It’s making them less happy,” says Weissbourd, a child and family psychologist who teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “If you focus on kids being empathic and tuning in to others and helping others, they’re more likely to be more moral and more happy.”

(That assertion echoes the findings of John Izzo, author of “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die,” who asked 235 elderly people what brought happiness to their lives. When we spoke last year, Izzo told me that time and again, the response by the oldsters was: “If you want to be a person who’s happy, be a giver.” Young ‘uns, take note: “They said when you’re young you think your greatest happiness will come from what you get from life,” said Izzo. “But looking back they realized the only things that gave meaning was the fact that they gave.”)

Many parents believe that if they bolster their children’s self-esteem, the kids will logically turn out to be good people. “It’s just not accurate,” says Weissbourd. “If you look at the data, bullies and delinquents and gang leaders often have high self-esteem.” In fact, Weissbourd contends, most parents have it exactly backward. “The evidence really points in the other direction, that if you can help children become caring and responsible people, it can develop their self-esteem,” he says.

Which brings us, inevitably, to the current economic downturn. To Weissbourd, the recession offers a golden opportunity for parents to enhance their children’s moral development – and to lead by example. “People are really going to have to look out for each other, and find ways to support parents who are going through unemployment,” he says. “This might be a time when kids can see their parents pitching in and helping the unemployed and helping strengthen their communities.”

Yet he is enough of a realist to acknowledge that the downturn could have the opposite effect, and prompt parents to focus even more obsessively on achievement in high school. “The economic recession can exacerbate parents’ fear that their kids are not going to reach the same station in life that they reached. There’s this sense that there’s a dwindling number of spots for our kids in the professional world,” Weissbourd says. “This could break a number of ways. I hope it will break with more people feeling more responsibility to their communities, and modeling that to their kids.”

June 2008

“The coming charity crisis”

By Daniel Gross, Newsweek

The latest victims of the sagging economy: charities. In May the annual gala of the Robin Hood Foundation, an event at which a few thousand hedge fund magnates and leveraged buyout titans conspicuously display their wealth and commitment to social justice while rocking out to A-list musical guests (Shakira, John Legend, Sheryl Crow), raised $56.5 million, down 21.5 percent from $72 million the year before. (Tom Wolfe profiled the 2006 gala in Portfolio.) No surprise here. Many of the regulars have seen their net worths crushed in the past year.

But it’s not just the charities of the swank that are suffering. The Salvation Army caters to a somewhat different crowd—i.e., tens of millions of middle-class Americans. And while it had a good Christmas, “since the first of the year, we’ve seen some slippage,” says Maj. George Hood, a Salvation Army spokesman. Overall donations are down compared with 2007, and donations of used clothing and furniture to thrift shops have fallen by 20 percent. While natural disasters typically inspire a spike in donations, Hood says the earthquakes in China, the cyclones in Burma and the floods in the Midwest have yet to generate such an outpouring.

It would be unfair to say that Americans—whether they are accountants in Kansas City, Mo., or bond traders in Greenwich, Conn.—are becoming stingier. Rather, philanthropy is a pretty large industry. Charitable giving in 2006 was $295.2 billion, according to Giving USA 2006, about 2.2 percent of gross domestic product. For comparison’s sake, Wal-Mart has annual sales of about $350 billion. And like every other industry, philanthropy is tethered directly to the health of the overall economy, and in particular to the health of the upper-middle-class consumer. If the past is any guide, it’s likely to be a lean year for nonprofits.

A great deal of the public attention about philanthropy is generated by large, dramatic gifts by really rich people—the types who tend to be unaffected by short-term economic fluctuations. But while splashy donations like the $100 million the Blackstone Group’s Steven Schwarzman committed to the New York Public Library might garner large headlines, or land a donor on the “Slate 60,” such megagifts in 2006 represented just 1.3 percent of overall donations, according to Giving USA. Rather, it’s the smaller donations by hundreds of millions of nonbillionaire Americans that fuel most of the nation’s nonprofits. (In 2006 individuals accounted for about three-quarters of donations.)

With the economy slowing and likely in recession, charitable giving will probably slump this year and possibly next. After all, charitable donations are a lagging indicator, says Robert Evans, managing director of EHL Consulting Group, a Philadelphia-based firm that advises nonprofits on fund-raising. “It’s a lagging indicator for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that in the minds of some, philanthropy is a luxury. You pay your bills first and then start making charitable gifts.”

The data seems to bear Evans out. During the last 40 years, according to data provided by Giving USA, charitable giving fell in real terms (i.e., adjusted for inflation) in years in which the economy was in recession, or in years in which there was a significant stock market dislocation. Giving fell in 1980, 1987, and 1990. The last time the economy contracted was in 2001. That year, according to Giving USA, charitable giving fell 2.3 percent in real terms, after having boomed along with the stock markets and the economy at large in the late 1990s. But while the economy resumed its growth in late 2001, charitable giving slumped in real terms in both 2001 (down 1.4 percent) and 2003 (down 0.2 percent). Evans believes giving is less tied to overall economic trends than to traumatic events that might cause donors to seize up for a few months, such as 9/11, the Kennedy assassination, or Watergate. Indeed, 1974, the year the Nixon resignation drama played out, was the worst year for charitable giving in the past 40 years. Donations fell 5.4 percent in real terms that year.

Evans suggests that the best indicators to watch aren’t the hauls from splashy public events such as the Robin Hood gala or the results of the Salvation Army, which relies on middle-class donors. The most effective fund-raising efforts aren’t parties but efforts in which people appeal to their friends and colleagues face to face. And over the years, he believes, philanthropy, like the U.S. economy itself, has become more top-heavy. In a prior generation, 80 percent of funds were donated by 20 percent of the people. Now he believes the ratio is more like 90 percent donated by 10 percent of donors. “Today we have to be looking at the high end [those with incomes of more than $100,000 a year] more than ever before.” If layoffs of white-collar workers at companies such as Ford continue, and if the United Way campaigns that rely so much on upper-level management struggle, 2008 could be a lean year for nonprofits.

June 2008

“As it celebrates its 20th year, MBK bids farewell to it’s founders”

By Vicki-Ann Downing, Brockton Enterprise

The simple bungalow on Everett Street in Taunton doesn’t look like a place where grace struck two decades ago. But it was there, on a Sunday night in March 1988, that life changed forever for James and Theresa Orcutt, empty-nesters in their mid-40s, full-time employees at the Paul A. Dever State School.

That moment grew into their Christian-based ministry, My Brother’s Keeper, which operates now from a 15,000-square-foot warehouse on Congregation of Holy Cross land next to Stonehill College. It has an 11-member board of directors and an eight-member development team and is funded entirely through private donations.

My Brother’s Keeper will mark its 20th anniversary with a dinner on Wednesday. at the Marriott Hotel in Quincy.

Each year, volunteers deliver furniture and food to thousands of needy families in 25 communities from Dorchester to Taunton and Pembroke to Mansfield. There is no pre-qualification process. People need only ask to receive.

The couple also has a Christmas program, which began at Terry Orcutt’s urging in 1991 when toys and clothing were delivered to 14 families in Brockton.

Last Christmas, with operations running around the clock for two weeks, My Brother’s Keeper delivered gifts to 1,836 families in 59 communities from the North Shore to Cape Cod. More than 1,300 volunteers helped, 550 for the first time.

One day at a time

On that evening in March 1988, the Orcutts sat down to watch a made-for-television movie, “God Bless the Child.” Actress Mare Winningham starred as a mother battling homelessness to provide for her young daughter.

Their plight touched the Orcutts deeply. Perhaps, they say now, the seeds had been planted weeks before, when they each took part in a Cursillo retreat at the Holy Cross Retreat House in Easton.

Jim said Terry stood in the doorway of a small bedroom at their rented home, looking at the twin bed, dresser, lamp and chair. With tears in her eyes, she told Jim, “This is all they needed: Some place to stay and someone who cared.”

The Orcutts stayed awake talking until 3 a.m. “It was the most important conversation of our marriage,” Jim Orcutt said.

They held hands before a crucifix and made a covenant with God, which Jim points out has always been a two-way agreement: “God, we’re serious about this. We will spend the rest of our lives bringing your love and hope to people. If you guide us, there will never be another day for the rest of our lives when this won’t come first.”

Twenty years later, the Orcutts can report that both they and God kept the bargain.

“If God had given us a flash-forward back then, showing me a brand-new building adjacent to a Catholic college, a fleet of trucks and thousands of volunteers, I would have put my head in my hands and said, ‘Oh, no, we can’t do that,’” said Orcutt.

The Orcutts believe they have succeeded by never losing sight of their mission: “To bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to those we serve.”

Charity began at home

The couple began by collecting donated items and storing them on shelves in their basement. Jim Orcutt transported everything in his 1984 Chevrolet Cavalier with 120,000 miles on it, topped by a roof rack borrowed from a nephew.

In search of people in need, they called agencies and shelters in the telephone book. One day, MainSpring House, the homeless shelter in Brockton, said a woman was moving into an apartment and had no furniture. Could the Orcutts help? They had found their niche. They began collecting donations of furniture.

“As quickly as we were collecting it, we were giving it away,” Terry Orcutt said.

Jim switched to the night shift at work to free up his days for deliveries.

“After three months, word started to come back to us: ‘Jim and Terry Orcutt, they’re wonderful people, they help anybody,’” he said. “But our covenant wasn’t to glorify Jim and Terry Orcutt, it was to bring God’s love to people.”

One day, making a delivery in Brockton, they handed a woman a crucifix, telling her, “This is the man who sent you the furniture. We are just the delivery people.”

The woman began to cry.

“We knew we were on the right track,” said Jim. “At that moment our ministry began. We were bringing the love and hope of Jesus Christ to people.”

This year, My Brother’s Keeper will deliver its 15,000th crucifix. To recipients who object, volunteers say, “Whoever your God is, that’s who sent you the furniture.”

It really doesn’t matter what their volunteers carry up the stairs of a tenement or apartment house, said Jim. It might look like a refrigerator, a carton of food or a box of Christmas presents. What the volunteers really deliver is hope.

Typical of the letters from recipients received by My Brother’s Keeper is one from Jacquelyn in Quincy:

“We are very grateful for what you guys are doing for me and my kids. Without you, we wouldn’t have any Christmas. Thank God you guys exist. God bless you and the whole crew of My Brother’s Keeper.”

Looking ahead

In January, Jim Orcutt stepped down from the daily administration of My Brother’s Keeper, leaving that work to the newly named executive director, Erich Miller.

Miller, a Notre Dame graduate, was the ministry’s first paid employee in 1998. Now there are three others: Stonehill graduates Ryan Thorley and Josh Smith and Assumption College graduate Beth Sheehan. All began as student volunteers.

Jim, now 68, and Terry, 63, have never received money for their work at My Brother’s Keeper. They remain members of the board of directors, with Jim as president and Terry, secretary.

They are a daily presence at the warehouse, where Terry still takes calls from people seeking assistance.

In their 37th year of marriage, they live in a rented house in Easton and drive older cars. Their three children have given them six grandchildren. Their only income comes from running retreats at the Holy Cross Retreat House for 30 weekends a year.

They remain confident that God will continue to guide the work they began two decades ago.

“God is the focus of what we do,” said Terry. “If we stay focused on him, then everything else falls into place. Hopefully what we do, we do for the glory of God.”

Getting help

My Brother’s Keeper Helpline, 508- 238-4416, is answered on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between 12:30 and 3 p.m. Due to the volume of calls, voice messages are not accepted. To donate furniture to My Brother’s Keeper, call 508-238-7512. Furniture pickups are scheduled between January and mid-November. For more information on communities served and where furniture is accepted, visit www.mybrotherskeeper.org. Financial donations may be sent to: My Brother’s Keeper, Inc., P.O. Box 338, Easton, MA 02356.

June 2008

“My Brother’s Keeper rare among non-profits”

By Vicki-Ann Downing, Brockton Enterprise

Dennis Carman, president of the United Way of Greater Plymouth County, says that My Brother’s Keeper is rare among non-profits because it has remained true to its faith-based origins by not accepting public funding.

“They provide a needed service without any of the strings that come attached with other funding sources,” said Carman, who is former director at Father Bills and MainSpring Coalition of the Homeless.

“They have been there consistently through some difficult times, and I’d say some even more difficult times to come. As the need increases, they increase their efforts, and in a very quiet way they succeed,” said Carman.

“They ask from their hearts and they believe people give from their hearts.”
For 2005, the last year for which public records are available, My Brother’s Keeper reported revenue of $1.49 million and expenses of $1.35 million.

Early on, Jim and Terry Orcutt, founders of the Christian-based non-profit, decided to provide what they could to anyone who requested it without requiring proof of financial need or eligibility.

The idea came from Terry Orcutt.

She told her husband Jim, “In all of our readings of the New Testament, I don’t believe there’s one time when Jesus ever asked a single question to see if a person was worthy before helping. I think we should do the same.”

My Brother’s Keeper maintains a strict quality control program. It accepts furniture, bedding and dishes in very good condition.

“When you’re telling people the items you deliver come from God, you can’t give junk,” Jim Orcutt explained.

Their four white trucks are unmarked so there is no stigma attached. “God knows our name, that’s enough,” said Terry.

They don’t accept public funds because if they did, they couldn’t distribute crucifixes, which are given to each recipient.

Plus, Jim Orcutt said, it’s too easy to become reliant on government funding, which can wither in hard times.

They are always on guard against the human tendency to become judgmental, even when patience grows thin on broiling summer days as they struggle up narrow stairs to reach a third-floor apartment.

“If I want a judge I’ll go down to probate court and get myself a judge,” said Jim.

June 2008

“Volunteers serve and learn at My Brother’s Keeper”

by Vicki-Ann Downing Brockton Enterprise June 11, 2008

As much as the ministry of My Brother’s Keeper means to the families it serves, it means just as much to the volunteers.

Each year, 100 students from Stonehill College and another 150 from Catholic high schools volunteer at the Easton-based non-profit. Most are from upper middle-class or affluent families, said Jim Orcutt, co-founder of the charity.

The student volunteers might study sociology and theology in college, but most have never been inside a three-decker where a family might be keeping the oven door open to get some heat. “They go in and they learn to attach names and faces to people, and not to think of them as just a class of people, the poor,” said Orcutt.

“These students are the future doctors, lawyers, judges and legislators who will one day make decisions affecting the lives of the poor, not from an academic perspective, but from the heart,” he said.

The volunteers see real-life examples of faith, whose true measure “is the extent to which we rely on God in our time of trouble,” says Orcutt, who founded the charity with his wife, Terry.

The volunteers begin and end each day with a prayer, seeking intercessions for family and friends. “People come in here and they’re very comfortable talking about God and their spirituality,” said Terry Orcutt, Jim’s wife and co-founder. “They bring their laughter, tears and problems.” They also have fun, Jim said. They take the mission seriously, but never themselves seriously.

June 2007

“Golfers make pitch for charity”

By Matthew Leonido, Enterprise special correspondent

Last year, the rain put a damper on the first charity golf tournament for My Brother’s Keeper, but its second annual event Friday was held in the sunshine, and drew more golfers in its first day than the entire three-day event last year.

“Tough weather last year, but the sun is shining, God is shining on us so we expect a big turnout,” Jim Orcutt, founder of My Brother’s Keeper, said.

My Brother’s Keeper is a charity sponsored by Orcutt’s volunteer Christian ministry, which he founded with his wife Theresa in 1988. They provide furniture and food to more than 2,500 needy families each year.

They also promise to provide a $1 million prize for a hole-in-one, but there has been no grand-prize winner yet.

The qualifying round of the second annual tournament continues today at Stonehill College, leading up to the semifinal and final rounds to be held Sunday at the Easton Country Club.

To qualify for Sunday, participants have to land a ball within 6 feet of the pin, located about 125 yards from the row of tees. Buckets of golf balls were available for donations of $10 and $20, with all proceeds benefiting My Brother’s Keeper.

Abington resident Arthur Greenlaw was glad to donate toward a good cause while having fun.

“I’ve been looking forward to this. You can go hit a bucket of balls at the driving range, so why not do it for charity,” said Greenlaw, 39.

Brad McMenimon of Easton made it into the semifinal round when one of his shots landed 7 inches from the flag. He came to the event to compete with his daughter, Jacki.

“My daughter was in the finals last year, so I had to come give it a shot,” McMenimon, 52, said.

The first day of qualifying found competitors vying for a $500 charitable donation and a trophy.

Brockton Mayor James E. Harrington, who was on hand to take the first shot, beat out five other contestants from the Brockton and Boston-area media to win the opening contest. This reporter from The Enterprise took his best shot, but fell short of the pin.

Harrington designated the $500 donation to the Mayor’s Children Fund and matched the donation with $500 of his own to My Brother’s Keeper.

“My Brother’s Keeper is a tremendous organization. It’s going to be a great event, I am glad to be a part of it,” Harrington said.

The Orcutts got started using their basement as a warehouse and car roof racks to deliver furniture. Since then, they have made donations to nearly 15,000 families.

January 2007

“Special delivery”

by Sandy Coleman Boston Globe January 25, 2007

In a world hungry for giant plasma TVs and supersized mansions, Jim and Terry Orcutt have chosen the other extreme. They live in a modest rented apartment. They drive old cars. And their furniture is, by their own estimation, not as nice as the furniture they deliver daily to area families in need..

“But, you know what?” says Jim Orcutt. “When I get up, I hear the heat come on…. I have electricity. I have milk and bread in the refrigerator.” Says Terry Orcutt: “We have everything we need.”

The Orcutts embrace their spare, spiritual life — and in doing so, they are receiving national attention from those who share their devotion and want to shed light on how others can follow the same path to kindness.

Nearly 20 years ago, the Easton couple founded My Brother’s Keeper, delivering food and furniture to people in need. The nonprofit organization — which has grown over the years — is the subject of a new DVD produced by Family Theater Productions of Hollywood. Entitled “The Luminous Mysteries: Compassion to Service,” it is the latest in a series that explores the rosary and how to turn beliefs into action. It will air on Catholic TV’s cable network.

The Orcutts — he is 67, she 62 — last year made 5,000 deliveries of food and furniture from their sizable warehouse. Clients include the elderly deciding between buying fuel oil or prescriptions, single mothers working minimum-wage jobs, and fathers who have lost their jobs, but not their hope to provide the best they can for their families.

“People tend to stereotype the poor. They think people are stupid and in a situation because of their own fault,” said Jim Orcutt. But most of the people the organization helps are working but still struggling, he said.

The Orcutts are quick to say that they are not just delivering bread and beds; they are delivering hope. They also say they are not so special, that anyone can choose to be their brother’s keeper.

“We have this inherent part of our soul… that says help others. But we also want to be successful,” said Jim Orcutt. “We need to find the difference between that point when we have enough… and having it all.”

December 2006

“Helping one family at a time”

by Beverly Beckham Boston Globe December 17, 2006

Terry Orcutt spends her days on the phone and most evenings, too, listening, taking notes, asking questions. “Where do you live? What do you need? How many children do you have?” Her concern is real. Her love for people she doesn’t know is real, too. It’s what drives her and what sustains her, call after call.

“Love one another as I love you.” This is Christianity’s number one rule. Terry Orcutt lives this rule. She loves without question. She sees God in all people. So does her husband, Jim.

Eighteen years ago, a made-for-television movie, “God Bless The Child” changed their lives. It was a true story about a young woman who lost custody of her daughter because she didn’t have a place to live. “That’s all she needed. A place to stay and someone who cared,” Terry said.

December 2005

“More people than ever need a helping hand”

By Elaine Allegrini, Enterprise staff writer

Last year’s high heating costs, combined with the ever-rising cost of living, has left a residual effect on those who live on the edge, according to area social service leaders.

With the winter heating season just a cold-spell away and the holiday season on the doorstep, requests for food stamps, heating assistance and holiday help are on the rise.

In Brockton alone, requests for food stamps are up 10 to 15 percent, an indication that more and more people are falling under the national poverty guidelines, said Robert Martin, director of human resources for Mayor James E. Harrington.

“More people who work full or part time call this office for assistance,” said Martin, who links the needy with social service agencies in the city and the region.

Martin recently joined several social service providers from Brockton, Taunton and area suburbs to kick off the annual Enterprise Helping Hands drive, the annual holiday drive supported with donations from families, individuals, businesses, civic and school groups and administered by The Enterprise Charitable Foundation.

The foundation raises money through direct donations and fund-raising events such as the Dec. 9 Jingle Bell Run in Brockton.

Last year, Enterprise readers donated $10,000 more than past years, allowing distribution of $67,500 to 20 charitable agencies throughout the region.

Every cent raised through the Helping Hands Fund goes directly to local needy families.

A donor coupon runs daily in the newspaper, and a list of contributors is published weekly in the newspaper.

“The need of our neighbors from year to year doesn’t diminish, but neither does the generosity of Enterprise readers,” said Chazy Dowaliby, editor of The Enterprise. “Serving as a conduit for so much real holiday spirit is a true joy of the season for all of us.”

This year, social service administrators say the basic needs remain — food, heat and shelter. They also strive to provide holiday gifts for children.

“We’re seeing families who are still recoiling from last year,” said Charles Fiske of Brockton Area Multi-Service Inc. (BAMSI). “They are trying to play catch-up and more people are in the mix.”

Resources are strained — from Taunton’s St. Vincent dePaul food pantry trying to keep its shelves stocked to the Salvation Army of Brockton staying abreast of fuel assistance requests.

Affordable housing is another ever-present and increasing need, according to Tom Washington of MainSpring House in Brockton, which offers a shelter for homeless singles in addition to family housing.

“People are struggling to get into housing,” he said.

The biggest obstacle for many is amassing first and last month’s rent and a security deposit.

Ken Kristiansen, pastor and commanding officer of Salvation Army of Brockton, said many immigrants are also seeking aid.

While the bulk of need rests in the cities where many settle to take advantage of transportation and consolidated services, Dennis Carman of United Way of Greater Plymouth County said there are pockets of need throughout the region that are often unrecognized.

“There are a lot of isolated elders who don’t know where the services are,” he said.

“The invisible poor is something we see all the time,” said Erich Miller of My Brothers Keeper of Easton that provides furniture and food throughout the year and holiday gifts during the season.

To date, more than 400 families have applied for help this holiday season, according to James Orcutt, president of My Brothers Keeper. Last year, the agency filled more than 1,600 requests for holiday aide. Included in that group were 4,900 children.

“There’s no agony greater than not be able to provide for your child,” said Orcutt, noting the importance of Helping Hands in supporting the effort to provide for children during the holidays.

“For us, it’s the happiest and most joyful time of the year,” added Miller. “For people on the edge, it’s the most stressful time of the year.”

December 2004

“They give gifts and keep faith”

By Beverly Beckham, Boston Herald columnist

Three time a day they stop and pray. There’s a prayer room outside the warehouse. Prayer keeps them on course. Prayer keeps them focused on God.

It’s all about God at My Brother’s Keeper. You step into the warehouse, converted for Christmas into Santa’s workshop, and it’s magical. You hear “Frosty the Snowman” and see rows and rows of new bikes and shelves packed high with toys.

Men are sorting things and women are wrapping and volunteers come and go through one door, while a police officer, with a bag of gifts, appears at another.

It’s typically Christmas.

What is not typical is that all this is being done in the name of God. Christmas is about Christ here. My Brother’s Keeper is unapologetically a Christian ministry whose mission is “To bring the Love and Hope of Jesus Christ to those we serve.”

God guides, God provides.

My Brother’s Keeper serves all people, whatever their faith. Eleven months of the year this Brockton-based ministry provides furniture and food. Need is the only criteria. Ask and you shall receive. It’s only at the end of a delivery, when people are saying thanks, that the guys who lug in the furniture reply, “Don’t thank us. We’re just the delivery people.” And hand over a crucifix.

My Brother’s Keeper is able to do this because it accepts no federal money. Begun in 1988 in the basement of one couple’s home, it is 100 percent privately funded and has only two paid staff but hundreds of volunteers.

Last year it made more than 30,000 deliveries in 58 communities from Dorchester to Taunton. In 1991, when it began providing Christmas gifts too, it took care of just 14 families. Twelve years later, it brought food and gifts to 1,508 families and toys to more than 5,000 kids. This year, more than 2,000 families have asked for help.

Every gift that leaves the warehouse bears this sticker: “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” The founder of My Brother’s Keeper, who does not want his name mentioned (“This isn’t about me”), says that for many children this sticker is an introduction to Jesus.

People ask him, “How do you get so much work done with volunteer help?”

“We’re not working. We’re serving,” he says.

A few years ago a man started donating bikes. Now his entire family donates bikes, 155 of them this year. Another family donates helmets, another Game Boys. Corporations donate. Hundreds of people give money. Churches set up giving trees. And hundreds more adopt a family for Christmas.

My Brother’s Keeper has no cash reserves. It gives away everything it gets.

This year, as in past years, it needs volunteers, sponsors, toys and people willing to give. “This year, as rough as things are, Christ needs us more than ever,” its leader says. For the true meaning of Christmas don’t go to the mall. Visit www.mybrotherskeeper.com instead.

December 1999

“College students learn to give of selves”

By Michael P. Quinlan, Patriot Ledger

For Jim Orcutt, there is a poor side of town everywhere he goes. In frayed apartment buildings, small rooming houses and homeless shelters throughout southeastern Massachusetts he meets people nestled in their worries and fears, barely holding on. Some are filled with quiet desperation or cynical resignation, hovering below the horizon of prosperity that glitters like the polished dream of America. Others are mentally ill people prone to sudden outbursts of confusion or children caught in some painful transition.

“What can we do to help the poor?” asks Orcutt, who with his wife, Terry, founded My Brother’s Keeper, a group devoted to helping the neediest people in society. Since 1988, the Orcutts and a group of volunteers of the ministry have gathered in a Brockton warehouse every day to prepare furniture and household items for delivery to the area’s poorest poor.

“Many of the people we serve have a strong faith in God,” Terry Orcutt says. “These are women who may have escaped an abusive relationship, unwed teenage mothers, people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, or old folks with no one left on this earth to bring a message of love and hope. Very often we find a mother and her children living in an empty apartment. They may have food stamps from the government, but no one to give them a refrigerator or a bed for their children.”

The group accepts no government funding for its work, but instead relies entirely on donations from local institutions and individuals. The volunteers include accountants, teachers, printers, priests and carpenters. They are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim.

And there are young men like Erich Miller and Octavio Martin, both graduates of the University of Notre Dame, who have set aside their careers to work at My Brother’s Keeper. They are part of the Holy Cross Associates Program, a volunteer program that sends college graduates into the world of the poor. Both men work 40-hour weeks, collecting used furniture from college dorms or food from local churches, organizing the warehouse, making deliveries and answering phones.

Miller, a business major, and Martin, with a degree aerospace engineering, are young mentors to a new generation of college students who are about to embark on a unique new program. Starting next year, My Brother’s Keeper will have its headquarters on Stonehill College’s campus in Easton, part of an effort to bring Catholic/Christian service to Catholic colleges.

Outside the building will stand a statue of Jesus washing the feet of Peter, with the inscription “To lead is to Serve.”

“I can think of nothing better than for students to walk to class each morning and pass by My Brother’s Keeper,” said Stonehill College President the Rev. Bartley MacPhaidin, a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. “It will remind them that a Catholic education also means recognizing the obligation we have to help God’s poorest children. Compassion, charity and humility are guiding principles of all religions, and need to be re-asserted in our time.”

“Many college students come from affluent homes, and ale rarely exposed to the invisible sub-culture of people living on society’s edge,” Jim Orcutt says. “What they find poor people value most is not the furnishings we bring, but the comfort of knowing that someone cares. It gives students a new perspective on what matters in life.”

On Nov. 29 the students and volunteers, along with college and town officials, gathered on Stonehill College’s campus to consecrate the ground where the ministry will be built. They expressed thanks for what they have by praying together, and then went back into their delivery truck to continue their work. Having looked into the eyes of people neglected and languishing at the end of the American century, they have come to understand the rewards of a college education.

September 1998

“The hard lives of the needy made easier”

By Beverly Beckham, Boston Herald columnist

The call to My Brother’s Keeper came a few days before.

“What do you need?” Terry Orcutt had asked. That’s what she always says. There are no histories taken. No judgments made. Ask and you shall receive. It’s that simple.

The woman needed everything, but she asked only for beds for her three children.

“Do you have a table? Chairs? A couch? A chest of drawers?” Terry questioned.

“No,” the woman said.

They brought food first, and some pots and pans and silverware and dishes, because the woman had only two plates, two knives and two forks. That’s the way it is for millions of Americans. The United Nations reported Wednesday that 16.5% of Americans live in poverty, despite the fact that we are one of the wealthiest nations on earth. A mother and three children sleep on the floor and take turns sitting.

One of every six Americans lives like this.

The woman this day greeted the men delivering the furniture and asked only one question: “Did you bring me a cross?”

The cross is My Brother’s Keeper’s reason for being. It’s what everyone gets after the furniture has been brought in and set up. “Thank you,” the people say. Thank Him,” they’re told. “We’re just the delivery people.”

“In all the stories in the New Testament, Jesus never said to the people he healed, “What is it you do?” He asked, “What is it you need?” It’s need that is the sole prerequisite of My Brother’s Keeper.

“This is easy, what we do,” insists Jim Orcutt, Terry’s husband. “We carry furniture. We make deliveries. What the people we serve do is hard. Their lives are hard. We learn about faith through them.”

He told about Maria, nine months pregnant, with two kids, 4 and 3. She phoned for help, but when called back her phone had been disconnected. “So we just loaded up the truck and headed for her house.”

Her house: A second-floor flat. Plastic children’s table and a single bed they were all sharing.

My Brother’s Keeper delivered beds, sheets, chests of drawers, a table, chairs, food, plates, a refrigerator. But when they plugged in the refrigerator it didn’t work.

“I don’t have any electricity . . . It was shut off because I couldn’t pay the bill,” Maria said.

“How do you cook for your children?” Jim asked.

She explained that the people upstairs loaned her a microwave and ran an extension cord down the stairs in the afternoon. “But they take it back up before dark because they’re afraid someone will steal it.”

My Brother’s Keeper paid half the bill and the electricity was turned back on.

Just the night before My Brother’s Keeper arrived at her door, Maria and her kids shared an apple for dinner. “I cut up an apple and we went out on the porch to watch the stars.” Maria said they sang Alleluia to thank God for the apple. “When your guys started bringing that furniture in, I just knew that the Lord had heard us singing.” Maria said.

While politicians babble about all they have done and all they plan to do, if they are elected, people who aren’t in the headlines go about their days quietly making a big difference in the lives of the poor.

Back at the office, Terry answers the phone. A woman named Judith is crying. She has five children and no food. “We’ll be there this afternoon between two and four,” Terry says.




A suggestion: Ask yourselves this question.
"Am I my brother's keeper?" If the answer is Yes, perhaps you would like to join us, as we go Along the Way in spreading the Love and Hope of Jesus Christ.

If you wish to contribute, use one of the following methods:

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My Brother's Keeper, Inc.
P.O. Box 338
Easton, Massachusetts 02356

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"Whatever you do for the most humble of my people, you do for me."
Matthew 25:40