Community comes together to find a home for Kendell
PRINCETON—A homeless man staying at an abandoned car wash in Princeton has sparked a community reaction of giving.
Kendell Martin, a 27-year-old soft-spoken man who says he is originally from New Orleans, La., has stayed in Sacramento, Calif., Henderson and Owensboro Ky.
He caught a ride into Princeton a while back and decided to stay.
Todd Cuzzort, Princeton, has seen Martin making his way through town over the past few months.
“I had seen him walking up and down the streets here in town for quite a while. I just thought he was someone new in town that lived here and just walked,” Cuzzort said.
Driving through town, Cuzzort noticed Martin at the car wash and brought it up on a Facebook page, asking if anyone knew anything.
“There were a couple of people who said ‘Yeah, my husband picked him up one day took him home, gave him a shower, gave him some food from the house, seeing what he needed and took him back,’” Cuzzort said.
Finding out that Martin was approachable, Cuzzort reached out to him.
“My daughter was with me one day after school and we went up there and I hollered to him. I introduced myself and my daughter. I asked him if he needed anything, like a drink, something to eat. And he said “No I’m alright.”’
Cuzzort was determined to help in any way he could so he asked Martin again.
“I said ‘if you need a drink, it’s hot out, what ever you need.’ And he said “Maybe I’ll take a root beer.” I said ‘do you want a sandwich or anything?’ He said ‘Maybe some Wendy’s fries.’ And I was like, ‘That’s it? I’ll get you what you need,’ Then he said ‘Yeah, I’ll take a Baconator,’ and he smiled real big,” Cuzzort said.
Cuzzor was so excited to help Martin that he made a wrong turn out of the car wash.
“My daughter said, ‘Dad, Wendy’s is back there!’”
“That’s one thing I’ll never forget, the way he said ‘I’ll take a Baconator,’” Cuzzort smiled.
That interaction and eventual friendship sparked Cuzzort’s enthusiasm to do more.
Making Kendell a home
Cuzzort is self-employed, making hand-crafted miniature skateboards, and had a shop on Broadway just east of Main Street to work and showcase his products in.
He has since moved his operation to his home and the building, which has an un-renovated apartment in the back, had been on the market.
“I have had my building here for sale for a while and I thought, there is a reason I still have it and this is it,” he said.
“What would I take to get this guy in the two level apartment in the back.”
Daniel Thomas, who works at Princeton Community High School and helps coach football, said he met Martin a few months back after pulling his car over to have a conversation.
“I know when I first introduced myself, he was shy and didn’t talk much,” Thomas said.
“We just continued going back, me and my family, most of the days pretty much as he was out and about, stop by and see if he needed anything, take our puppy over there.”
Cuzzort talked to more people via Facebook and found out that many people had reached out to Martin.
“That was motivation for me to put something together on Facebook and get the community and get everyone that had had helped him and get to the goal of getting him in (the apartment),” Cuzzort said. Cuzzort made a Facebook page “A Home for Kendell” with the goal of connecting people interested in helping Martin. “In less than 12 hours of setting up the Facebook page it had 500 likes,” Cuzzort said. The page, now with over 1,200 likes, was used to set up a meeting at Cuzzort’s shop where 25 people attended and pitched ideas on how to help. “We had an overwhelming response from people,” Cuzzort said. It took some convincing for Martin to accept Cuzzort’s offer of moving from the car wash to the building. “He’s very humble and appreciative of anything he gets,” Cuzzort said. “If he doesn’t genuinely need something he won’t takeit.” While plans are in the works for renovating the apartment for Martin, he is staying in a separate room equipped with a fridge, microwave and a bathroom down the hallway. The appliances were donated by Cuzzort reaching out through Facebook. “The owner at the local Sears store donated a refrigerator,” Cuzzort said. People have donated supplies for the renovation of the apartment, clothing, food, books, movies and furniture to the cause. After Martin was moved into the room he, Cuzzort and Thomas returned to the car wash and cleaned up what was left. “Here is a picture of our clean up party this morning at the old car wash,” Cuzzort wrote as a caption for a photo posted on the Facebook page. “Kendell said a lot of the stuff was strewn about when he got there, but we cleaned it allup as best we could. Little sweat, little elbow grease and some teamwork can accomplish anything!!” Kendell did not have a driver’s license, birth certificate or any government issued identification to use. Cuzzort and Thomas are working to find a way for Martin to get his identification.
A seasoned helping hand
Cuzzort’s passion to help others stared long before he met Kendell.
“I met an older homeless man in Evansville 15-18 years ago and ever since then I’ve always had a desire to help when I’ve come across someone (in need),” Cuzzort said.
His will to help was shared with a young friend, Drew Hutchings, he made when his fingerboard shop was open.
“He was always quick to give a local kid one of his fingerboards if they didn’t have one,” Cuzzort wrote on Facebook
“He was always helping them try to learn new tricks, and making it through all of their questions. He used to feed off me doing the same. Loved when I gave stuff away, even more so if he didn’t win knowing someone else would get something, always made him smile.
Hutchings passed away just over a year ago, and with the permission of Drew’s mother Cuzzort founded The Drew Hutchings Memorial Foundation.
He is currently finding ways to make Kendell’s home a project associated with the foundation.
“I’ve had some conversations with Drew’s mother who absolutely approves of the idea to realize helping Kendell be the first community project honoring her son,” Cuzzort wrote on Facebook. The A Home For Kendell Facebook page can be found at facebook.