In about three hours Monday, the Rev. Jim Sichko paid out about $6,000 in holiday good will — to a Starbucks counter crew, a Muslim refugee family, a Hispanic family with a desperately ill father and an LGBT man who needed help with groceries for himself and his mother.
That was a lot of money, but Sichko was on a mission, literally: His job title is papal missionary of mercy and diocesan priest. Over the holidays, he wanted to offer help to people who had been unfairly isolated in recent political propaganda: low-wage workers, Hispanic immigrants, Muslims and members of the LGBT community.
Shortly after 8 a.m., Sichko turned up at his usual Starbucks on 2703 Richmond Road, ordered his usual drink and gathered the 10 counter people. He produced a stack of $100 bills and gave one to each counter worker.
One got teary-eyed: Suddenly, he could buy the rest of his Christmas presents. Others couldn’t believe Sichko was for real. Who distributes $100 bills, and why does he call it evangelism?
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“When you give, you never know how the people are going to receive,” Sichko said. “These people are now going to tell other people of the kindness. If one of these people tells another, it has worked.”
From there, Sichko drove his black Jeep to the Muslim Center at 649 South Limestone.
In the interim, he stopped to pick up mail, from which he produced two checks from a talent management company in Tennessee: one for $10,000 to the diocese of Lexington, another for $3,000 to Sichko himself. God provides, he told reporters, who were following him.
But spend it he would: Majeed Karati, a refugee with heart trouble and a family, got his electric bill paid for the next year. That worked out to more than $1,600.
For some reason, this experience has touched me the most. Inside, my heart is weeping.
Father Jim Sichko
Next stop: Raintree Apartments on Locust Hill Drive, where Rafael Peralta, originally from Venezuela, lives with his mother, wife and son in a tiny two-bedroom apartment while he awaits a liver transplant. His wife makes $8 an hour working for a cleaning service.
Peralta got a year’s electric bill and a year’s water bill paid in advance. He and his mother, Gladys, also got $100 each in cash. The total was more than $2,300.
The final stop was a visit with Jason Weaver, a member of the LGBT community, who needed food and rental help. Sichko promised a Kroger card of $500 to $600 plus rental help, totaling about $1,000.
This is Sichko’s third year of donating to those who need an extra boost, but something made this year even more emotionally resonant.
“It seems that these communities have been targeted not only by our country and the world, but by other faith traditions,” Sichko said. “For some reason, this experience has touched me the most. Inside, my heart is weeping.”