The event, which first began in 2010, was launched by Jenkins to collect food and clothing for the local relief agency, CareNet. Jenkins’ spearheaded the donation drive to bring awareness and rally support for those in need within the community.
For the past two years Jenkins has spent 48 hours suspended 60 feet in the air by a crane. This Friday he will repeat the feat in the name of the “Cold for a Cause” donation drive. Although he bares the cold day and night, he says that he isn't the one that should be recognized for the events success, but instead those who come together to make the donations are the ones who should receive all the credit.“You have to understand….. I am simply the man in the box. The real backbone of this event, are those people that take the time to put forth the effort in bringing food, clothing, blankets etc…. to donate to families in need.”
Numerous community organizations have joined Jenkins in his efforts, and this year Franklin Young Professionals (FYP) will be volunteering their time on Saturday to help take in donations and assist in whatever capacity they are needed throughout the day.
Eighteen members of FYP have signed up to assist Jenkins while he is in the crane. FYP’s involvement adds a sense of youth and fun to the drive, and will hopefully rally support from the younger generations within the community. The group will be out playing corn hole with visitors, keeping a warm fire pit going for those stopping in, playing music, and serving coffee to donors. With FYP’s presence, the group hopes to attract more people to stop and give to the cause.
According to Jenkins, he created the event as an effort to give back the the community he and his family have thrived in for years. “I have been in Macon County basically my whole life. My Father C.D. Jenkins retired after 30-years with the NC State Highway Patrol in Macon County. My Mother Joan Jenkins recently retired after 32 years with a local Dentist in Macon County,” he said. “I have two brothers, Howie & Michael Jenkins. Howie drives a tractor trailer for UPS in Macon County and Michael is a department head with Drake Software. The three of us went to school here and graduated from Franklin High School. My whole family lives here. This is our home,” he continued.
“God has blessed my family over the years. However, there could be a moment in time in the future, that it could all change in the blink of an eye. Therefore, I have a true compassion for the people of Macon County and the people therein. There are families in the community that were hurting then and are hurting now. I told myself that I needed to find some way, to give back to the county that has been so good to my family. By paying as much forward as I could, in hopes that somehow I might make a small difference.”
When he first decided to start the initiative to give back to Macon County, Jenkins carefully weighed the idea of which organization to help, and how he could come up with an event that was so outrageous that it would be successful. “There are many good food drives and organizations that do wonderful things for our community. Originally, I wanted to do something to raise an awareness of the needs in our community. However, I knew that if I wanted to make the event a huge success, it had to be different,” he said. “I would have to come up with an idea that was totally outside the norm. An event that would make people start talking and do something that earned the respect of the community that I would be asking to donate these items from. I felt that if I were going to hold an event to help those that did not have heat or food or shelter, I wanted to put myself for a short time in their shoes. That is how I came up with the idea of sitting up in the crane, out in the cold, with limited resources. You should have seen the look on my wife’s face….. She said: ”You’re going to do what?,” he concluded.
Jenkins then contacted Joe Sanders of Sanders Crane Service and the two began brainstorming together and came up with the idea of “Cold for a Cause” and began to make it a reality. “Joe Sanders and his crew have been incredibly helpful over the past two years. This event would not take place without them. Many thanks go out to them,” said Jenkins.
To help brave the cold, Jenkins will ascend on Friday fully prepared with a sleeping bag, blankets, winter clothing such as boots, gloves, overalls and jackets. “I would like to thank Three Eagles Outfitters, this year they have donated base layer bottom and top, severe cold weather gloves, wool socks, hand and foot warmers etc… for me to wear during the event,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins will not spend the weekend curled up in blankets in a bucket, but instead will remain standing from daylight till dark, to wave at passing vehicles and people dropping off items. “I personally try to wave at every vehicle that passes. After doing that all day in the cold, my body is drained and I basically want to just lie down,” he said.
Despite signs that the economy has improved since the event's inception, Jenkins believes it is more important than ever for him to continue his efforts to help those in need within the community. “There are many reasons that an individual or family may find themselves in a position of needing assistance,” said Jenkins. “Unfortunately, being laid off from work, a physical disability etc… are events that we are unable to control. It could happen to anyone. There will always be individuals or families that just need some assistance, so they can rebound from whatever it is they are facing in life.”
According to Jenkins, he never anticipated the event would be as successful as it has been, and could not be more humbled and grateful for the outpour of support throughout the county. “During the week of the first year event, I remember looking into one of the corners of our conference room at the office and seeing (what I thought was a large amount) of clothing, food etc… starting to accumulate,” he noted. “On the final day of the event, I climbed out of the box and went into our office to find, that you could not get into our conference room. The items were stacked approximately six feet tall.”
Although he has faced below freezing temperatures in previous years while camping out 60 feet above Macon County, Jenkins said the hardest part about the weekend is not the cold or the sparse rations of food, but instead is being away from his family. “The first year was the coldest. Due to the extreme cold I concerned for my own family. My wife Sheri called me the first morning and told me the water in our house was froze. I had no way to help her,” said Jenkins. “For me physically, the 10 hours each day of standing in the cold waving at vehicles passing by and people dropping items off is exhausting. Then you know when the sun drops and Joe Sanders lowers the crane, you have another 14 hours of cold darkness ahead of you after everyone leaves. Toward the end of the second day, you start becoming numb to your surroundings and just kind of fall into a trance of what is going on around you,” he concluded.
Through this endeavor, Jenkins has tested his own physical and mental stability and has been able to push himself further than he had ever imagined. The weekends suspended high above Macon County has also taught him a lot about the community he loves. “We are all different individuals. We all come from different walks of life. We all have different ideas. We all don’t agree on the same things. We can even sometimes, as a community, find ourselves divided on issues. However, I personally learned something over the past two years. When an individual has a true compassion for the well being of those in our community and the people in the community sense that compassion. You will see people come together that have differences, different ideas and from different walks of life. The people will respond with an overwhelming response to help others in need.”