Watch the video of Stephanie sharing this heartwarming story.
Video credit: Stephanie Blackbird/ Facebook
We are often so focused on our own wants and needs that it’s easy to ignore the suffering that’s all around us especially when things are going well in our lives. While there’s nothing wrong with accomplishing our goals and taking care of ourselves and our loved ones, the fact remains that there’s a world around us with people who are not as fortunate.
Stephanie and Al Blackbird from Arizona were shopping at Whole Foods in one of the richest areas of Scottsdale when they came upon Alan Vandevander. The man looked dazed and confused while standing in an aisle looking at candy while clutching a $5 bill in one hand. The sight made them want to help.
Speaking to ABC 15, Stephanie said, “We saw him just holding this five dollar bill and just kind of wandering around. He didn’t look well… He looked lost and I couldn’t walk away, I couldn’t in good conscience walk away without at least checking on this man.”
Vandevander mentioned that he was searching for Life Savers because he needed sugar. He was worried that he was about to keel over.
On the GoFundMe page that the couple eventually set up for him, she wrote: “I was still concerned and before we left the store, I found him again and he looked very unwell. I approached him and asked if he needed help to find something.
“He said he needed sugar because he felt weak from low blood sugar. After getting him some candy, I realized he was very very thin, and needed more than candy. We got him a sandwich and some water and got him seated while I visited with him.
“We made a connection, he explained he was homeless, living in the desert for over 20 YEARS in the midst of Scottsdale’s affluence.”
The Blackbirds couldn’t get Vandevander out of their minds seeing how alone and vulnerable he was. The following day was the day before Christmas and they decided to go look for him, going by the few descriptions he’d given about his desert camp.
Two hours of searching saw them finally locating the man. Stephanie uploaded a video to her Facebook page where she described their initial meeting and subsequent search.
Vandevander initially refused their help but after speaking with them and seeing how they cared (they had even brought him supplies), he finally allowed them to take him to a hospital. Since then, they found out more about Vandevander’s story.
It was good that the couple brought Vandevander to the hospital when they did because he was practically at death’s door. Apart from being severely underweight, he was also dehydrated and had suffered a heart attack.
They also found out that he had a family, sisters in Indiana who had lost track of him for 40 years and who had assumed he’d passed away. They had all suffered an abusive childhood and their mother had been murdered.
“I started looking for him in 1990 and I kept coming across dead ends,” his sister Julie said. “I never ever thought I would hear from my brother again.”
The siblings finally spoke for the first time in 40 years during a phone call before Christmas. Julie said she hopes she can visit her brother soon.
One other thing they found out about Vandevander is that he was a Vietnam War veteran who had received the Purple Heart.
He’s now recovering at the VA but still needs plenty of time to recuperate and get his life back together.
To this end, the Blackbirds set up a GoFundMe which has gotten over $3,800 so far. With his family hoping to reunite with him soon, things have finally started looking up for Vandevander.
“Homeless Veteran Timelapse Transformation”