Hungry Teen's Life Changed Forever After a Chance Encounter
| LAST UPDATE 09/30/2021
Matt White was leaving the grocery store when a teenage boy asked him for a small favor. Nether of them could have expected that what started out as an ordinary evening, soon led to a life changing journey for both of them...
A Young Musician
After graduating with a degree in music business, Matt White lived in Memphis, Tennessee. The city known as the home of the blues and birthplace of rock and roll was a fitting place for the singer-songwriter.
In this beautiful southern metropolis, White met someone who changed his life and vice versa. But the monumental encounter took place on a day that started like many others. As the young musician ran a few errands around town, he had no idea what awaited him.
A Routine Trip To the Store
In the evening, Matt went to a local Kroger branch to pick up his routine grocery items and some favorite pantry-stuffers. White was a somewhat regular customer of the store and expected to be in and out quite quickly, as was usually the case. But things soon took an unexpected turn.
After filling up the shopping cart, White headed to a cash register and paid for the items. But as he walked towards the exit, the 30-year-old noticed something strange. An adolescent boy was walking in his direction and seemed intent on talking to the young musician. Did Matt know him?
"He Looked Hungry"
As the teenager approached, the aspiring musician studied his face and found nothing familiar about him. Matt had no idea who this person was, yet the boy headed straight toward him. A confused White thought maybe the young man needed directions or wanted to ask for money.
Before Matt came to any real conclusion, the adolescent boy was right in front of him. Now that the teen was closer, White noticed something peculiar. "The look on his face was kind of broken. He looked hungry," the singer recalled. Matt soon learned who the kid was and what he wanted.
He Wanted To Work
The stranger greeted Matt and introduced himself as Chauncy Jones Black. The musician soon learned exactly why the 16-year-old was at the grocery store alone. "He had taken the bus at 9:00 at night to get to the 'rich people's Kroger'... as he called it," White later said.
"He approached me... asking if he could help me carry my grocery bags to my car in exchange for buying him a pack of glazed donuts," Matt added. The teen desperately wanted food and offered to work for it. "He looked ashamed, hungry, and broken," White said. Would the Memphis singer accept the kid's offer?
Matt felt bad for the teen and was instantly impressed by Chauncy's courage. "This kid was really brave," he said. "I just thought to myself, if I was his age, I don't think I could go up to someone and ask them for food. I looked at him like he was my hero."
But Black wasn't motivated by his strength. "Faith takes care of a lot of stuff," Chauncy later said. "That's what I had: faith. And he looked like he would help me out." The teen was right, and the pair soon headed to White's car to drop off the groceries. Back inside the store, Matt learned more about the struggling boy.
A Tough Life
Chauncy was open with Matt about his circumstances. Black told the musician that he lived with his mom in an empty home, as they didn't have money for furniture or food. The teenager had nearly as little in his pockets as he did in his house. Chauncy had no cell phone, only a bus pass to get around.
"I just felt this overwhelming humility for his situation," White said. The musician was in awe of the teen. Black was clearly in need, yet he didn't simply ask for food. The kid wanted to work for it. Matt then decided that Chauncy deserved more than a box of glazed doughnuts.
A Full Shopping Cart
The new acquaintances were deep in conversation as they picked up the packaged sweets. But Black was confused when White didn't head to the cash register after getting the doughnuts. Instead, the singer walked to another aisle and placed more things into a cart.
Matt grabbed a range of items that he usually bought for himself, including chips, vegetables, milk, and even toothpaste. Before Chauncy knew it, the shopping cart was filled with food and toiletries. As they walked up and down the grocery aisles, White discovered more surprising facts about the teen.
A Humbling Story
It became clear that Chauncy did not have an easy life. Black's grandmother, Barbara, adopted him from her daughter when he was an infant and became his mom. She also adopted six other children, but Chauncy was the only one left in their house. Sadly, Barbara struggled to put food on the table.
"It was very humbling," Matt said of the teen's life story. "I just felt an overwhelming desire to help." But what amazed White the most was that Black was motivated and had big dreams despite his circumstances. The Memphis musician was inspired by what Chauncy shared next.
Black called his mom and himself "poor," but made it clear he wanted to change that. "All the while, we talked, and he told me how he makes straight A's in school and is trying to get a job to help his mom pay rent," Matt shared. "This kid was amazing."
Chauncy had big aspirations. "I dream about buying me a restaurant someday so my mom can cook anything she wants," Black said. The kid studied hard because he wanted to be a businessman and provide for his family. As the time came to say goodbye, White did something that completely shocked Chauncy.
Matt Couldn't Leave Him
The duo's time together flew by as they talked and shopped. After a while, Black said he needed to leave as his bus home was arriving shortly. Matt and Chauncy went to the cash register to pay for the cart full of household goods. The appreciative teen then thanked White and made his way out of the store.
But as Chauncy walked outside, Matt couldn't help but follow. He felt a sense of responsibility for the kind boy and didn't want him going on the long bus ride with so much baggage. So White happily gave Black a ride home. The 30-year-old singer never imagined what he would find there.
An Empty Home
During their grocery store conversation, Chauncy told Matt that the house he shared with his mom was empty. When the pair parked in front of Black's home and walked inside, the singer realized that Chauncy meant exactly what he had said. "They had two lamps and nothing in their fridge," Matt recalled.
White saw that Black and his mom didn't even have beds to sleep in and slept on thin pads laid on the floor instead. "[Chauncy's mom] informed me that all of their possessions were stolen a few months ago, including all her clothes," Matt said. The good samaritan would soon discover more heartbreaking details.
She Couldn't Work
Black's mom, Barbara Black, felt grateful for all of the groceries White bought them and thanked him profusely. The musician was quickly enchanted by the 61-year-old woman. It was obvious to Matt that Barbara loved Chauncy immensely and wanted to provide the best for her son.
But sadly, Barbara's circumstances made it difficult for her to work. She lived with a condition that caused her body to shake uncontrollably. Walking or taking a bus was a challenge for the loving mother. White's heart was breaking into pieces. "I thought I was going to cry," he said. But what more could Matt do to help?
"He Looked Like a Kid Again"
After Matt met Barbara, he started emptying the grocery bags with Chauncy. As the pair filled the fridge and cabinets, White noticed a change in his new friend. "As we unpacked the food into their kitchen, you could see the hope coming back into Chauncy's eyes," he said.
"[Chauncy] knew he wasn't going to be hungry. He looked like a kid again," White continued. The duo kept chatting as they filled the Black's kitchen. With every bit of information Matt learned, he felt more invested in the family's well-being. But White could have never predicted the journey that lay ahead.
Matt Wanted To Help More
Once the kitchen was full, White said goodbye to the kind family. But on the drive home and for the days that followed, hardly a minute went by without Matt thinking about Chauncy. The musician was in awe of the teenager's strength. "I'm 30 years old and I have a new hero," he said.
But with the admiration came great worry. Chauncy and Barbara were in dire need of help. "What so many can take for granted, [Chauncy] wants," Matt said. "He wants food, he wants a bed, he wants to work, and he wants a chance." White wanted to help the teen and his mom, but what more could he do?
A Simple Post
He tried but, Matt couldn't get the image of the Black family's empty house out of his head. "Chauncy is in desperate need of clothing and a bed," White said. "He sleeps on the floor in a room with no AC [air conditioning]." The singer didn't think that buying a week's worth of groceries was enough for the deserving family.
Although he wanted to support them, White couldn't afford to give Chauncy and Barbara more financial assistance. So the young man shared the Black's story on Facebook, hoping that someone would empathize with the family and help. Matt was shocked by some people's responses.
A GoFundMe Page
Matt's social media friends commented on the Facebook post, offering assistance and asking how they could help. White then created a GoFundMe page where people could give money to support the hard-working teen. "I've created this go fund me page to help Chauncy have [a] chance," he wrote on the site.
Matt continued, "It starts small. A simple act of kindness, but it can ripple out and create an ocean of prosperity in the world." Little did White know just how correct he was -- the GoFundMe account was about to bring Chauncy waves of good fortune.
$250 for a Lawnmower
White desperately wanted to raise money for Black, but he didn't want to just give the teen some cash. "The first step is to get Chauncy's basic needs covered and to get him working," Matt explained. "Right now, he doesn't have an ID so he cannot apply for regular jobs until he gets that handled."
"Until then, he says he likes mowing lawns," White continued. "So my hope is to raise enough money to get him a push mower." He needed to raise $250 to buy the machine. Then, Black would do yard work and use the hard-earned cash for food and school supplies. But unexpected events would force Matt to change their plans.
"Never in My Wildest Dreams"
Before White knew what was happening, donations flooded into the GoFundMe page and exceeded the fundraising goal. "When I started this 4 days ago, never in my wildest dreams did I think something like this would happen!!" Matt exclaimed. Forget the lawnmower; they could aim bigger!
"At this rate, I have started talking to some people about helping find them a house of their own," White shared. "They could go from not being able to pay rent to... homeowners!!! All because of the love of strangers." As more people heard of Chauncy, an unbelievable amount of money rolled in.
A Shocking Amount
It quickly became clear that other people were as charmed by Black as Matt had been. "I'm hoping this soft-spoken young man and his mom get everything they need and more," wrote a GoFundMe user. "And that given this chance, Chauncy WILL realize his dreams someday and give back as he intends to."
The GoFundMe page eventually raised over $340,000 for Chauncy and his mother. "It means a whole lot to us and our family," the teen said. "We are very thankful to all of those who reached out to get us into a better home and a safe environment." Black had no idea that the fundraising page was just the tip of the iceberg.
Spending the Money
As the money came in, Matt and Chauncy got straight to work. "There's so much happening right now that every day has become a micro adventure," White shared on Facebook. "We've been looking at schools for Chauncy, shopping for homes, getting him lawn jobs."
In the end, Black didn't even need to invest money in a lawnmower, as a generous donor gifted him one! "Somebody just ordered Chauncy a lawnmower, and it's being shipped to his house Wednesday!!" Matt shared. The internet overflowed with love for Chauncy, and his name was soon on national headlines.
'Chauncy's Chance' Went Viral
In the blink of an eye, 'Chauncy's Chance' was trending on Facebook. The Black family's story was on the same list as celebrity news about Calvin Harris, Kylie Jenner, and Amy Schumer. News stations and magazines, including Daily Mail and People, covered the touching story and interviewed the Black family.
"I'm still stunned. I just don't know what to say," Barbara said in an interview as she held back tears. "It's just so wonderful. I just know God is good, and he sent a good person into our lives." But it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies for Chauncy and his mother.
They Weren't Safe
It wasn't long before opportunists tried to get in on the family's sudden wealth. Chauncy was shocked and disappointed when his estranged biological mother reached out to him. "Now you want to take credit when someone is on the road to be something," he said to her in a video.
But she wasn't the only one who wanted a piece of the Blacks. As more people learned of their riches, Chauncy and Barbara were forced to leave their home and live in a hotel. Fortunately, they soon found a safe place to stay. But then another issue arose: How to protect the $340,000.
Setting up a Trust
Matt, Chauncy, and Barbara were all at a loss about what to do with the money. After all, Matt planned for a few hundred bucks to be donated, not a few hundred thousand. Weary of distant relatives who wanted to exploit their newfound fame, the trio consulted with a legal expert.
They met with a lawyer "so that they take the least amount of hit on taxes," explained Matt. "So [the money's] set up in a trust and not at risk of anybody trying to come and claim it." Now that the Blacks were financially secure, some wondered if Chauncy would still be motivated to work hard.
He Got a Job
It turned out the teenager was as driven as ever and got a job at a lawn care company. "He's a good kid with a strong work ethic, and he deserves the opportunity to learn," his boss told People. "Chauncy is very receptive, and I think he'll accomplish anything he sets his mind to do."
Robert Hamilton, the company owner, appreciated Black's dedication and wanted him to take over the business eventually. "I don't want to stay with this forever," Robert said. "So if he wants it, I'd love to give it to him." Hamilton wasn't the only one who had Chauncy's back.
They Were a Family
When Chauncy Black walked into the grocery store that fateful evening, he never imagined his whole life was about to change. The kid who asked for a box of glazed doughnuts ended up with much more, and he thanked Matt White for it. "I appreciate it so much that I can't appreciate it no more," Chauncy said.
"I'm so grateful. People have been wonderful," he shared. "Me and Matt White are pretty much family now." The duo even started a new tradition together: they went to church on Sundays and ate an ice cream afterward. But while the Black family gave Matt much of the credit, the singer felt differently.
Matt Didn't Want the Credit
Matt didn't believe it was he who changed Chauncy and Barbara's life. He attributed everything to a higher power. "God has provided for them a home, a car, a new school," White said. "He has restored Barbara's health and continues to present them with endless opportunities for the future."
The modest man also pointed to the thousands of people who contributed, calling it "the most beautiful tapestry of fellowship and community." Matt thought it took a village, and he just happened to be there. But the happy helper also revealed some regrets.
After the dust had settled, an interviewer asked White if "there was anything he regretted" about the viral story. In retrospect, Matt agreed that they should have hired a press representative. The media attention sometimes overwhelmed the Black family, who would have benefitted from professional assistance.
"You don't know what to do," Matt said of the sudden online fame. The trio never expected famous talk shows and media outlets to interview Chauncy, just as they didn't expect $340,000. But White was nothing but grateful for the whole experience. At the end of it all, he had an important message to share.
"Look for Chauncys Out There"
Matt White thought that Chauncy and Barbara Black succeeded because of a higher power and the Memphis community. He believed that what people did for the Black family could be done again for others and encouraged people to "look for Chauncys out there."
"The focus of this is not me and what I did, because I really didn't do anything," White said. "I just captured a story and put it online, but our community, Memphis, picked up this family and put them on a platform." As Matt saw strangers come together for the Black family, he was inspired to do something even bigger.
Matt Wanted To Do More
After the experience with Chauncy and Barbara, Matt wanted to help others in need. "Now Chauncy and his mom have a home of their own, and a future," White said. "And they want to go out and pay it forward. To keep the wave of love that saved their lives moving onto the next family."
"Seeing that happen has been the most beautiful and rewarding thing I could ever ask for," he continued. "I just want to tell everything that made this possible how much it means to me and that I promise I'll work to the day I die to help keep it moving." White made good on his promise shortly after when he met the "Can Man."
J.P. Kibbler: The Can Man
It wasn't long before Matt found someone in need of community support. "Starting today, we are continuing Chauncy's Chance (the volunteer movement)," White wrote on the Chauncy's Chance GoFundMe page. "The next recipient is a man unlike any you've ever met. He is small in stature but a giant in heart."
Matt continued, "His name is J.P. Kibbler, but we know him as 'The Can Man.'" Kibbler was a 65-year-old man who spent "8 hours a day, 7 days a week" collecting cans from the garbage to provide for his family. White hoped that people would rally behind J.P. the way they did for Chauncy.