Story and photography by Chelsea Quackenbush
When a little girl dreams of her future wedding, she thinks of the man who will be waiting at the end of the aisle – her prince charming. Less often, she might think of the man who will be walking alongside her and giving her away.
Or the man who won’t be there beside her – her father.
She thinks of him with anger, sadness or regret because he won’t be there at her side. He’s abandoned her. He’s no longer alive. She never knew him in the first place.
Jackie Belt has seen this scenario more times than he can count. It breaks his heart every time, which is why, more than a dozen times, he has stepped in and walked some very important young women in his life down the aisle toward their future husband.
The former foster houseparent did it out of the love he has for his former foster daughters he has met and served through Buckner over the years.
That love and desire to provide for others carries over to everything he does but especially in his role as the director of client assistance for the Buckner Humanitarian Aid Crisis Relief Center.
‘When Mr. Belt Knocks’
Last time we saw Jackie in Buckner Today was the spring 2002 issue. He just delivered a refrigerator to the Turrubiates family in Waxahachie. The single mother of eight kids had to go to the store daily to get ice for the family’s small cooler.
Turrubiates summed up Jackie perfectly in that story: “When Mr. Belt knocks, good things happen.”
Jackie helped her apply for food stamps and TANF after her husband left her with nothing. She had no idea where to turn, but she somehow found Buckner.
A large portion of Jackie’s job – his ministry, really – remains visiting families and delivering clothing, appliances and other items.
He provides essentials to meet the daily, immediate needs of families but he also provides hope. His favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11: “‘I know the plans I have for you’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and future.’”
He shares the verse with hundreds of families who walk through his door. He leads the Buckner humanitarian aid ministry with the wisdom of a father and the eagerness of a child.
Jackie’s journey to Buckner began in 1979 in San Antonio. He helped some people from church move to Dallas to become foster houseparents. Soon after, he got a call from someone at Buckner about being a houseparent in Dallas. He already had a job at a local university but he and his wife, Bonnie, prayed about it and felt like the Lord was leading them to Dallas.
As if they needed more confirmation of their decision, they sold their house in San Antonio the day after they put it on the market.
He started as the director of residential life and in 1994, took over client assistance programs.
“Our numbers have gone up since I started,” Jackie said. “We help a lot of needy families … I’ve seen kids sleeping in cars, moms losing babies, kids who come in here hungry. But every day, God surprises us. I see Him work in the most amazing ways.”
Belt has an endless file of those crazy, God-moment stories.
One woman went to the humanitarian aid center with bandages all over her hands and body. She had just lost her baby and everything she owned in a house fire. She lost all her money. She couldn’t afford a burial for her child, let alone furniture, clothing or a new place to live.
Buckner gave her some money for the funeral services and got her a place to stay while she got back on her feet.
This past fall, the staff at the warehouse was unsure of where they would get the winter coats clients desperately needed as cold winter nights crept in.
They prayed and prayed. The very next day, a delivery truck with 700 coats showed up.
Another client asked Jackie if they ever got hand tools because he needed some to do a job to make money and feed his family. Jackie had to turn him away. He’d never seen hand tools donated.
But a few days later, Jackie placed a happy phone call to the man – they had received hand tools that morning.
An elderly lady asked Jackie for dog food one day. Dog food had never been donated before. But lo and behold, Jackie was on the phone the next day, telling her to come pick up the donated dog food.
The list goes on and on.
“We are more blessed than they are,” he said. “That I get to see the clients, the release of pressure, that sigh … I really like feeling like I’m doing the Lord’s work. It’s like that verse in Matthew: ‘When I was hungry you gave me food. When I was thirsty, you gave me drink.’ We’re called to love our neighbors.”
Perhaps the most significant story in his file is one about a little boy named Corey.
‘I see God every day’
It happened several years ago but Jackie remembers it as if it were yesterday.
One day, a 10-year-old boy, Corey, and his mother went to the warehouse to give Buckner his old wheelchair. He was quadriplegic, and had just received a new wheelchair from Easter Seals. Since Buckner had helped Corey and his mother before, they wanted to give back to someone else, Jackie said.
The wheelchair was fire engine red with all the bells and whistles. It was comfortable and still in great condition. “Corey” was embroidered in gold lettering across the back.
Jackie assured the pair that he would give it to a child in desperate need. He parked the wheelchair in the back of the warehouse and waited for that special call.
A few weeks later, the Buckner school principal called Jackie about needing a wheelchair for a new little boy at school. He said he had one and invited her to come check it out. She went to the back by herself and after a few minutes, showed up to Jackie’s office in tears.
“What’s wrong?” Jackie recalled asking her. He thought there was a problem with the chair.
She shook her head and said nothing was wrong. In fact, the wheelchair was perfect.
The little boy who needed the chair? His name was Corey.
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