Family experience inspires McManus to support homeless

· 4 min read

Family experience inspires McManus to support homeless

Kirk McManus holds clothing items he's collected for his monthly drives for the People's City Mission. The project is inspired by McManus' childhood, which included helping his parents get out of a debt rut.
Craig Chandler | University Communication
Kirk McManus holds clothing items he's collected for his monthly drives for the People's City Mission. The project is inspired by McManus' childhood, which included helping his parents get out of a debt rut.

A family moment that toed a descent into homelessness has led Nebraska’s Kirk McManus to a life focused on giving.

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A parking equipment technician with Parking and Transit Services, McManus is on a mission to collect donations from every street in Lincoln and provide support to the homeless community. He spends one Saturday a month collecting items and delivering them to the People’s City Mission.

Since starting the project in 2018, he’s collected donations from 27 of Lincoln’s 2,278 (and counting) streets.

“I figure your life can be remembered in one of two ways — either you gave as much as you could, or you took everything you could,” McManus said. “I decided long ago that I want to be remembered for giving.”

That passion to help others started in McManus’ last year in college. His father was struggling at the time and had filed for bankruptcy. His mother was trying to support the family, having transitioned from being a stay-at-home mom to working full-time as a nurse. But calls from lawyers were continuous, items were being sold to cover monthly expenses, and the home (in desperate need of a roof repair) was nearing foreclosure.

“My dad was in a dark place, a rut, and my mother was working hard to hold the family together,” McManus said. “They needed to get out from under that five-bedroom house and get a fresh start.

“So, I took my student loan check for my last semester of college — it didn’t matter as I was going into the Air Force anyway — and used it to find an apartment for my mom and dad.”

He found the perfect location — near friends — and struck a deal with the landlord, giving the man the entire check with an assertion that his parents would be able to cover the rent after the funds ran out.

“Only problem was my parents didn’t want to move,” McManus said. “What I did was take all their plates, dishes forks, everything in the cupboards and moved it into the apartment. Then, I moved all the food out of the house. They were mad, but the next weekend we completed the move.”

Kirk McManus, a retired Air Force veteran, repairs the various machinery within the university's five parking garages. Knowledge earned in the Air Force allowed him to transition seamlessly to his technician role on campus.

Out from under the debt of the house, his family prospered again. His dad changed careers, from piano sales to real estate and, today, the couple owns three apartments in New York.

Years later, after graduating college and a career in the Air Force (serving in both the Gulf War and Afghanistan), McManus fully realized the impact his move had on his family.

“It was a gorgeous summer day and I was sitting on a patio with my dad when he broke down crying, “ McManus said. “I went over to his chair and kneeled down, asking what was wrong.”

His dad explained that he had never thanked his son for the help, explaining how he had been too scared and nervous to act.

“He said he was grateful and thanked me,” McManus said. “Then we both started crying. It was a very moving experience.”

That spirit of giving continues to drive McManus as he plans out the street-based donation drives for the last Saturday of each month. The work is minimal – taking under an hour to identify a street, send postcards alerting residents and collecting items — but can make a great impact, McManus said.

“The items I collect aren’t going to solve homelessness, but they may provide a tool needed to get someone out of a rut or eliminate suffering in a small way,” McManus said. “I know the fear of being homeless. If I can help lift that weight – even a little bit – it’s worth it and may just be enough to help someone move up and make their life better.”

For more information on how to assist McManus with his monthly People’s City Mission drives, including how to donate, send email to kmcmanus2@unl.edu.

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