LaShawn Ferguson received the keys to her new apartment Monday, but she struggled to believe that it actually happened.
"I don't know what's going on," said Ferguson, 36. "It still doesn't really feel real."
Ferguson wiped tears from her eyes as Armand Young told her that her new landlord Rhett Lowry, 36, donated the first and last months' rent to help her get the apartment at 1236 W. King St. in West York.
Up until that point, no one told Ferguson about the three-bedroom apartment or the donation.
And Ferguson didn't know that she and her 10-year-old daughter, Ruthy, were the 414th family Young has helped through the acts of kindness projects he has been doing during his "Human Kindness Walk" across America since 2007.
Young, 48, of Charleston, W.Va., works at Jefferson County Community Ministries, which assists families in West Virginia. He has done a total 20 months of walking over the last five years. This is his final walk.
"I want to get back to regular life," Young said. "I want to go back home to my wife and job. It's time."
Young has taken a year and a half to walk from Santa Monica, Calif., to Ground Zero, the site of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.
Along the way, he carries a pole containing hundreds of flags and bandanas with signatures from more than 529,000 people who promise to help others in need, especially veterans and people affected by the terrorist attacks.
Young said his goal is to get one million signatures on the pole by the time he walks back to California. The walk back continues Tuesday, when he heads west toward Gettysburg. During his long-distance walks, Young stays in homes, hotels and fire stations.
Young said he arrived in York about a week ago. This is his second trip to the area.
Young first came to York more than a year and a half ago and worked with Charlotte Bergdoll, owner of Cherry Lane Realty Inc., to help a family - a widower with four children - find a place to live.
Bergdoll offered one of her apartments and waived the first and last months' rent so the family could afford to move in.
This time, she and Young asked Lowry to help a family get one of his apartments. Young contacted Bell Family Shelter to find a family to help. Diana Moye, the shelter's case worker, recommended shelter client Ferguson. Moye, Young, Lowry and Bergdoll decided to surprise Ferguson with their apartment plan.
Ferguson, a White Rose Ambulance emergency medical technician and a single mother, came to the West King Street apartment just to look at it. Instead, she was surprised and then overwhelmed to learn that the apartment was hers. She agreed to the $650-a-month rent, and she made plans to move in immediately.
"I'm glad (Ferguson) is happy with the place, and I'm glad she plans to stay," Lowry said. "You always want (tenants) to stay."
Ferguson, who has been apartment hunting since June, has been splitting time between staying at the shelter and with several family members.
Ferguson said she is thankful that the landlord did not require her to pay move-in costs. She said she also is grateful to Young, Bergdoll and Moye for working together to get her the apartment.
She also thanked representatives from Home Depot in Springettsbury Township for the store's donations of a door and of concrete and wood to be used to fix up her front porch.
"I wasn't expecting this at all," Ferguson said. "I have a key, but the best part is having a home for my child, having a place to call home."
For information about Armand Young, his Human Kindness Walk and his humanitarian projects, visit his Facebook pages in his name and under "human kindness walk."
To donate items to help LaShawn Ferguson furnish her new apartment, call Charlotte Bergdoll at 846-1345.
-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.