Local

Nonprofit assisting retired JSO officer who says he's struggling to provide for grandkids

Safe Haven of Northeast Florida is working to help the family of a retired Jacksonville Sheriff's Office officer and Army veteran this holiday season.

James Stepp tells Action News Jax reporter Ryan Nelson he’s disabled and on a fixed income, and last Friday, he began providing for his three grandchildren.

“This was thrown on me all at once right here at Christmas,” said Stepp.

Stepp tells us he was shot in the head in then line out duty in 1989 and survived.

Like any provider, he wants his three grandchildren to be able to open presents on Christmas morning.

Perhaps the most important gift of all would be a ramp for his 6-year-old granddaughter.

She has Pitt-Hopkins syndrome and uses a wheelchair.

Stepp tells us he has to carry the girl indoors.

“Pick this up, take her in there, put her back in it, strap her back in,” said Stepp.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the disease impacts about 500 people worldwide.

He also tells us she and her older sister need their own room. The only room they can move into is presently being used for storage, and he tells us he needs to clear it out to make room for bunk beds.

Meanwhile, he tells us he’s sleeping in a recliner, his grandson is sleeping on a couch and his two granddaughters are sleeping in what was his bedroom until recently.

Kathy Swafford, of Safe Haven of Northeast Florida says they're bringing a Christmas tree and gifts to the home Friday and will help Stepp clean out the room on Monday. They’re also raising money for the ramp.

“This is like the best side of what Safe Haven does,” said Swafford. “Helping families, trying to keep families together.”

Stepp says he’s eternally grateful.

“If it wasn’t for these ladies right here, there wouldn’t be no Christmas for my grandbabies,” he said.