Annette John-Hall: Defying the odds, this young man gives of himself

Nehemiah Davis (center) , Police Officer Willie Roundtree, and neighborhood children at Davis' Peace 'N Philly event. Davis also runs a moving and hauling company.
Nehemiah Davis (center) , Police Officer Willie Roundtree, and neighborhood children at Davis' Peace 'N Philly event. Davis also runs a moving and hauling company.
Posted: December 12, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I challenged you to take a holiday giving pledge. I asked you to share how you were giving back, not just by writing a charitable check for that all-important year-end tax deduction - but what exactly are you doing to give of yourself?

By chronicling simple acts of giving, my hope was that we could usher in a different language, one in which we move beyond tossing out divisive labels like makers and takers, and celebrate each other for simply being givers.

Not to mention we'd be helping those in need during a time they need it most.

Well, just as I suspected, dozens of you responded. And the most wonderful thing is that most of you don't only donate your time, talent and treasure during the yuletide season, but you do it all year round.

And you do it with only the expectation of the comfort and joy you receive from giving - which, after all, is the greatest gift.

Community uplift

I don't think I've ever met a young person more focused on community uplift than Nehemiah Davis.

Davis holds at least a half-dozen neighborhood events annually through his nonprofit, the Nehemiah Davis Foundation ( www.ndavisfoundation.org). He recently served Thanksgiving dinners to 300 people in West Philadelphia and Overbrook during his Food From Heaven Thanksgiving Feast. Now he's knee-deep in organizing his Gifts From Heaven Holiday Party, on Dec. 24 at Shepard Recreation Center, where he'll provide at least 50 kids with a Christmas carnival and presents.

Every August, Davis hosts a Peace 'N Philly Back to School Extravaganza, an end-of-summer festival complete with pony rides, face painting, free haircuts, and backpacks fully loaded with school supplies for hundreds of students.

Of course, Davis fits all of his giving in when he's not operating his own business, Daviso Moving & Junk Removal, which removes trash and debris from residential and commercial buildings.

See, Myra Grant, Davis' mom, trained Nehemiah, 25, and 13-year-old twin daughters Taylor and Tyler early to give as a requirement of growing up. She stipulated that if her children earned any money, 10 percent would go to the church.

In 2008, Grant and her family started feeding the homeless every Monday on the Parkway. That's when Davis says the benevolence bug bit him.

"Homeless people are the nicest people you ever could meet, even though they don't have nothing," he says. "It made me want to give to mothers in need, seniors in need, kids in need. . . . I know this is what God wants me to do."

It's impressive enough that the Neumann University graduate is a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist at an age when his peers are still mostly focused on themselves and money, in that order. But what's more powerful is that with every good deed he does, Davis shatters a stereotype, not only in his community, where violence and crime is the norm, but in his family.

His own father has been incarcerated since Davis was 2. "Statistically," he says, "I should be right in there with him.

"I just want kids to know that it's peaceful brothers out there trying to make a difference," Davis says. "A lot of people I hang with are making a difference every single day."


To share your stories of how you are giving during the holiday season, contact Annette John-Hall at 215-854-4986, Ajohnhall@phillynews.com or on Twitter @Annettejh.

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