A homeless man in Las Vegas who had been living on the streets and had not seen his six children for nearly 25 years has been reunited with his daughter thanks to modern technology and the kindness of strangers.
Jimmy Francis was outside a Firehouse Subs shop earlier this month when he was spotted by a local realtor Jim Snyder, as he was going in to pick up his dinner. When Snyder saw Francis struggling in the cold weather he, with the help of Firehouse employees, bought the man a sandwich and gave him some cash.
After Snyder got home his thoughts stayed with Francis, left out in the cold.
“He was shaking so uncontrollably and was so cold it just broke my heart and I thought there’s something I’ve got to do here,” Snyder, 49, told ABCNews.com. “By the time I got to where my home is I knew I had to turn around and get him.”
Snyder, who says he had never before done anything like that, brought Francis to the home he shares with his wife, Maria, and gave him coffee, a warm shower, washed his clothes and packed a suitcase full of his own old clothes for Francis.
Over coffee and a warm meal, Snyder, himself a father of five children and step-children, learned that Francis had not seen his six children in over two decades after a divorce. He was particularly torn, Snyder says, over not seeing his only daughter, Natalie.
“He told me he had colon cancer in 2010 and wasn’t expected to live and because of that experience, the one thing constantly on his mind is he wants to be reunited with his children,” Snyder said.
The Snyders took down the names and birth dates of Francis’s children and used social media to search for them.
The couple found Natalie Francis, now living in Northern California and herself a grandmother, on Facebook and sent her a message. Less than one hour later, they had a response.
“The message just said, ‘Oh my God. This is my dad. Is he okay?’” Snyder recalled.
Just days later the couple brought Francis, living temporarily with an acquaintance, back to their home for a Skype call with his daughter.
“A whole lot of emotions,” is how Snyder recalled the virtual reunion. “That was the first time they’d seen each other in 24 years, literally. It was very, very special.”
Natalie Francis, it turns out, has been unemployed since November. Not able to find a job in her hometown, she is job searching in Las Vegas in hopes she can move there to live with and take care of her dad.
First, however, the two will be reunited in-person this Friday, thanks again to the kindness of strangers.
The Synders set up a fundraising site online for Francis and the publicity the story has received led to a woman donating airfare and travel expenses for Natalie Francis to fly to Las Vegas for a five-day visit with her father.
“In my wildest, wildest unbelievable imagination dreams, I never thought anything like this would ever happen,” said Snyder, who said he speaks with or visits Francis daily.
“When I did this I was just trying to help what I saw was a little old man freezing his tail off and just hungry,” he said. “I don’t know what compelled me but I just felt something pulling on my heart. Once I decided I didn’t hesitate and here we are.”