From the beginning, Jim Ford said, he was reluctant about repossessing Pat and Stanford Kipping’s car.
Even though that was, obviously, the job.
Ford is a repo man, co-owner of Illini Recovery Inc., a company in Southern Illinois. And earlier this month, he was working a job involving the Kippings’ vehicle, a 1998 Buick, the Belleville News-Democrat reported. Instead of repo’ing the Buick, though, Ford decided to do something a little different.
He found a way to pay off the car — and return it to the couple.
“It was a miracle come true; we didn’t know what we were going to do,” Pat Kipping, 70, told the News-Democrat.
According to Ford, who spoke with The Washington Post by phone, this all unfolded after he received the order to pick up the car from a credit union.
Ford said he looked at the past due amount, which was about $350, and the payment amount, which was $95 a month.
Then, he headed out to Red Bud, Ill., where the car was. When he pulled down the street, he noticed a police officer, who told him that the vehicle was owned by an elderly couple.
“I was like, aw man,” Ford said.
He drove to the couple’s home and spotted the car but decided he wasn’t going to disturb Pat and Stanford Kipping at that hour.
The next day, he called up the couple and told them to contact their bank to try to work something out. Later, though, Pat Kipping called back and told him that she didn’t have the money, and he needed to take the car.
Ford, believing that his hands were tied, again set out for the home. When he arrived, he played with the couple’s dog, he said. The Kippings invited him in. And he tried to soften the blow, telling them that they wouldn’t have to deal with extra fees from him.
“And [Stanford Kipping] is like ‘oh Jim, you’ve been so good to us, if I ever win the lottery, I’m going to split it with you, buddy,'” Ford said. “And I’m like, aw man. Really? This is getting worse rapidly. I had to get the hell out of there.”
After seizing the car, he made it about a block before he phoned a bank official.
“I said, ‘Hey, how about if I just pay this thing current right now?'” Ford said.
That didn’t exactly work out, though — there was a process they had to follow, and a load of paperwork. The bank said they would work with the couple and see what could be done at a later date. Ford thought about it more, though, and called a business partner and discussed the matter. That man suggested an online fundraising effort.
“I was like, all right, I’ll try it. So we did that,” Ford said. “And by the time I woke up, the car was paid off.”
Donations poured in from Ford’s friends, some of whom were small-business owners. After about a day, he had raised what he needed, and had money to spare. The News-Democrat reports that Ford raised more than $3,000 — enough to pay off the car and give $1,000 to the Kippings.
Ford and his friends didn’t stop there. The car got an oil change, and they took it to get detailed. They also did some maintenance on the vehicle, replacing lightbulbs and things like that. Then, on Monday morning, one of Ford’s employees swung by the grocery store and bought the couple a turkey.
The Kippings knew the car was on its way back; they were tipped off after calling the bank, and then Ford himself.
So when the vehicle arrived, Ford said, family members were waiting, along with neighbors and a reporter from a local paper.
“I got up this morning and I looked up at the sun and I said, ‘I hope we get our car back.’ It’s just unbelievable,” Stanford Kipping, a retired dock worker, told the News-Democrat.
“They were really really happy,” Ford said. “I don’t know. I was just glad I could help somebody out.”
“Never heard of any good act of kindness like that from a repo man,” 56-year-old Grace Garris, one of Stanford Kipping’s children, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It was a beautiful, beautiful moment.”
During his discussions with the couple, Ford said, he had learned that they were behind in the payments because of health-care costs. Specially, he mentioned prescription drugs, which they told Ford had rocketed up in price.
“They were just really nice people, and they needed a break,” Ford said. “Luckily, I’m fortunate enough to be in a position that I can help somebody out like that. I really didn’t expect anyone to find out about it, ever, but apparently most of my friends are narcs.”
When people read about the gift, Ford said, he hopes it inspires more acts of generosity.
Plus, he later added: “If Trump wants to come shake my hand, that would be cool.”
“I just hope that someone goes out and does something nice for someone else,” he said. “That would be great. Just pay it forward. I’m getting so many calls from all over the country, and everyone’s so inspired by it. I’m like, oh yeah, there’s something I didn’t think I’d ever hear: Jim Ford, Mr. Inspirational.”