By Alyssa Schnugg
After receiving an unexpected bonus from a recent job, an Oxford father said God told him to pass on his good fortune to his daughter’s classmates by giving them the gift of reading.
On Wednesday morning, J.J. Allen promised his daughter Latoria he would eat lunch with her at Oxford Intermediate School and then the two would go to the Book Fair together.
“She’s a book worm,” Allen said of his daughter. “She loves reading.”
Allen makes custom wood furniture and is the owner of The Wood Shed by JJ. Recently, a customer overpaid Allen when he dropped off some furniture he had worked on for them.
“I told them the check they gave me was too much, but they told me no, that they wanted to give me extra for always doing a good job and wanted to show their appreciation,” Allen said.
After dropping his daughter off at school Wednesday morning, Allen went to his shop and started working on some wood countertops.
“It was like God tapped me on the shoulder and was like, ‘Take the extra you have and buy every child in her class a book,’” Allen said. “It was as clear as day.”
At lunchtime, Allen went to OIS and spoke to administration and the school librarian and told them he wanted to buy each child in his daughter’s fifth-grade homeroom class a book.
“I told them how much I wanted to spend and each child was told they could spend this much,” Allen said. “The kids were just so happy and it made me so happy on the inside.”
Allen said the joy he received in seeing the students reaction and elation and being able to pick out their own book is something he wants to continue and grow each year.
“My long-term goal is to be able to get every student in the school to the book fair,” he said. “But I want to start with maybe two classes next time. And then maybe a whole grade.”
Jones understands that some parents struggle, working long hours just to put food on the table and may not be able to afford to send money to school for the book fair. He’s been there and he remembers.
A father of two, Jones has had full custody of Latoria since she was about a year old. His son lives in Memphis. Born and raised in Oxford, Allen moved to Memphis and returned to Oxford about three years ago.
Times were tough.
“We hit some bad spots; we were homeless for a while but my daughter never knew it,” he said. “We lived out of a vehicle for a bit and we did the best we could. But things slowly got better. I never gave up.”
After moving back to Oxford he started The Wood Shed by JJ and things started to turn around for Allen.
Earlier this year, Allen took 100 roses to OIS to show his appreciation to faculty and staff.
“My daughter walked with me and handed out the roses,” Allen said.
In response to his kindness and generosity, the students wrote Allen thank-you notes that Latoria brought home to him Wednesday afternoon.
“I started to read the first one and I thought, ‘Man, I won’t make it through reading these without crying,’” he said. “It was really touching.”