In Frank Capra’s, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the main character of the movie is named George Bailey, and the setting is a Christmas snowstorm in the fictional town of Bedford Falls.
Fast forward 64 years, and in this story, the main character is Jon Kurozawa, and the setting is a horrific flood in Milwaukee.
However, the closing scenes of these two stories may be remarkably similar.
Kurozawa resides in a home on Milwaukee’s northwest side with his wife, Holly, and their four children, ranging in age from 2 to 11.
Kurozawa is a salesman living on commission. Commissioned salespeople eat what they kill, as the saying goes. Unfortunately, the bounty has often been all too scarce for many in that line of work lately.
The Kurozawas fell behind in their mortgage payments. The torrential rains of late July flooded their basement twice in seven days. Then the family’s only vehicle, a 2000 Dodge Caravan, was totally destroyed in a traffic accident.
That same week, Jon and Holly were told they would need to make a mortgage payment of $2,100 by Aug. 3 and then three subsequent payments of $1,100 by November, to avoid the beginning of foreclosure proceedings.
Kurozawa was forced to make a choice. Lose the family’s home or swallow his pride and ask for help.
He reached out through social media, asking each of his followers or friends to donate $1 to help him and his family keep their home and replace their vehicle.
“This is hard for me to do, especially in a time when so many families are struggling financially and many more have been flooded in SE Wisconsin. Desperate times require us to humble ourselves and ask for the help of others. Within the last 8 days, our house has been flooded twice, our minivan (and sole family vehicle) was totaled in an accident and we found out we have 10 days to pay a large lump payment to our mortgage company,” Kurozawa wrote, linking through Twitter.
Just as the good folks of Bedford Falls came through at the Bailey family’s darkest hour of need, the people of generous Milwaukee responded with about $2,000 in donations, at last count, to help the Kurozawas.
“Look at these people. I’ve had people who have given us money that … I don’t even know these people. They say, ‘I don’t know who you are, but I want to help you out,'” Kurozawa said. “It’s the generosity of others. They’re opening up their hearts to people they don’t even know. That’s what got to me most. They heard about it through a retweet, and they felt compelled to help. There are still good-natured people, despite all the negative things you hear.”
Kurozawa wants people to know that as his family regains its financial footing, they will “pay it forward” by helping others. All donations beyond the $4,000 they need will be forwarded to charities that are helping local flood victims, he said. To contribute, contact Kurozawa through Twitter (@jonkurozawa).
“The amazing support we have received … It literally is like the final minutes of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ when the whole town comes to the aid of George Bailey,” Kurozawa said. “I promise you, this is the beginning of something great. A few people have mentioned paying it forward … That is definitely not a question. Our family has always helped where we can, when we can, despite financial hardships. We are dedicated to doing more, more often.”
Kurozawa said he wants to use his story to remind all of us that there are many families who have been hit hard by the Great Recession and the recent floods.