Fired at age fifty, dumped by his wife and grown, college-age children—his wife moved her lover, a UPS deliveryman, into the house as soon as Jack left—Jack Manning is humbled beyond words. Six months later, he’s down and out, living in a rented room in the Burgh, cooking meals for his eighty-year-old landlady, while walking to work at the corner convenience store. No car. The only job he could get was for $12.00 an hour for the night shift, six days a week.
He bought a Powerball ticket, using the birthdays of all the people who hated him, woke up, turned on the news, and found out that he’d split 990 million dollars with two others across the country. Taking a cash payout, he would net $198 million. What would he do now that he was rich with no support payments or any family who cared about him? He was sure he would make a lot of friends real soon. But, like a lot of folks, he’d divvied up his winnings a long time ago in his daydreams when he was bored. This could be very interesting. Maybe he could right some wrongs, change lives, payback through kindness not revenge, help those who want to help themselves. Will it work? Will a lot of money make a difference? Maybe…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In You Don’t Know Jack by Daniel J. Barrett, Jack Manning has had a really bad day at the office. He gets fired from the nonprofit agency where he works. And when he goes home to tell his wife, she informs him that she has someone new and wants a divorce. She kicks him out of the house and takes everything he owns. It gets worse, and six months later, Jack is reduced to working in a local convenience store and living with an old woman whom he takes care of for a break on his room and board. Then Jack wins the lottery, and suddenly he’s wealthy. His divorce was final several months ago, so no one has a claim on his $330 million but him. However, that doesn’t stop them all from trying. But Jack has wised up in the last six months, and he’s not the same pushover he once was—as people are about to find out.
Cute, clever, and emotionally satisfying, this one will make you laugh, sigh, and warm your heart—a feel good book if there ever was one.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: You Don’t Know Jack by Daniel J. Barrett is the story of Jack Manning—a fifty-year-old pushover, who can’t say no, and teacher for a nonprofit organization in Troy, New York. Jack has spent the last several years helping underprivileged youth train for high-tech jobs in the local job market. But leaders of the organization where he works want to shut down his program and focus on serving Medicaid clients because they think they can make more money. So Jack gets fired, as do many of his coworkers. When Jack tells his wife what happened, she kicks him out of the house, saying that she’s seeing someone else and wants a divorce. She gets everything in the divorce and leaves Jack with nothing. Even his car is repossessed. But six months later Jack wins the Powerball Lottery for $330,000,000. Now it’s time for a little payback, and he’s going to have a lot of fun doing it, as people are going to discover they really didn’t know Jack.
Giving us a glimpse into the life of a lottery winner and the world of nonprofits, You Don’t Know Jack both educates and entertains, along with making you dream about “what if…”
Friday afternoon. It was getting late, around four p.m. Jack Manning was just finishing up the last class before the weekend. Thirty-eight young adults couldn’t wait to leave for the weekend. This was week twenty-eight of the thirty weeks needed for certification for a job in the construction and energy efficiency trades. Most had passed their TASC—Test Assessing Secondary Completion—test with flying colors. TASC was almost impossible, compared to the old GED standards. Most current high school graduates couldn’t pass the TASC exam. Jack paid high school graduates to take the test just to prove his point. They didn’t pass without TCC intervention. Jack’s non-profit, the Troy Community Council, had won over a million dollars to educate, train, and obtain jobs for the most needy youth in the community.
This was the last group before a new grant had to be written and won. Everyone was confident that with its track record, TCC would get refunded for another three years. They were now in their twelfth year, and going on their fifth award. TCC was recognized across the country as one of the top youth training programs that successfully placed young people into solid, good paying jobs that would turn their family’s future around. As the program director, from the start, Jack was extremely proud of his team and what they’d accomplished. Over 300 young adults have gone through the program. Not all succeeded but a vast majority did and came back to thank everyone for their success. In two weeks, there would be another graduation ceremony, right near Thanksgiving, topped off by a banquet. Local educators would attend along with the board of directors of TCC, local politicians, friends, and family. Many had remarked that Jack and his team remembered every student’s name and the names of all their family members. Jack and the team were fully invested in the lives of those under their care.
This last group was a truly amazing conglomeration of young people, male and female, mostly minority from the inner city. When they arrived last summer, most hated school. That’s why they dropped out as soon as they could. They couldn’t see the relevance.
The teachers in the high schools they attended didn’t reflect the culture of their own students. At two p.m., the teacher parking lot would empty, and within minutes after the bell, the only adults left were those involved in sports. These kids didn’t have time for sports. They were out hustling for their lives, selling dope, while joining gangs for protection, mostly in the north central part of the city. The only hope most of them had was to not be dead by age twenty-one, whose odds weren’t in their favor based on experience. A high school degree for what? To live in continued poverty? To beat the same streets until they were dead? Who cared?
Jack and his team cared. They were on the streets every day and night. They talked to these kids. They made a difference in their lives. Jack didn’t preach. Neither did the team. They spoke in the youth’s own vernacular. “We’ll pay you to come get your degree and certification. We’ll help you succeed. We’ll give you the tools you need. We aren’t bullshitting you. You’ll see—if you give us a chance.”
It worked. There was success, and the community improved. These graduates bought homes. They cleaned up the neighborhood. This program rehabbed houses right in the community and sold at cost to low-income families residing there. It was a win-win.
Before leaving, Jack made it a point to make sure that the students were back on Monday. He looked everyone in the eye and shook their hands before they left. Mary, Joan, Fred, and Tim all did the same. The team was there, day in and day out, leading by example. Everyone, including the students, the counselors, the TASC teachers, construction team, and Jack left with homework. Jack’s included walking the neighborhood every Saturday morning until noon to meet and greet the kids and let them know he was there and committed. This had also caused some problems in Jack’s personal life. His wife worked as a local bank branch manager, and their kids were finishing college. They hardly ever saw Jack, except on Sunday. Jack had some fence mending to do this weekend. He knew it. He couldn’t avoid it any longer.
As Jack was walking up the stairs to his office, his boss, the president of TCC, Howard Singer, stopped him. “Jack, can I see you for a minute before you leave for the night?”
“Sure, Howard. Let me get my things from the office, and I’ll be with you in a minute.”
“Fine, take your time. I’ll be in my office with Marvin.”
Marvin Manville was the treasurer and vice president for human resources and, like a lot of HR people, a pain in the ass. Howard Singer, age fifty-five, had been president of TCC for the last three years and came from another nonprofit in Albany. He was a little uptight but an okay guy. He didn’t make any waves and did exactly what the board of directors wanted him to do. He didn’t have a lot of imagination but always treated Jack respectfully and complimented him on his program on a number of occasions. Marvin, on the other hand, was also in charge of the finance department and continually bitched, moaned, and complained about petty issues, including the cash flow problems created by Jack’s workforce development program.
The nonprofit was a good size, almost ten million dollars a year in annual budget with almost 200 employees. Marvin was a welfare guy. He only wanted to do work with the New York State Medicaid system and not worry about processing grants and waiting sixty days to collect. Marvin was a dream killer, as far as Jack was concerned. He was constantly hounding him. It didn’t matter that this youth jobs program put TCC on the map and got them a lot more additional funding across the board because everyone knew, that whatever they did, they’d be successful. Jack’s dream was not Marvin’s. Howard never had a dream in his life, or so Jack thought.
Jack went to his office and put on his hat and coat. He grabbed his bag and turned off the lights. Friday night. Couldn’t he wait until Monday? Christ, the only thing I want to worry about is keeping Maureen happy. It was two weeks to Thanksgiving and graduation for his students. The kids could wait as well over the weekend. He went down the stairs and turned left to Howard’s office.
“Yes, Howard. Hi, Marvin. What’s up?”
“Jack, please sit down. We need to talk to you about your program.”
“What about it, Howard? Graduation is in two weeks, and we need to file our next grant for the incoming class. You know we have over one hundred kids signed up and waiting,” Jack said.
Marvin chipped in, “Well, that’s all going to change.”
“What do you mean? Why?” asked Jack.
Howard said to Marvin and Jack, “Let me explain what’s going on in layman’s terms. Jack, we’re getting out of the workforce development business for kids for many reasons, but the main reason is that we’re losing money.”
“That’s not true,” said. Jack. “Just because Marvin wants it to be so, it’s not true. His cash flow is always caught up. We’ve never had a deficit at the end of a contract. We’ve never lost a dime. Just because it takes sixty days to get paid, doesn’t mean we don’t collect. His two hundred thousand dollar loss is a fallacy, and you know it.”
“Be that as it may, Jack, we’re closing down your program for good as soon as your last class graduates,” said Marvin. “We may need you for a month or two once we close it down but then you better start looking for another job.” Marvin had a smirk that Jack wanted to smack right off his face.
Howard noticed that this was going badly and stared at Marvin as if to say “shut up you asshole.” But it was too late.
“What about my team? What happens to them? They put their heart and soul into this program. You know that. What happens next?” said Jack.
“They’ll receive their benefits until the end of the month and any vacation pay owed. That’s it,” said Marvin. “You as well.”
Howard then said, “As you know Jack, we’ve been talking about this for a while. This shouldn’t be a surprise to you. You attended most of the director meetings. We’re moving in the direction that New York State wants us to move. Starting soon, New York State will implement the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) Waiver Amendment.
He continued, “The DSRIP´s purpose is to fundamentally restructure the health care delivery system by reinvesting in the Medicaid program, with the primary goal of reducing avoidable hospital use by twenty-five percent over five years. Over six billion dollars are allocated to this program with payouts based upon achieving predefined results in system transformation, clinical management, and population health. There’s no money for jobs for youth, but there’s six billion allocated to changing Medicaid, and we want that money. There’s no discussion. The board has spoken, and we’re closing your program.”
“Who tells my staff, the students and the community about this and when?”
Marvin said, “If you want to get paid for the next two months, you’ll tell everyone, and fully support it, or we don’t need you.”
Howard didn’t say a word. Jack had been there for the entire twelve plus years of the program and never received less than an excellent review. Howard just hoped that Jack would accept his fate and if not, he’d be escorted off the premises.
“Good luck to you. You can tell everyone how you screwed everyone over and how three-hundred-plus jobs were meaningless to the community. Get your eighteen hundred dollars a day per person under Medicaid and screw all of us, huh? Well, Howard and Marvin, you can tell them yourselves. I’ll have no part of this. I won’t do this to those counting on us.”
“Well, today, right now, is your last moment of employment. Clean out your desk. You’re done,” said Marvin. Howard never said a word.
With that, Jack could barely contain himself, but he kept his dignity, at least he tried. He went back to his office, unlocked the door and filled up his wastebasket with a decade of awards and memorabilia. He walked down the flight of stairs and saluted both Marvin and Howard on his way out. Unemployed at age fifty.
There were no other workforce development programs like theirs in the entire region. Jack and his family would have to move or figure something out. His two weeks’ vacation pay wouldn’t last very long. He needed to get home and tell Maureen what happened. She was already mad at him because of the time her spent here every day, day in and day out. Maybe this could help renew their relationship. He could only hope.
What about the kids? Mark was twenty-two and a senior at U Albany. He could make it to graduation. Debbie was twenty and a junior at Siena College. This would be harder but filling out the financial aid forms just got easier. He’d have no income and not much savings. The kids and college took most of it. He had to get home before he burst into tears. He went downstairs to talk to his team before they left.
Mary and Joan were still there. Fred and Tim had left for the evening. Linda was on vacation. Marvin was right behind him and walked into the career center and told Jack that he couldn’t be on the premises any longer. Mary and Joan looked at Jack wondering what was going on. Jack waved to them and made an “I’ll call you” sign next to his ear. Marvin was talking to Mary and Joan, and Jack heard, “Please sit down. I’ve something to tell you.” Howard K. Singer, MSW was nowhere to be seen.
© 2018 by Daniel J. Barrett