SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – An act of kindness by a South Plainfield native went viral earlier this month, garnering him some unexpected fame in the Virginia town he serves.
On April 11, Robert Sacks Jr., a member of South Plainfield High School’s Class of 2010, was on the day shift for the Lynchburg Police Department. While out on patrol, he drove around the back of a busy shopping center and saw a man who appeared to be homeless sitting on the ground. Realizing it was close to lunchtime, Sacks headed across the street to a fast food restaurant and purchased two sandwiches in the hopes of sharing lunch with the man.
“Do you want to have ‘Chick-Fil-A with me?” Sacks asked the man.
Over the course of the next hour, Sacks sat down on the ground next to the man, a 32-year-old named Chris, and made small talk, sharing small details about their lives and their common interest in baseball.
“I just started up a conversation. I had never seen the man in my life but everyone has a huge story to tell and I wanted to know his,” Sacks told TAPinto South Plainfield, adding, “A lot of people think that because someone is homeless, they are a criminal or into drugs. He wasn’t a bad guy, just someone who was down on his luck, a little bumped out, maybe a little lonely.”
What Sacks didn’t realize, however, is that while he was chatting with Chris, a bystander had taken his picture and posted it to the social media group ‘Living in Lynchburg.’ Before he even returned to his patrol car, Sacks received a text from his partner’s wife that asked ‘is this you?’ The post soon went viral, amassing thousands of comments and shares and generating the attention of local news affiliate WSLS News 10.
“I didn’t do it for publicity [but] it was just something that caught attention from the community,” said Sacks. “For me, it’s just not part of the job, it’s about being human.”
According to Sacks, he had never seen the man before and nothing about him caught his attention. “I didn’t think ‘oh this poor guy is homeless let me go buy him a meal’… I just thought it would be a nice thing to do…a small gesture to make his day a little better,” he said, adding, “I’ve been fortunate throughout my life and it was more of the thought that there was someone who was down on his luck and who might be having a terrible day. What I did could have made his day better; it could have done nothing.”
Sacks grew up on Ranger Street and attended Franklin Elementary, Grant, and South Plainfield Middle School before going on to wrestle and serve as captain of the football team at South Plainfield High School. Following graduation, he enlisted with the United States Marine Corps and served as a field radio operator at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina until 2015.
That same year, Sacks relocated to Virginia where he got a job with the Lynchburg Police Department. He completed training at the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy and joined the force in January 2016. Over the past four-plus years he has worked patrol for Lynchburg, a city located two hours west of Richmond with a population of over 80,000, while also attending Liberty University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology and is currently working toward his master’s in homeland security.
Sacks is the son of Mary and Robert Sacks, Sr., a retired police officer who served in Warren Township for 25 years. Since his family relocated from New Jersey to Dayton Beach, FL nearly a decade ago, Sacks said he doesn’t get to visit New Jersey much anymore. However, during a recent trip north for a friend’s wedding, the South Plainfield native took some time to visit Seaside Heights and the ‘new’ Yankee Stadium as well as hit up all his favorites food joints, including Rodolfo’s, Haisch’s Bakery, and Bagel Pantry.
“I miss New Jersey a lot – and being close to the beach and New York City – but the number one thing I miss other than the people is the food…” said Sacks. “I’d give anything for a pork roll, egg and cheese.”
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