'He had true compassion': My Brother's Keeper founder Jim Orcutt dies at 83 – Enterprise News

EASTON — Even when he was battling a lengthy illness and not exactly well enough to be out of the house, Jim Orcutt was still there to help people.

Jim started the On the Street Ministry four years ago to serve Brockton’s homeless population. He and his wife, Terry Orcutt, would go out in the city every Saturday morning with a packet that included a card with a prayer Jim wrote, $10 cash and a $10 Dunkin’ gift card.

Jim was homebound for about the last month, but he still went out one last time with a friend who agreed to take over the initiative.

“He wasn’t settled until he could find someone else to take over that ministry,” Terry Orcutt said. “The most important part of the mission was not the $10 bill or the Dunkies card. He wanted to get it across to them that God loves them and he hasn’t forgotten them.”

James H. Orcutt, of Easton, died after his lengthy illness on Jan. 22. He was 83.

From humble beginning to Newspaper Guild representative

Born in Weymouth in 1940, Jim was the youngest of eight children. He grew up in a poor family with multiple children sharing the same bed and the family often eating ketchup sandwiches.

“He had true compassion for people, especially people living on the streets,” Terry Orcutt said. “We came to know all of them by name. He always said the five most powerful words in the English language were, ‘I know how you feel.'”

Jim dropped out of Weymouth High School when he was 17 years old and forged his mother’s name on paperwork to join the U.S. Navy. He went on to complete a tour of duty in Japan.

When he returned home, Jim worked for The Enterprise, eventually serving as a representative for The Newspaper Guild International.

“When he worked as a rep, his whole existence was making sure that the workers were taken care of,” Terry Orcutt said.

Although he started local in Brockton, Jim ended up working for the Guild in Manhattan and negotiated hundreds of labor contracts throughout the country.

It started small in their Taunton basement

In 1985, Jim lived Cursillo – a period of spiritual renewal – at the Holy Cross Retreat House in Easton. He considered the time to be transformational and it led to “a change of mind and heart.”

A few years later, in 1988, Jim and Terry Orcutt founded My Brother’s Keeper, a nonprofit organization that delivers furniture, food and Christmas gifts free of charge to people in need. The work began out of the couple’s basement in Taunton with no financial resources.

My Brother’s Keeper now has 5,000 volunteers

Now headquartered in Easton, the organization has two distribution facilities, 20 staff members and 5,000 volunteers. Throughout the years, more than 225,000 deliveries have been made. The nonprofit’s mission is, “To bring the love and hope of Jesus Christ to those we serve.”

“His life was devoted to God and making God’s love known to others,” Terry Orcutt said. “He did that through his words and actions. He devoted his whole life to helping people. He would stop anything he was doing, no matter how important it was, if someone needed help.”

‘My name’s Jim, how are you doing?’

Jim and Terry Orcutt ended up becoming integral parts of a four-person administrative team that ran the Holy Cross Retreat House. They helped host hundreds of Cursillo, Matt Talbot and Pre-Cana retreats.

“Jim’s personal message was always the same as the Keeper’s message,” Terry Orcutt said. “If he was delivering food or Christmas presents to people, he never just brought it in. He said, ‘My name’s Jim, how are you doing?’ And if they offered a coffee or a water, he would talk with them. It was important even on the street that we came to know these people by name and heard their stories. They weren’t just a poor person sleeping under the bridge. God loves them like he loves the rest of us.”

Helping a pregnant woman on the streets of Brockton

Recently, Jim helped a woman on the streets of Brockton who was pregnant. Jim and Terry Orcutt saw her sleeping under a blanket and asked her if she needed help, which she initially declined outside of a cup of coffee. But it weighed on Jim’s mind and he went back the next day to find her. The woman said she thought about it and agreed to take help.

The woman, who thought she was 7 months pregnant, was actually 9 months pregnant, and Jim helped get her into a program in Quincy, Terry Orcutt said. After she gave birth to the baby, Jim drove the woman to the hospital to see her child.

“If he didn’t pursue that and tell her how much God loved her, the baby may not be here today,” Terry Orcutt said. “Those are the types of things he did unconditionally. He did things unconditionally, the way God loves us.”

Never too sick to care for others

Despite not being in any official role at My Brother’s Keeper in recent years, other than the unpaid volunteer work he had always done, Terry Orcutt said she considered Jim to be the organization’s “goodwill ambassador.”

“At Christmastime, as sick as he was and not able to drive, he would still spend a few hours there and that rejuvenated him,” she said. “He would go around with a walker and talk to people and tell them jokes. The children were so important to him. They all loved him.”

Erich Miller, the president of My Brother’s Keeper, said Jim “lived an extraordinary life of purpose.”

“Through his work at My Brother’s Keeper, the Holy Cross Retreat House and other important programs, he positively impacted hundreds of thousands of lives in the greater Brockton area,” Miller said. “He was larger than life but one of his greatest gifts was the ability to connect one-on-one with people — making them feel like they were the most important person in the room. He gave everyone he met a sense of value and worth.”

Jim is survived by Terry Orcutt, his wife of 53 years, and his children and their spouses — Maureen and Kim Staley, Jim and Jane Orcutt and Joe and Mary Orcutt. He also had six grandchildren and one great-grandson, along with several nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his sister, Patricia Peters, of Abington.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Mary and James Orcutt Sr., and six siblings — Frances Orcutt, Grover “Smokey” Orcutt, Elsie Johnson, Maureen McKenna, Clifford Orcutt and Charlotte Vernaglia.

How to pay your respects

People can pay their respects to Jim during visiting hours from 3 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at Holy Cross Church, at 225 Purchase St. in Easton. A Mass will be celebrated at the church at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 1. The service will be livestreamed at HolyCrossEaston.org/Masses.

Jim’s obituary ends with a quote he was known to say.

“Every waking breath is an opportunity to make the love of God known,” it reads.

Enterprise senior reporter Cody Shepard can be reached by email at cshepard@enterprisenews.com.