For 56-year-old Al Milligan, launching the “Punchout Hunger For The Homeless” campaign has been a lifetime in the making.
"I know what it is to go days without eating," Milligan said. "I'd go days thinking where am I going to lay my head at. But now that I'm blessed, I figure it's time for me to start helping."
Milligan grew up as a foster kid and remembers the day he finally found his parents.
“They pretty much closed the door on me. So I said, 'Al, you’re going to have to rely on yourself.' But, you know what? That experience taught me how to give love to others that need it," Milligan said. "I feel like God put me in this position to help others."
Milligan has owned Al & Son’s Handyman business for 30 years. He's run the Central Boxing Gym on 18th and Van Buren in Phoenix for the past 15 years.
The gym is a shining light in the tough neighborhood. The area is dotted with homeless shelters and many people without a place to go. But Milligan says he never turns anyone away.
“There’s times when some of these guys want to take a shower and I have them come into the gym," he said. "It’s not their fault they’re living the way they are. Many in the community don’t want to help them. A lot haven’t been taught right and wrong. They come from some lot different countries and they thought they could get more help. If I can at least be able to do this it’s a blessing and I’ll do it again."
Milligan has always wanted to help during the holidays. This year he came up with the idea to feed the homeless every Saturday in December from noon to 3, right after the gym closes for the day. On this Saturday dozens of the area’s homeless showed up for grilled hotdogs, chips and a drink.
Maya Uribe says it’s nice to see someone giving back.
“Yeah it’s tough out here," Uribe said. "I’ve been on the streets on and off for 21 years. This is so nice."
James Weaver, originally from Boston, says he came to Arizona 9 years ago to be closer to his dad. When his rent was raised several years ago, he couldn’t afford it anymore and found himself on the streets.
He says there’s a lot people who are just one paycheck away to being in his situation.
“Yeah I see a lot of people out here who had homes, jobs and lives a lot different than this. I’m really glad people like Al think enough of us to help. He’s a blessing to all of us,” Weaver said.
Milligan says he knows “Punchout Hunger For The Homeless” is small this year but promises to make it grow.
“I would love it to grow. It’s a blessing. If I could do it over again, I’d love to help families that aren’t homeless and just need help," he said. "I am blessed so it’s time for me to start blessing others. That’s one thing that I’m so grateful because God blessed me and changed me from the lifestyle I was living. I will continue to give back to the community until God takes me home."
For now it looks like God is having Al Milligan live out his plan.
If you'd like to donate to Central Boxing to help with costs or assist with the "Punchout Hunger" campaign, you can call the gym at 602-254-0995