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Evergreen man finds joy in helping the destitute

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Book explains how Project C.U.R.E. founder became "Happiest Man in the World"

By Vicky Gits

James W. Jackson, founder of Centennial-based Project C.U.R.E., became a rich man by the time he was 30, but he didn’t find the wellspring of happiness until he gave up practically everything he owned except his house in Evergreen.

In his newly published book, “The Happiest Man in the World: Life Lessons from a Cultural Economist,” Jackson, 69, explains how he came to the conclusion that divesting himself of his material possessions and $16 million in assets was something he felt compelled to do to maintain his sanity.

The book is the story of how Jackson combined his talent for entrepreneurship and organization, his Christian faith and sympathy for the world's' needy into a charitable powerhouse known as Project C.U.R.E, which distributes donated medical supplies worldwide.

The descriptions of his travels to the world's most deprived communities are eye-opening as well as harrowing.

Jackson has been married for 50 years to his wife and childhood sweetheart, Anna Marie, and has two children, Douglas, who works as president and CEO of Project C.U.R.E., and Jay, a captain in the training division of West Metro Fire Rescue and former volunteer chief of Evergreen Fire/Rescue for six years.

While still in his 20s, Jackson made millions selling cars and real estate investments in Winter Park and Vail when the ski industry was taking off in the ‘60s. In those days he drove a Mercedes Grand 600 limo and owned several Bentleys, but he was miserable.

“I was a typical type A personality and was becoming addicted to the game of accumulation,” Jackson writes. His father taught Jackson the basics of bartering, and he became a master of the art.

The book tells how Jackson got involved in an unidentified Denver mega-church, became a lay church leader and made a painful break with the pastor over the pastor’s lack of principles and weakness for entertainment over substance.

By about 1980, with no investment company and no church responsibilities, Jackson decided to write a book on economics, a subject he had always enjoyed.

He completed postgraduate studies in economics at the University of Colorado and received a Ph.D. in humanities from Colorado Christian University in 1997.

The book was a success and ultimately led to assignments from leaders of several developing countries to consult with them about economic matters. While on one of those trips to Brazil, Jackson became acquainted with a young medical student who took him to the free clinics in the country’s shantytowns.

He discovered long lines of people waiting to see doctors who had no medicine, bandages, equipment or beds. “I felt the hopelessness of the millions of people in Brazil who were ragged squatters; the people who lived in the squalor and poverty of shanties with open sewers and impure drinking water,” Jackson writes.

But Jackson, a man of faith who takes off with an idea and then lets God fill in the details, made up his mind to respond.

His promise to obtain some medical supplies for a single clinic in Brazil in 1987 turned into the Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment, or Project C.U.R.E., by 1991.

As conceived of by Jackson, Project C.U.R.E. was wildly successful at collecting overstock medical supplies and equipment languishing unsold in warehouses and considered unmarketable by their American manufacturers. Volunteers solicit, sort and package the goods for delivery.

The organization today ships items to 150 countries from 11 warehouses across the country. It costs about $20,000 to deliver $400,000 worth of medical materials. It also supports groups of volunteer medical professionals who travel internationally and assist in-country doctors and nurses.

Jackson received the 9News Nine Who Care Award in 1998, among many other awards and honors.

The book is the result of the last 20 or so years during which Jackson has traveled worldwide, visiting the most destitute locations imaginable, having adventures and taking copious notes.

At the inception of Project C.U.R.E., Jackson vowed the goal was to deliver the goods to people who needed them and not allow donations to be consumed by bureaucrats and thieves. Every beneficiary has to invest something in the process and be willing to be assessed.

The work of Project C.U.R.E. was the missing puzzle piece that tied all the spiritual loose ends together in Jackson's life: love of business, desire to help people, and entrepreneurship. As the venture took off, Jackson sensed a “deep feeling of joy and fulfillment. … I was becoming the happiest man in the world.”

The book is published by Winston-Crown Publishing House of Denver. Jackson promised to donate the first $25,000 of profits from the book to Project C.U.R.E.

The book is available at www.winstoncrown.com.

 

Contact Vicky Gits at vicky@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042.