'Balloon man' and family up in the air

Marcus Gibbs and his family at their temporary home in Petit Bourg as they celebrate the birthday of their eldest child last Thursday. - Marvin Hamilton
Marcus Gibbs and his family at their temporary home in Petit Bourg as they celebrate the birthday of their eldest child last Thursday. - Marvin Hamilton

In one week, the lives of Marcus Gibbs and his family has been totally transformed, and they are enjoying it while it lasts, the head of the household looking to make their new situation permanent: from living in an abandoned building without water and electricity, no longer having to light candles at night and also can now enjoy a cold drink from their fridge. They are simply up in the air.

Gibbs, 28, also known as "Balloon Man," because he sells balloons for a living in San Juan but, went broke after the stay-at-home measures went into effect last month to prevent the spread of covid19. He could not be outside selling his balloons.

After his story was published in last Sunday's Newsday, a Good Samaritan reached out to Gibbs offering the family an unfurnished apartment free of charge for two months and several people donated food, appliances and cash.

When Newsday visited the family's new temporary home on Thursday, located a few streets away from the abandoned structure, the children were bursting with excitement.

His wife Tamera David was inside preparing snacks and drinks for a birthday celebration for their eldest child, who turned ten.

They were beaming with joy as they waited impatiently for a piece of cake.

Gibbs and his family moved into the apartment on Wednesday where they slept comfortably for the first time in a long time.

He said he received, a television, a mini-fridge, beds, microwave, blender, kettle, curtains, fans and bedsheets.

Even the birthday cake and ice-cream were donated for the small celebration.

“He’s having the happiest birthday ever...I didn’t expect all this help. My phone keeps ringing between 50 and 80 times a day with more help.” He said the children were excited to have a yard to play and running water and electricity to do their chores with ease. It’s now easier for the children to do dishes and play outside, he said.

“People keep telling me they are shocked that I’m in this situation when I have been helping people all along.”

One friend, who visited the couple told Newsday, “I was shocked when I heard he needed help. The man has been helping me with our community hamper drive and not once he took one for himself. I remember after work he used to ask me to stop by a shop. I see him buying the candle a few times but I thought he was preparing for when current gone. I didn’t know it's because he has no current.”

The man who organised the apartment preferred not to be named as his good deed wasn’t done for fame or recognition. He told Newsday the article moved him and he felt obligated to reach out to the family.

Gibbs said even though he is in need, his charity work cannot stop.

“When I get, once it’s too much I give to people I know who need also. As much as I’m thankful, it’s not that I’m giving it away because I don’t want it...As I get bless, I bless people as well.”

“We don’t have to light candles any more,” he told Newsday with a huge grin, “and the children can’t stop going into the fridge. They are overusing it now.

“What’s outstanding for me with this whole thing is everyone keeps encouraging me to keep trusting and believing God.”

He said his focus now is how the family can use this blessing to help themselves out of their current situation.

“This is just a short stay, we can’t get too comfortable just yet and while people are looking to help us more, we need to see what we can do with what we have right now to help them help us.”

Gibbs believes his blessing is a result of his good works in the past.

“I believe what you put out is what you will receive. I always give and will keep giving. People called me to remind me of all the free balloons I insist on giving and the events I sponsored don’t matter how little it was.”

He said people are calling and following his story. “Some said they read the follow-up story and they are happy things are happening.” He now has faith his situation will cause the Housing Development Corporation to speed up his application for a permanent home.

Gibbs is anxious to return to work once the restrictions are lifted to once again provide for his family.


"'Balloon man' and family up in the air"

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