ROCHESTER, Minn. -- Walmart South employees in Rochester were told a bear was at the front entrance Friday, April 2.

When they walked outside, they saw “Yammy Bear” with a speaker and a microphone, singing near the door.

The man in the costume, 50-year-old Charles Jackson, of Rochester, watched as shocked impressions turned into smiles once they learned why he was really there.

“It was a joy,” he said. “The lady came out that worked at Walmart, and she actually thought there was a bear, and as she came out, she’s like, ‘I wasn’t expecting this!’ ... The mission is to bring hope and to bring comfort in the lives of those who have been affected by the coronavirus and the injustice, you know, that’s going on, not just in our community, but around the nation.”

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That's the same mission Jackson has for Ministry of Good Works, which he started in 2013 after serving a three-year sentence on drug charges. The group, made up of former convicts and drug addicts, aims to help teach young people about their mistakes in the past.

“My ministry is about the children being aware of drugs, guns and gangs, because I used to be in it,” Jackson said. “But I had another chance to change my life around and to affect other people in the community, no matter what race, creed, or whatever.”

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Finding another way to spread this message in the community is what sparked Jackson’s idea for Yammy Bear.

He said the name came to him roughly a month ago, and he donned the costume for the first time two weeks ago in Rochester. He’s made appearances at locations such as Kwik Trip and Walmart in the area, and has gone to the Mall of America and George Floyd Memorial in Minneapolis as well. Wherever Yammy Bear goes, he’s been well received, Jackson said.

“When we went to the George Floyd Memorial, everybody was like, ‘Can we take pictures? We need this around here. We need some of this happiness and joy,’ ” he said. “I love all people, always have. And just my thing is, don't pull each other down, lift each other up. Aren’t we tired of pulling each other down?”

Yammy Bear has also made house calls in Rochester and the Twin Cities, stopping at a Rochester girl’s birthday party when he heard no one was going to attend, and visiting a family in Minneapolis that was “going through a hard time.”

Submitted photo
Submitted photo

Jackson has larger aspirations for Yammy Bear, though, as he wants to reach as many people as he can, he said. He plans, along with his partner, CarolAnn Marie, to make stops in 104 cities and 197 Kwik Trips with Yammy Bear to greet people and continue to spread his message.

And for Jackson, that’s what Yammy Bear is all about. Whether it’s making a house call, stopping at a Kwik Trip, or visiting with people at the George Floyd Memorial, he wants to be there for his community and continue to help it grow.

“It’s all about the smile on their heart and being a supportive person,” he said.

Submitted photo
Submitted photo