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Let's Be Real: Making A Difference | News

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Let's Be Real: Making A Difference

Last Thursday, the shelves were practically empty. Tuesday, the ACTS food pantry in Dumfries, Virginia was open for business after a truly amazing surge of local generosity. In the days after we reported the food pantry's dire situation, 6 tons of food and $65,000 in cash poured in to fill up those shelves.

Then there was the case of Warren Mitchell, a client of that pantry who was scraping by washing cars out of his truck. When we reported that someone had stolen his power washer leaving him no way to make a living, another neighbor stepped in to give him another one...free of charge.

The circumstances were new but the story behind them has grown old. Everyone already knows that times are tight. Poverty numbers are way up, and food pantries and soup kitchens are stretched thin. The need wasn't really surprising; it was our viewers' reaction that shocked and frankly gratified us all so much.

Was it just that we put the story on TV? That was part of itsays Tim Sieler of Indiana University's Philanthropy Center. Statistics, he says, are one thing -- video of empty shelves are urgent and very real.

There's also proximity. We saw people were dropping by groceries on their way home. Sieler says we're much more likely to reach out to help when it's a neighbor in need. Plus, one empty food pantry feels like a problem small enough for regular folks to actually solve.

But Sieler says there is one other thing: he calls it "identification." I call it -- "there but for the grace of God go I." People looked at those hungry families and saw themselves. They looked at Warren Mitchell and his stolen power washer and wondered how would I make a living if that happened to me? The whole thing was almost a perfect storm of inspired generosity.

Now, how do we keep that going?


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