Pay It Forward: Homeless Man Gets Almost $400,000 for Helping Stranger
Simple acts of kindness are few and far between. It can be even harder to be giving when you have very little for yourself. Luckily for New Jersey-resident Kate McClure, such acts of kindness are just rare, not nonexistent.
McClure received an unexpected gift of $20 from a homeless man named Johnny, helping her out of a jam when she ran out of gas money on her drive to Philadelphia.
In the weeks following, McClure and her boyfriend Mark D’Amico returned to the spot along the highway where Johnny stays and aided him with cash, snacks, and Wawa gift cards. They learned a bit more about Johnny’s story. He told them he was previously a certified medic who also served in the Marine Corps.
He came to Philadelphia a year ago with a job lined up and some money to buy a truck. The job fell through, and Johnny lost his paperwork, rendering him unemployable. He lived off the little savings he had, and sleeping on the street one night turned into 365 nights.
McClure and D’Amico were so touched by Johnny’s story that they launched a GoFundMe campaign on Nov. 10, asking donors to “pay it forward.”
Here is a snippet of what McClure posted on the campaign’s homepage:
This is Johnny.
Driving into Philly one night, I made the mistake of thinking that I would be able to make it all the way down I- 95 with my gas light on. Needless to say, I was wrong. I never ran out of gas before, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I pulled over as far as I could, and got out of the car to head to the nearest gas station.
That’s when I met Johnny. Johnny sits on the side of the road every day, holding a sign. He saw me pull over and knew something was wrong. He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors. A few minutes later, he comes back with a red gas can. Using his last 20 dollars to make sure I could get home safe.
I am raising money for Johnny. With the money, I would like to get him first and last month’s rent at an apartment, a reliable vehicle, and 4-6 months worth of expenses. He is very interested in finding a job, and I believe that with a place to be able to clean up every night and get a good night’s rest, his life can get back to being normal.
Truly believe that all Johnny needs is one little break. Hopefully with your help I can be the one to give it to him. Please help this man get into a home. It is already getting so cold out in Philadelphia, and I can’t imagine what it will be like to be out there all winter. Any little bit will help.
That turned out to be an understatement. To date 13,475 strangers have opened their hearts and their wallets, including a fellow service member, who posted, “Thank you for your service!” They have far exceeded their projected goal of $10,000, raising $378,299 to date.
You might say Johnny is by far the wealthiest homeless man in Philadelphia.
The help didn’t end with the funds, though. McClure and D’Amico vowed that they would “set Johnny up” for a better quality of life. They took a video of the moment they surprised Johnny with the campaign and posted it on YouTube.
After sharing the good news that they had already raised $1,700 from 70 donations and planned to keep going, Johnny couldn’t contain his excitement.
“People talk about Philly; they’re not good people. I have honestly met more people who give back like y’all! That changes my life, right there,” Johnny said with glee in the video.
In the video, D’Amico laid out a conservative plan that would give Johnny a roof over his head for two months to look for a job.
“I was looking around on Craigslist, and rooms are $600 a month. You have a room and a shower and some of them have beds and everything. So if we paid for a room for two months, took you to Target and got you some clothes and essentials, and gave you the rest just so you had some money in your pocket so you could take the subways and ride the bus,” D’Amico said.
With the amount of money raised, Johnny could easily put a down payment on a home of his own.
“When I still look at (GoFundMe), it blows my mind. It’s actually going to happen for him.” McClure told NJ.com.
Johnny has started the process of getting his life back together. He hopes to begin by getting a job at the Amazon warehouse in Robbinsville, New Jersey.
More ambitiously, perhaps he’ll take the test to regain his certification as a paramedic in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. That’s certainly one way to pay it forward.
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