A viral story about a homeless man in Kansas City, Mo., led to an outpouring of donations for Billy Ray Harris. He returned Sarah Darling's platinum and diamond engagement ring to her after she accidentally dropped the jewelry in his cup in early February. The man is called a "homeless hero " by the Associated Press. Thousands of donors have given more than $153,000 to an honest guy who once slept under a bridge and got around on a rickety bicycle.
Donations are accepted through GiveForward.com. Desiree Vargas Wrigley, the website's CEO, announced in an email interview that her company's fees from Harris' donations over the next 30 days will, in turn, be donated to families facing a medical crisis on GiveForward, up to $25,000 total.
How did this story start?
Darling was walking in Country Club Plaza when she dropped change, and her ring, out of her purse into the man's orange cup. Around an hour later, Harris realized he had something "expensive," according to KCTV. A day later, Darling returned to the Plaza and asked Harris if he still had the ring. The homeless man gave the jewelry back, citing his Christian upbringing despite difficult living circumstances.
How is the homeless man doing now?
Darling's husband, web developer Bill Krecji, set up a three-month fundraising drive on GiveForward.com to help Harris. In just 11 days, the average donation is $23.50 with more than $153,000 raised from around 6,500 individuals. The goal was $1,000.
Harris is staying at a friend's place to keep warm. His bicycle is fixed. Krecji calls the onslaught of donations "insanely positive." In a note to donors posted Saturday , the web developer says Harris "has a very solid plan and a very solid way of making it happen."
How is the large sum of money to be handled?
CEO Vargas Wrigley told me in an email interview, "The GiveForward team is working closely with ... Mr. Harris to help him manage this new windfall. The funds will be sent to Mr. Harris at the close of his fundraiser and will be sent directly to an account in his name ... . We are working with a couple of non-profits in Kansas City that will be able to provide financial counseling and help him create a plan for putting this money to good use."
How does this fundraiser compare to others on GiveForward?
"Most GiveForward fundraisers set a goal in the $5,000-$10,000 range and hit about $3,000 on average, but we've had fundraisers raise as much as $300,000," Vargas Wrigley said. "Without a doubt, Mr. Harris' story is one of the most memorable of our site's history and of my life personally. I'm from Kansas City, so I cannot tell you what it means to have one of our most successful, joy-creating moments be for someone from my hometown... ."
How has this story inspired others to give?
Harris inspired the company's employees. Part of the CEO's message to Harris states, "From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for inspiring everyone at GiveForward along with millions of others around the world. I hope this money helps to reunite you with your family and allows you to create a life for yourself full of happiness and peace."
GiveForward.com normally takes a 7 percent cut of donations from fundraisers, according Inc.com . Thanks to the financial outpouring of love to Harris, more families in need will get help over the next month in honor of the homeless hero.
William Browning, a lifelong Missouri resident, writes about local and state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Born in St. Louis, Browning earned his bachelor's degree in English from the University of Missouri. He currently resides in Branson.
- Homelessness & Housing
- Volunteering & Philanthropy
- Sarah Darling