Sunday, May 4, 2008

This Will Warm Your Heart

It's been a tough few weeks in Chicago. Gun violence is sky high. Second mortgages are required to fill up with a full tank of gas. Food prices are outrageous. Bad news surrounds us and sometimes it feels like we can't escape. I don't know about you, but just once I'd like to open my newspaper and see some good news as the Page 1 Headline. Just once.

This morning I got my wish thanks to the good people at the Sun-Times.

In from the cold -- and 2 lives are changed

WEST LOOP Effort by entrepreneur to help homeless man has stunning impact

May 4, 2008

Pete Kadens, a Chicago entrepreneur, and Troy McCullough, a homeless man, met, by chance, one chilly morning eight days ago.

Kadens had arrived early for a 6:45 a.m. conference in the West Loop. He was sitting in his warm car and noticed a man in a well-worn shirt and tie, outside the offices of StreetWise, the newspaper sold by homeless people.

It was McCullough, waiting for the doors to open at 7 a.m. so he'd be first to get his bundle of papers.

McCullough, 52, looked like "he had a mission," according to Kadens, who invited him in from the cold, to wait in his car.

They started talking. McCullough told Kadens how he'd come to live on the streets. He talked about his wife's death in 1996, about a major stroke he had two years later, and how he'd lost his laborer's job after that. He was in a nursing home a while but, with no long-term care insurance, ended up living in alleys, parks and churches.

He'd had some tough breaks, McCullough said, but he kept selling his papers six days a week, didn't drink or use drugs and always made it to church, not missing a Sunday in the last year.

Kadens listened. He ended up being late for the conference.

What struck him, he said, was, "that every one of us is only a few bad breaks from being like Troy."

Kadens wanted to help. But first he issued McCullough a challenge: Be here tomorrow morning, and I'll see what I can do.

The next day, a Sunday, McCullough was there at 6:45 that morning in suit and tie.

Kadens gave him $200. Then, he went home, set up a Web site -- -- and e-mailed about 50 friends and business associates. He asked them to help him raise $10,300 -- what he figured it would cost for a studio apartment, basic furnishings, groceries and medical care for McCullough for a year. If McCullough could bank at least 70 percent of his StreetWise sales, Kadens figured, he'd have $12,480 in a year, enough to cover a second year of expenses.

Maybe it was the way Kadens opened people's eyes with McCullough's story. Maybe it was the way McCullough didn't fit stereotypes about the homeless.

Whatever the reason, the response was overwhelming. In just a week, the Web site raised $15,000, plus $20,000 more in donated items and services. Word spread quickly. Donations came from 32 states, Mexico and Canada.

"It's been unbelievable," said Kadens, who's 30.

Now, he's working to roll the extra money into a not-for-profit fund to help another homeless person.

"I helped one person, but hopefully I challenged people to think a little bit differently about people who live on the street," Kadens said.

McCullough called Kadens "an angel that's sent from heaven.

"Someday," he said, "I'll be there for somebody else, too.

Obviously, there is no telling if this will really be the beginning of a new
life for McCullough, but doesn't it warm your heart that Kadens believes in
the genuine goodness of all people and was willing to take a chance? May we
all be more like Pete Kadens.

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