Donations for Haiti have poured in to the American Red Cross of Central Maryland from a range of sources. Nothing, though, has stood out like the coins and crumpled dollar bills that spilled from one envelope.
That gift - $14.64 - came from the pockets of homeless people at a downtown Baltimore shelter.
"We were all weepy-eyed," recalled Red Cross volunteer coordinator Bobbie Jones, who was at the front desk when the donation arrived.
Public relations director Linnea Anderson got teary, too. "Just the thought of those people huddled together in a shelter and seeing a need beyond themselves is enough to give anybody chills," she said. "What a remarkable example of the human spirit."
The Red Cross chapter has raised over $400,000 for earthquake-ravaged Haiti, counting pledges, Anderson said. Many donations have been hand-delivered to its Northwest Baltimore office. Jones said one man took the subway from downtown to give a few dollars and said, "I felt like I had to help." Another man, moved by images of suffering Haitian children, handed $20 to Executive Director Frank Miller.
But the modest donation from the homeless shelter made an especially big impression. It was dropped off Jan. 19 by Tim Herty, a lay pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Timonium. Herty collected the money two days earlier while holding a church service at the city's 350-bed Guilford Avenue shelter.
"Your heart swells," said Linda Boyer, executive director of Jobs, Housing & Recovery Inc., the nonprofit group that runs the shelter for the city. She said there was no way to interview the contributors because no one took down their names.
Herty expressed concern that he may have violated a policy against collecting money from shelter residents. But Boyer said, "I don't look at it as a violation. I think it was a wonderful, warm thing for the people in our shelter to do."
Boyer, who was not at the shelter for the donation, described it as a "totally spontaneous" outgrowth of a discussion Herty had with shelter residents about the earthquake. "He didn't go in thinking, 'Gee, how much money can I get for Haiti?' "
Diane Glauber, president of Baltimore Homeless Services, said she saw no problem with the donation. "If they volunteered on their own free will," she said, "I see no problem with it. It's a beautiful gesture."
Glauber shared the story with Mayor Sheila Dixon, who praised the donation in a statement.
"Their selfless sacrifice should be a lesson of encouragement to the rest of us to also give our money, time and energy to the relief efforts," Dixon said. "If those with so little to give do so, what is our excuse not to?"