Howard County blogger and Columbia Association board member Tom Coale turned his local audience into activists this week and raised $2,500 to help fight homelessness in Howard County.
On Monday, Coale kicked off his efforts by posting on his blog, HoCo Rising, a story about how in 2011 he and his readers raised $3,025, which was donated to Grassroots Crisis Prevention Center. The center used the funds to provide a security deposit for a sober house in Howard County.
Currently, that house has kept four men off the streets, according to Coale. So he let his readers know that a new group called Living in Recovery needed $2,300 by the end of July to open a second sober house.
By Tuesday, Coale had already raised $260 from local readers and public figures such as Barbara Kellner of the Columbia Archives, Ellen Flynn Giles of the Howard County School Board, and former school board candidate Cory Andrews.
By Wednesday, the fundraising effort had netted $1,575, with members of the local blogosphere such as Sarah Husain from Sarah Says, Dennis Lane from Wordbones.com and Matt Wilson from Lost In Columbia all contributing. Also pitching in on Wednesday was County Council member Courtney Watson.
Then on Thursday morning, just three days after Coale put out the call for donations, he hit $2,500, 33 days before the end of July deadline.
“Last night I found myself in an unusual place—speechless,” wrote Coale on Thursday. “I received an e-mail letting me know that Alice Giles had donated the last $555 to help us reach our goal of $2,500 and my mind went blank. It’s over. We did it.”
Again, it was the help of local bloggers, public figures and Howard County residents that helped Coale reach his goal. Contributors included Alice Giles, co-president of the Howard County League of Women Voters; local blogger Lisa B, Mrs. S; teacher and blogger Julia McCready; Council member Calvin Ball and his wife Shani; and local photographer Nicole McFarland.
In his Thursday post, Coale thanked the 43 people who donated.
“This is the good stuff right here,” wrote Coale. “I feel very close to, and grateful for, all of you that helped make this happen. I know this post is a little sicky-sweet, but you should be glad I didn’t write something last night (it started with a firework analogy). I have a great deal of gratitude and this is the only way I have to convey it.”
Coale said in an email to Patch that he would keep the site open for as long as people are interested in contributing.
“When you are talking about people coming out from a life in tents, there really is never ‘enough’ money,' ” wrote Coale. “We met our goal and I am very proud of that. I don’t want to change that goal to undercut the accomplishment.”
Coale said he became an activist for the homeless after he befriended a man who lived outside of the building where he and his wife lived in Baltimore City.
“We would bring him food and 'hot packs' to keep him warm in the winter, but I knew I would never be able to offer him a spot in my apartment,” wrote Coale. “I just couldn't make that step.
"In the course of getting to know him, I found out that he was disabled while working construction and could not find new employment. He had applied for [Social Security] Disability Insurance and was denied. This was a man who did everything he was supposed to do, had no addiction issues, followed the rules, yet found himself on the street. It horrified me.
"The last thing I did before moving out of the city was help him rewrite an appeal for SSDI. I never heard from him again and [I] tell myself that the appeal worked out. That type of thing sticks with you.
"I just don't think we should have good people living on the streets or in the woods in the 21st Century. I appreciate all those who are willing to help and feel like every donation is someone else saying that they agree.”