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POOR MAN'S PHILANTHROPIST


In 2005, when Thomas Cannon died of colon cancer in a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, he was 79. Thomas described himself a "poor man's philanthropist."


When Thomas was three years old, his father died. Once Thomas' mother remarried, the family of six lived in a three-room wooden shack without running water or electricity.


As an adult, Thomas went to work with the postal service. He never made more than $25,000 a year. Upon retirement, he and his wife lived in poverty. Yet over the course of 33 years, Thomas gave away more than $156,000. His gifts were mainly in the form of $1,000 checks given to people he read about in the newspaper who were going through hard times or who especially exemplified courage or kindness. A youth worker in a low-income apartment complex, a volunteer faithfully serving at an elementary school, a Vietnamese couple wanting to return home to visit, and a teenager abandoned as an infant were some of the recipients of Thomas' benevolence.


Thomas' motivation came from an incident that happened as a young man while away at a Naval signal school. When an explosion at Chicago's Port took the lives of many of his shipmates, Thomas concluded, "He had been spared to help others and be a role model." This led to his passion for giving.


Cannon biographer, Sandra Waugaman, comments, "Not many people would consider living in a house in a poor neighborhood without central heat, air conditioning, or a telephone, and working overtime so that they could save money to give away."


["Thomas Cannon had Little Money to Give," Omaha Sunday World Herald (July, 2005), p. 13A; Margaret Edds, "Cannon's Canon," HamptonRoads.com (7-24-05); submitted by Ted De Hass, Bedford, Iowa. From a sermon by Terry Blankenship, Running and Serving with Passion, 5/16/2011]

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