Thursday, July 22, 2004

Feel-Good Story of the Day

SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE - Don has had many roles in life, few of them what most people would call admirable. He's been a burglar, a crack smoker, a state prisoner, an alcoholic and, for the past three years, a panhandler on Mission Street. But now, thanks to riches from out of the blue, he has a new role to add to his name: Art benefactor.

Don's long-estranged mother died recently, leaving him $187,000 -- and the first thing Don did when he got the money was cut a $10,000 check to the art gallery he has sat in front of for two years, panhandling and begging for free food. He got drunk to celebrate, then stumbled into the door of the Blue Room Gallery, walked straight up to owner Paul Mahder and handed him the check.

Mahder said he burst into tears when he saw the amount, and 56-year-old Don soon followed suit.

"We both stood there crying," Mahder said. "Me, because I knew how much this meant to Don. And Don was crying because, I think, he was able to really do something big for something he really cared about."

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