homeless

People sleep in tents near a wooded area last week in Chicago with wind chills of up to -50.

It’s been a grim couple of weeks—on both the state and national levels. Nationally, the political environment remains as ugly as ever. In Virginia, our governor made national news twice in a one-week period for his shocking comments on abortion and the release of a racist photograph from his medical school yearbook. The majority of his party has given him the cold shoulder.

And speaking of cold, last week most of the nation suffered amid a polar vortex that was as bitterly frigid as our national mood. Chicago saw some of the lowest temperatures in the country. During the last few days of January, the mercury in the Windy City plunged to -26 with wind chills well below -50. The brutal cold could have been deadly to Chicagoans who live on the streets. But thanks to the generous spirit of a young real estate broker, more than 100 of those homeless people unexpectedly found themselves in warm hotel rooms, with plenty of hot meals and fresh clothes.

The generous soul responsible for this extraordinary act of kindness, 34-year-old Candice Payne, said her decision to help was made on the spur of the moment. “It was 50 below, and I knew they were going to be sleeping on ice and I had to do something,” she told reporters on Saturday.

Using her own credit card, Payne reserved 30 hotel rooms at $70 each at Chicago’s Amber Inn for Wednesday night. After paying for the rooms, she posted a message on Instagram requesting help transporting the homeless to the hotel.

In short order, a caravan of vans, SUVs, and other vehicles arrived at the tent city where the homeless had been sheltering. Once her message got out, not only did transportation arrive, donations began pouring in. Payne was able to purchase toiletries, food, care packages, and snacks. Restaurants donated meals and people called the hotel with more offers.

The manager of the Amber Inn, Robyn Smith, was so touched, she lowered room prices to allow more people to stay. And so many donations rolled in that in the end, 60 rooms were rented. Overall, more than $10,000 was donated. And instead of just one night, Payne was able to pay for those rooms and feed her new friends through Sunday.

“I am a regular person,” Payne told the Chicago Tribune. “It all sounded like a rich person did this, but I’m just a little black girl from the South Side. I thought it was unattainable, but after seeing this and seeing people from all around the world, that just tells me that it’s not that unattainable. We can all do this together.”

We beg to differ, Ms. Payne. In our book, you are not just “a regular person.” In fact, we’d say you are a pretty spectacular young woman. And with folks like you leading the way, perhaps we can all come together to help those in need.

Thank you for warming our hearts during this cold and gloomy season.

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The Richmond Times-Dispatch