Danielle MacDuff had seen the man sitting outside the pharmacy in her small Canadian town before. He was about 60, with long scruffy hair, and he always sat next to a garbage can with his hat out for donations, yet he never asked anyone for a penny. Instead, he quietly read a book, happily engaging in conversation with anyone who cared to pause for a moment or two.
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One chilly morning, Danielle was running errands when she stopped to chat with him. She learned his name is Brian Bannister, and that he lived in an unheated shed in Newcastle, Ontario, in spite of the bitter cold. In just 25 minutes, Danielle learned that Brian’s life went off the rails somewhere, and he had completely “given up.” By the end of their conversation, she knew in her heart that she had to help him.
As a farmer, Danielle has more than enough work to do, so she decided to hire Brian on the spot! The next morning, she picked him up and drove him to her farm, where he mucked stalls, fed goats, tended to cattle and horses, and did anything else that needed doing. He proved to be a hard worker, and more importantly, he is beyond grateful for the work – and Danielle’s support.
“It’s overwhelming,” Brian said emotionally. “I can’t believe anyone would care for me this much.”
A few weeks later, Brian had not missed a single shift at the farm, and Danielle was more determined than ever to get him back on his feet. She took him for his first haircut in over two years, gave him a phone, and helped him get financial support from government resources.
As a humble farmer, Danielle can’t afford to lift Brian out of poverty on her own. She decided to ask her community for help, beginning with a GoFundMe. She and Brian were both overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. Many people in town had seen Brian outside the drugstore before, and they were eager to help him find a permanent place to hang his hat. To date, the fundraiser has brought in more than $11,500, enabling Brian to stay in a hotel for a while to get off the streets.
“What a response of encouragement and support we have received, it fills my heart,” Danielle wrote on the fundraiser page. “I really want to raise enough money to get Brian in a nice warm place he can call his own and re-build his life.”
Danielle has since learned more about how Brian ended up on the streets. He’s a recovering addict who is twice widowed; one wife died of cancer, and one in a car accident. After experiencing so much loss, he simply couldn’t bring himself to put one foot in front of the other. All of that changed when Danielle extended the hand of friendship and put him to use on her farm.
Yet if you ask Danielle, she’ll say she has benefitted from their partnership just as much as Brian has.
“He’s so kind, compassionate, he’s amazing with my children, my animals,” she said. “And his willingness to help me on the farm is very, very much appreciated.”
Thanks to Danielle, the whole town of Newcastle is pulling for Brian. She says this experience made her realize that if communities pull together, we could potentially help all unhoused people get their lives back. It truly does take a village!
You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.
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