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Ian Lamont: Signal to lend helping hand

From the Publisher

Posted: February 27, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: February 27, 2011 1:30 a.m.
 

Five hundred cash. $500 moolah, dough, spondulicks, greenbacks, bread, bucks, smackers. Whatever word you like to use, that is the amount (on average) The Signal will be giving away every week for the next 52 weeks.

Why? We are in a recession. While the SCV economy has been better than most markets, there are still plenty of folks who are struggling, who are being challenged, who are stressed out and beat down.

So why not give away on average $500 every week, provide some good news, and put some smiles on the faces of people who could use them?

The program will be called “A Helping Hand” and is the result of a most generous gift by a local couple who wish to remain anonymous.

SCV businesses and residents have a long history of demonstrating philanthropic hearts, of giving to those in need. But even by that standard, what occurred a couple of weeks ago was unusual. Most unusual.

We received a call from a local resident who told a wonderful story. This individual grew up in the Midwest, where he remembers a column in his hometown newspaper called something like “Thanks a Million.” Residents would write to a philanthropist — he thinks the man’s name was “Harold” — and ask Harold for help with a particular need.

Harold would respond with advice — and sometimes with money.

To an ambitious young man who wanted an expensive sports car, Harold would respond, “Get a job and save your money wisely. Some day, you’ll realize your dream.”

To the single mother who needed a few hundred dollars more for the deposit on an apartment in a better part of town where her kids would be safer, Harold would wish her well — and write a check to make her dream come true.

This caller wanted to be our Harold.

His story resulted in a meeting at The Signal with the caller and select Signal staff. He is a most interesting and wonderful individual. Our “Harold” and his wife had already given thousands of dollars to local charities and individuals — anonymously, of course — and they wanted to give away more money through the local paper.

Our “Harold,” who has a strong business background, wanted to pay The Signal to administer the funds. Inspired by his generosity, and even though we know the administration would take time and effort, we declined any monetary compensation.

In fact, his munificence so touched us that I am pledging this newspaper to chip in funding so “A Helping Hand” can go beyond 52 weeks. Who knows — perhaps others in the community will do the same, extending the program in perpetuity and allowing it to reach even more people.

Unlike the Midwest “Harold” of his childhood, our Harold wants nothing to do with the program or process. He just wanted to come in, meet with us, look us in the eye, and write a check.

And that is exactly what he did. At the end of the meeting, he wrote out a check for $25,000. As he handed over the check, he said: “Now I am done, right?” I can’t recall ever meeting a more humble and self-effacing person.

So The Signal will administer the “Helping Hand” fund and be the arbiters of the applicants and the distributor of the weekly funds.

My vision of the “Helping Hand” program is a kind of “Pay it Forward” for the Santa Clarita Valley. My hope is the fund, in helping SCV individuals or organizations in need, will prompt others to action, either by doing a good deed for someone in need or sending a check to the fund so more people can be helped.

Doing so provides an endless loop of goodwill, generosity and smiles that will honor the couple who got it all going.

So just how is the “Helping Hand” fund going to work? The specific details will be provided in this Thursday’s and
Friday’s Signals including how and where to apply. In the meantime, here are some preliminary guidelines:

* Individuals may nominate Santa Clarita Valley residents, groups or nonprofits. Only individuals and nonprofits headquartered in the Santa Clarita Valley are eligible to receive “Helping Hand” funds.

* All individuals who nominate, and all recipients, must be Signal subscribers. A Signal subscriber is defined as someone who is already a subscriber and has been so for at least the past 90 days, or if a new subscriber, has prepaid his or her subscription for the next 90 days.

* Nomination forms and all guidelines and specific rules will be printed in The Signal this coming Thursday (March 3) and Friday (March 4). This information will not be available on our website. Recipients will be named and, when appropriate, covered each week in the Sunday Signal, and the money will be paid any time starting on Monday.

* A committee of Signal employees will consider nominations and award funds. Each week, $500 on average will be awarded.

We at The Signal are honored to have been selected by this philanthropic couple to spread their generosity throughout the Santa Clarita Valley to needy individuals and causes.

We are also excited at the prospect.

As we finalize the program over the next couple of days, we invite readers to send comments and ideas to us at ilamont@the-signal.com and llittlejohn@the-signal.com. Or send us a letter to the editor at letters@the-signal.com. Please put “Helping Hand” in the subject field.

Ian Lamont is publisher of The Signal.

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