BackLook: The solitary 40-ish woman trudged one very cold night down Indian River Drive in Jensen Beach, only a few miles inland from the Atlantic. In one hand that extended downward, she lugged two water jugs; with the other she carried a four-month-old baby. Alone. That’s what she was, until a neighborhood couple pulled over and offered help.
That afternoon, Donny Poole climbed into the backseat of his car so that his wife could drive the wary woman and her nursing baby home.
Moving away from an abusive boyfriend, Sheila* had arrived in Florida expecting shelter in her aunt’s empty apartment and use of her car. But the homeowners’ association did not allow anyone under 50 to reside within their gates.
Sheila managed to find a room to rent, but still had no car. No car, no work. And no work meant a government agency crawling down her neck threatening to take away little Joey*.
Donny and his wife Allison continued to give Sheila lifts when they found her traveling by foot. Eventually, the couple fronted the single mother the price of a used car. Today, Sheila’s baby is still safely residing with her.
Homeless families are a rising problem in the United States. Homeless Children America (an affiliate of American Institutes for Research) reports that during the course of a year, 1.6 million children are homeless. In Florida, where the Pooles reside, the number of homeless children is 83,900. Causes of homelessness include poverty, domestic violence, unemployment, low-paying jobs, lack of affordable housing, mental illness and the lack of needed services, substance abuse, and prisoner re-entry. The Pooles have demonstrated through their act of love that it doesn’t always take much to make a difference.
Donny Poole is a welcome name inside the boxing ring. A welterweight, Donny took Gold in the 1979 Canadian Winter Games. Afterward in 1980, representing his native Canada, he was chosen to participate in the Olympics (USSR) as an amateur, until all free countries chose to boycott the Games. So instead, Donny turned pro. For 16 years he fought all over the world, achieving a rank of #2 in the world. Donny Poole is a member of the Boxing Hall of Fame. His gloves and belts hang proudly on a trophy wall in his home.
Allison Poole is a former art and creative director at New York City ad agencies. She met Donny when he came to NYC to fight. As he was unable to negotiate his way around the subway system quickly, Allison was appointed his ambassador. Twenty-nine days later Donny asked Allison to marry him. They have been married 30 years.
Together they have helped many hard-up people in need: purchasing clothing, shoes and sunglasses for a homeless man; paying the vet bills for an indigent man’s dog; and one time Donny gave the coat he was wearing to a man without one in the cold NYC winter.
Allison states, “I would like people to know they can do what we do; if they see something that needs attention, do not assume the person, or family, or child, or dog, will be taken care of by someone else. It is a chance for them to do something. Step up and make a difference in another person’s life. If they see someone at the grocery store and they are short some money, forced to pick items out to bring the tally down – step up and pay the person’s bill. If an old person can’t dig up any more change from the bottom of their bag at the pharmacy – stand up and pay the price difference – or all of it for that matter. It is common decency. A pure act of selflessness. The kindness you provide will make you feel great and bring pure joy to the person you have helped. Let’s all remember, ‘There but for the grace of God, go I,’ and do something about it.”
To many, Donny and Allison Poole are a very unusual couple. They have given money, furniture, their time, and their love to those in need. It isn’t fame that makes a difference, nor is it money. It is the heart. Today in Florida, a child was saved. Truly those who help another in need are our Hometown Heroes.
*Names changed to protect the mother and child
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