Depression-era aid renewed by 3 donors in Canton areaWritten by Associated Press | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Three anonymous donors have offered $100 gifts to each of 150 needy families, renewing a heartwarming classified-ad offer made during the Depression in Canton.
The Repository published an ad in 1933 from a man known by the pseudonym “B. Virdot” offering $10 each to 75 families. The newspaper announced the renewed offer on Nov. 25.
The Repository said requests by people who want to be considered for the renewed Christmas-season gesture would be judged by a priest, minister and rabbi.
“We’re thrilled at The Repository to help again, as the newspaper did back in 1933,” Jeff Gauger, the paper’s executive editor, told The Associated Press in an e-mail.
“But the real heroes are Sam Stone, who created B. Virdot, and the three anonymous donors who came to us a few days ago with the idea of bringing B. Virdot back to life using their own money. Mr. Stone’s gift keeps on giving. There’s nothing not to like about that.”
B. Virdot was the name used 77 years ago by Stone, who offered to help families who wrote and described their hardships.
Stone’s grandson, Ted Gup, a writer and journalism professor, researched the Depression-era story and traced how the gifts helped families in his 2010 book, “A Secret Gift.”
Gup said the latest offer brought tears to his eyes and his mother’s — part of whose name, Virginia, was implanted in B. Virdot, along with the names of her sisters, Barbara and Dorothy, known as Dot. (That makes B-Vir-Dot, pronounced beaver-dot.)
“It shows the incredible power of a genuine selfless act,” Gup said in a Thanksgiving Eve phone interview from Boston, where he teaches at Emerson College.
“Even as the author of this book, I am astounded at how hungry people are for an example of selflessness.”
Stone originally offered 75 gifts of $10 each but, faced with hundreds and perhaps thousands of letters sent in response to his ad in the Repository, instead gave 150 checks of $5 each. The $5 represented almost two weeks of wages in an era when bread cost 7 cents, Gup told the newspaper.
Stone remained anonymous for 75 years until Gup’s mother gave Gup a suitcase with the letters addressed to B. Virdot, describing hard-luck stories like a nearly barefoot girl, a family living on $3 a week in public assistance and a three-year battle with unemployment.
Gup said the renewal of his grandfather’s charity has special resonance in the current economic climate.
“In a period in which we are throwing billions of dollars at the economy — the TARP, the bailouts, etc. — the notion that a human-size gift can still carry such potency goes to the heart of this story,” he said.
Gup said he doesn’t know the names of the new donors but said they have no connection to him or his publisher.