Panhandling for presents serves many families

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

Region 8 News Desk - A Jonesboro man, adamant about taking the street corners back for the city, spent the Christmas holiday panhandling for someone other than himself.

"Several of my friends and probably your friends have all said how someone needs to do something about all of these panhandlers at are intersections," said Tom Barnes, the man behind this effort. "They are out there making money off of us and in my opinion degrading themselves. I have been thinking about this for a while and I decided that I was going to take Jonesboro's graciousness and put it where Jonesboro really wanted it to be."

Barnes came up with the Panhandler Test. He held a sign up while standing at a Jonesboro intersection that read:

"Panhandler Test. I have a job. I pay my bills. I pay taxes. Will you donate a toy or cash 4 needy children of Jonesboro? Anything will help."

He and his friend Shelby Tribble and his wife Lavondia Barnes didn't expect this project to become popular but it did.

"It blew my mind," said Barnes. "People were pushing toys and money out of car windows. The greatest experience that I will never forget is this little girl about 30 pounds. She cupped her little hands out the window filled with change and she said 'Merry Christmas.' I just hugged her."

Though Barnes and his group were welcomed by drivers, he said some panhandlers weren't as happy.

"I just established my ground, let's just leave it at that," said Barnes. "When they told me I had to leave, I didn't. I took the corner. Then I saw at least a couple of them walk away to a nice pickup truck about 100 to 150 yards away and drive off."

With the major support from the community, Barnes was able to raise $1,557, gift cards and hundreds of dollars worth of toys for needy families. They surprised one family Tuesday morning with a Christmas delivery.

"When they knocked on that door and they came back with three carloads of stuff and my kids standing at the door with the smile on their face," said Rebecca Adams, a single mother of five.  "As a mother, you can't hold back the tears of seeing your kids so happy."

The Barnes and Shelby Tribble, Barnes's partner, delivered several presents to the family in addition to taking them on a major shopping spree for new school clothes.

"We are not doing this for us," said Tribble. "We are not doing this for our glory. We are doing this for the kids."

Adams said she is beyond overjoyed.

"When I thought all as lost and I thought me and my kids were down. there was a guardian angel that came," said Adams. "The people were willing to give and not just for mine but for others. I say go Jonesboro. I do because it is amazing."

Barnes said the plan for 2018 is to do the same thing starting in November.

"By then we will have a committee together to carefully decide which families are in need," said Barnes. "We are going to set up at street corners again and we are going to what we feel Jonesboro wants to be done for a good cause."

Adams said because this project helped her family and others in need, she plans to volunteer her time with Barnes.

"100% I will help next year on a corner," said Adams. "We are here to pay it forward and because of them, I can now pay it forward for other families."

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