Asking for charity for the first time

Sherman Wilburn


Kai Ryssdal: There's no illusion about the level of need this year. Even people who are used to giving are now having to ask for help. Sherman Wilburn is a newcomer to that side of charity. Thanks for joining us.


Ryssdal: I hear some kids in the background there, is that right? Who do you have?

WILBURN: Yes it is, that's my grandchildren.

Ryssdal: How many of them?

WILBURN: Right now, I've got roughly about eight in the house.

Ryssdal: And just you? Eight kids and just you?

WILBURN: Eight grandchildren. No my son, and two of my daughters and daughter-in-law are here at the present time.

Ryssdal: Now, I understand you've had to ask for some help in taking care of these grandkids this year, is that right?

WILBURN: Oh yeah, thankfully my son just recently went back to work, so that alleviates some of it. But in the meantime trying to play catch up with everything is kinda rough. Unfortunately, they won't see any Christmas this year until later, a little here, a little there, and things such as that and everything. But we'll be grateful for a family dinner and coming together.

Ryssdal: You're able to put food on the table?

WILBURN: Yeah, it gets tight and rough and everything, but we learn how to stretch meals. We eat a lot of chicken.

Ryssdal: Can I ask you Mr. Wilburn how you go about getting extra help you need from charities and other aid groups this time of year.

WILBURN: Well, in Minnesota it's kinda tight for a man. A woman can always get help in pretty much any direction from most all agencies. With a man he has to prove his point a little bit stronger and harder. Asking for help these days with the economy being what it is, most agencies are short on funds, and it's very tight and hard for them to get.

Ryssdal: So how do you get things like school supplies for the kids, and new clothes, and all of the rest of that?

WILBURN: Well, I have legal custody of my great nephew, and this year I haven't been able to buy any clothes for him. He's wearing things from last year and basically hand-me-downs. And he is in desperate need. We're trying to find a way now to get him a winter coat.

Ryssdal: In Minnesota?

WILBURN: Yes, yes, definitely in Minnesota you need one. Right now this time of year it's still cool enough to where you need some forms of a heavy coat on.

Ryssdal: Now I understand this is your first year sort of being on the receiving end of charity and aid. But you've been on the flip side, you've been giving and participating in relief groups for your whole life now.

WILBURN: Yes, I've donated where I could and when I could with time, as well as financially and monetary. I was raised with the attitude that you do what you can to help someone else and step up to the plate. And I strongly believe that what I do will be returned to me someday, someway, somehow.

Ryssdal: Sherman Wilburn in Minneapolis, Minn. Thanks so much for your time, sir.

WILBURN: You got it.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: People interested in helping Mr. Wilburn and his family can request his contact information through the Comments box below. Marketplace will send the information to the e-mail address you submit with your request.]

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
Log in to post77 Comments


I would like to buy a coat for Mr. wilburn's great nephew. Can you please send me the information or address as to how I can do this?

I would also like to send something to this man and his family. Can we have contact info?

Where can I send some clothes and what sizes?

I would like to help and send clothes and toys. Can you send an email letting us know when contact information is available.

Please let me know how and where I can send clothes and toys for Mr. Wilburn's grandchildren and nephew. Can you tell us each child's age, size, and sex? Thank you!

This was a very moving piece.I would love to send food and books to Mr Wilburn--or any other family in need this season. Please let me know how to get in touch.

I too want to help Mr.Wilburn and his family. I am thrilled to see how many others are willing to help as well! Please let us know how to make Christmas special for him and his family! Peace from Phx.

What an amazing testimony to our humanity that SOOOOOO many people have offered to help this stranger! I was touched by his comment regarding how he lived his life doing good deeds under the belief that someday it would be returned to him somehow. That's EXACTLY what I believe Mr. Wilburn and I think after all this our beliefs WILL come true! :) PS I found the link to contact the staff of Marketplace and sent them my info regarding wanting to help out Mr. Wilburn. I think it would be great if others did the same so they would know we are serious about helping :)

Please let me know how could I sent him bit of money to help his family with their winter clothing needs? Very touching story.

Thank you for sharing your story with us Mr. Wilburn, and thanks to Mr. Ryssdal for arranging the interview. I am very moved by the story, as well as the outpouring of support by all the kind people on this site. I look forward to hearing how we can all help. Best wishes to you and your family, Mr. Wilburn.


With Generous Support From...