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


We would like to help Mr. wilburn and his family as well as buy a coat for his nephew. Please send us information on how to accomplish this. Thank you so much! (Please leave my name out of anything published.) Judith

From one wintery state to another- we have to get this man coats for his family and soon!!

Strongly suspect that the needs of Mr. Wilburn's family goes even deeper right now than the story revealed -- perhaps limited or no access to healthcare and other basic needs. The past few years we have donated our Christmas gift funds to the regional food bank and other agencies in lieu of family gift-giving. Can you please post a list of the Colburn family needs and a way to provide assistance for those who want to help? Thanks!

I heard Mr. Wilburn's story and I would like to send him a small donation to help out. Can he be contacted? and if so, is there a phone # or address where he can be reached. I look forward to your prompt feedback.


I would like to send warm clothing to Mr. Wilburn and his family. Please forward any information you are able to.

Where can we send this deserving man a holiday gift?

How can I help Mr. Wilburn? Please provide details. Santa is on her way.

please let me know how I can help. The need everywhere is extreme, but I'm hoping at least in this instance that APM/NPR can identify a way for those who'd like to help, to do so.

I too was hoping to donate an old coat to Mr. Wilburn's nephew.

Like others here, I'd like to help. Looking forward to the info you can provide to that end.

The story and all these comments fit in great with the other piece today about the "donor illusion".


With Generous Support From...