(Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)
Eight million people live in New York City. If 1 million of them gave a dollar this holiday season, they could change the plight of the homeless in their city forever.
Starting today and going through Dec. 31, Eric Briarley will stand at 46th Street between Broadway and 7th Avenue in Times Square every day from morning until midnight and ask millions of visitors and residents alike: “Do you have one dollar?”
Briarley is leading a “philanthropic social challenge” to see if one million people will give one dollar each to change the lives of homeless, poor, and hungry people in the nation’s most populous city.
All proceeds will be donated to The Bowery Mission and The Love Kitchen – ministries that work with the poor and homeless throughout NYC.
“Some of the most prominent billionaires have pledged half of their wealth to charity, but I wondered what the rest of us could do,” said Briarley, a Christian artist, in a released statement. “In a city of 8.4 million people, what if everyone – wealthy and not wealthy – gave just one dollar to help fight homelessness? Is it even possible?"
Briarley began pondering the idea of the dollar campaign in November of last year, according to his website DoYouHaveOneDollar.org. He read an article by Fortune Magazine Senior Editor Carol Loomis called “The $600 Billion Challenge.”
The article described a challenge to America’s billionaires given by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates: pledge half their net worth to charity either in their lifetime, or at their time of death.
Loomis pointed out in her article that if the nation’s billionaires accepted this challenge, they could potentially change the face of philanthropy.
A New York Times story, citing the Bloomberg administration, revealed that “the number of people living on New Yorkʼs streets and subways soared 34 percent in a year, signaling a setback in one of the cityʼs most intractable problems.”
These articles, along with various inspirational speakers and discussions with his close friends, challenged Briarley to ask himself: “Even though I'm not monetarily wealthy, is there something more I can do to help my community and city?”
He told The Christian Post that he got connected with Bowery through a men’s prayer group he attended. One of the men in his group invited him to speak to NYU’s chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. While he was there he started talking with one of the other speakers, James Winans, explaining DoYouHaveOneDollar.org.
As he was explaining his vision, he mentioned that his only setback was that he didn’t have a nonprofit status so he was looking for a group like Bowery or City Harvest to partner with.
Winans revealed to Briarley, much to his surprise, that he was the director of Development at Bowery, and soon after a partnership was born.
“Eric’s vision for a brand new way of community-wide giving is inspiring,” said Winans. “Imagine if everyone in our building, our neighborhood, our borough, or even our city gave just one dollar. How many lives would be transformed forever?”
The dollar campaign was launched on Nov. 22. Although he has been asking people for a dollar throughout the Christmas season, this week is the final push. Briarley told CP that he will be standing in Times Square with a large banner throughout the next five days.
Proceeds from the campaign will directly benefit homeless men, women and children with food, shelter, medical care, and long-term recovery programs offered by The Bowery Mission and The Love Kitchen.
Briarley said they have only raised a little over $3,000 to date, and by human standards it’s far short of the goal, but he still believes we “serve a God of the miraculous.”
He admitted that the initiative might have been “pretty audacious,” but said the campaign is more than just about raising money; it’s “about creating a conversation within the community of a million people so that it can really affect social change.”
Depending on how the campaign does by Jan. 1, Briarley said they will either continue with it or take a break and relaunch in the future.
Those who want to give can either find Briarley and his volunteers in Times Square, or they can visit the DoYouHaveOneDollar.org website and give online. The third option includes mailing a dollar directly to The Bowery Mission.
The Bowery Mission has worked with the homeless in New York since 1879. This year alone, they provided more than 369,200 meals, 79,300 nights of shelter and 53,200 articles of clothing, as well as showers, haircuts, and expert medical and optometric care.
They also offer three residential recovery programs. Today about 180 men and women live there and are working toward regaining sobriety, reconnecting with family and faith, pursuing educational goals, and preparing for work and independent living.