A down-to-earth, anti-consumerism Christian businessman is fighting poverty by donating all his company's profit – totaling millions – to help low-income people.
Hal Taussig, 82, is the owner of the travel agency Untours, which seeks to provide travelers with a private home as an alternative to touristy hotels. The company's goal is to help tourists better learn the people and culture they visit.
While helping others avoid falling into luxuries, Hal and his wife Norma are themselves examples of living in modesty.
The Taussigs have given away $5 million in profits over the past 15 years to the Untours Foundation which loans money to low-income people trying to start new businesses or improve their lives.
"It wasn't a vow of poverty, I didn't do anything like that," said the Taussig, according to the United Methodist News Service. "I said I'm never going to have any money in the bank … or have anything in my name. And whatever's left over at the end of the month, whatever's left over, I get rid of it," he said.
Similarly, he got rid of his car giving it to a hitchhiker; Taussig has not had a car since 1971 and has traveled using his bicycle.
Hal and his wife Norma live a modest life in a "narrow wood-frame" home in Media, Pa., according to UMNS. Instead of a drying machine, the couple dries their laundry from a clothesline on the back porch.
"I have a mission to fight this consumerism," said Taussig. "I think the direction we're heading in is catastrophic."
The Taussig's Untours Foundation began five years after the Taussigs founded the Untours business in the mid-1970s. Becoming more apparent to Taussig was the rising gap between the rich and poor, which he believes can only be remedied by economic means.
"My idea is to get capital to poor people rather than charity," he explained.
The foundation has made hundreds of loans to small businesses, including to Home Care Associates of Philadelphia. The company provides health care services to patients who want to stay at home rather than be treated in the hospital. Many of the company's employees were once on welfare.
"Paul Newman and JFK Jr. had given me this award – Most Generous Business in America – and we had $250,000 in award money," Taussig recalled. "We decided to loan that to Home Care Associates, and they doubled their staff that first year and from that year on they've made a profit. There are 50 people who came off welfare and they get dividends now."
The Taussigs attend First United Methodist Church in Media. Their son is a United Methodist minister and a professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. One of their daughters is an ordained Lutheran priest, and the other is an artist who works for Untours.
"You talk about your heart breaking for homeless people and [how] the church should be outraged about poverty, hunger and war," said Taussig's pastor, the Rev. Maridel Whitmore.
"Here's a person doing what we preach and I think he's made us all straighten up a little bit and look at ourselves…If this is what Hal's doing, maybe we should be following his example."
Yet Taussig is hesitant to be put in the spotlight or seen as a role model.
"I don't particularly like being made the center of attention as I am right now," he said, according to UMNS. "I'm only doing this [interview] because I like to have people discuss the problem of poverty – world poverty I find so disastrous – and finding a new way to solve it."