WE START the new month with sunny news about a couple of good men who were under a cloud.
Tom Nager has been pulled from the bottom of the well by readers who were touched by my account of his crushing problems and did something.
In terms of our total readership, they were relatively few, but a few people pulling together can create great change.
Last Friday, with a wad of cash and a stack of checks, I drove to Tom's apartment, in Upper Darby, to escort him to the bank to make a big deposit. In his black slacks and a gray pullover, he looked natty, even as he thumped forward on the crutches he uses since osteoarthritis crippled his knees.
When I told him what readers had donated - to pay his rent before eviction, to get his phone, Internet and TV turned back on - his eyes widened. "That's even more than the last time," he said, quietly.
It is - almost $15,000.
In addition to the cash, there were PetSmart gift cards for him to use for his friends, cats Buddy, 6, and Misha, 14, plus Wawa cards good for hoagies or gas.
When people called or wrote to ask where to send money to help pull the 57-year-old from the bottom of a financial well where he was thrown by bad health, they thanked me for giving them the opportunity to step up.
Their help pulled him out of the well. I was privileged to be the messenger.
"It's amazing how wonderful people are," Tom said.
Amazing, too, were the number of larger donors who demanded anonymity. I'd like to print everyone's name, but there are too many. People gave as much as their hearts and pocketbooks commanded, so the $10 checks - and the $5,000 check - have the same moral value.
Some donations came from people who were themselves struggling. Animal lovers were heard from. Money came from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, from men and women, from whites, blacks, Asians and Hispanics - Americans with open hearts.
The final step is getting Tom into affordable housing, and that's being worked on.
I can acknowledge that Philadelphia state Sen. Larry Farnese has his office looking into ways to help Tom through state programs for which he might qualify. Tom doesn't live in Farnese's district, but Farnese is that rarity - a public servant who wants to help, and doesn't ask where you live and how you're registered.
Another cloud lifted when John Green, the popular Fan Foto photographer at Citizens Bank Park, was returned to his job, along with Christopher Lakis. They were discharged in April after a background check discovered that they were ex-cons, but Green said he had disclosed his record when he was hired in 2007, and Lakis made the same claim.
The happy resolution was announced by their attorney, Andrew S. Abramson, who said that no one is permitted to speak because of a confidentiality agreement.
Abramson would not even say which entity signed the agreement. The original suit named the Phillies as a defendant, but the Phillies told me they had no part in either the hiring or the firing. I believe the Phillies.
Fan Foto; its owner, Sharp Shooter Imaging; and/or some subsidiary of Major League Baseball probably created the problem, but I won't go nuts trying to sort it out.
I'm just happy with the right outcome.
Say hello when you see John and Chris at the ballpark. And remember to smile.
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