No to panhandlers, yes to nonprofits: Wilmington looks to enhance services

The Have a Heart, Give Smart initiative urges people to donate to charities instead of individual panhandlers. (Source: WECT)
The Have a Heart, Give Smart initiative urges people to donate to charities instead of individual panhandlers. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - "Have a heart, give smart," President and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Inc. Ed Wolverton said as he announced the launch of a new initiative to curb panhandling in the downtown area.

The Municipal Service District spent six months meeting with city and nonprofit leaders before the launch of a website to collect donations. All the money collected will be spread out to area nonprofits.

Wolverton urges the public to stop giving cash to panhandlers and donate their money online. Leaders say if you give a panhandler cash, you don't know where they will spend it. They claim the push to nonprofit donations puts a priority on necessities.

As leaders celebrate the launch, a Wilmington family has already taken the idea to heart. Natalie Manning and her daughter gave homeless people Valentine's Day gift bags full of toothpaste, combs and food.

"I think it's better to give something you know that they need," Manning said. "It's a good opportunity to teach [my daughter] to give to people who need it too."

The Mannings' message is simple and it resonates with the people on the other end of the generous act.

"It shows me there is still compassion in the world," Aaron Yoscovitch, a homeless man who spends most of his time downtown, said.

Yoscovitch typically keeps to himself. He said he doesn't beg for money, just sits and reads.

Despite his calm demeanor, Yoscovitch said people continue to treat him with disrespect.

"I see a lot of things walking down the street minding my own business," Yoscovitch said. "People cuss at me and stuff. For what reason?"

But with the Mannings' kind acts, Yoscovitch said there is a reason to hope.

"[Their kindness] might actually make a change," he said. "It might actually make a difference."

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