A GoFundMe campaign has raised over $100,000 in just nine days to help an 80-year-old widower who has been selling kindling by the side of the road to pay off his late wife’s medical bills.
Kenneth Smith, who lost his wife to cancer a few weeks ago, has been selling kindling at $5 a bag to pay off the medical bills that wiped out the couple’s savings, Good News Network reports.
A local resident, Jessica Pittman, had been following the widower’s plight and felt moved to post about it on Facebook to ask local residents to help him out by buying some of his kindling.
“If y’all need any kindling wood please come buy from this precious 80 year old elderly man,” she wrote, “His name is Kenneth. He parks on the corner of Carl leggett and west Taylor Rd. In Gulfport Right near bayou bluff. He is there every day for hours.”
“Last year he was there selling as well but he had his sweet little wife Helen with him. He was selling to help pay for his wife’s doctor visits and bills. This year he is alone. He said his wife Helen lost her battle to cancer a few weeks ago and he is still selling to cover pay for her doctor bills.”
“My heart breaks every time I pass him,” Pittman wrote. “He waves at every single car that passes.”
After Pittman posted Kenneth’s story on Facebook, his son, Leslie Smith, created a GoFundMe page so that people from farther away could help support the widower.
Leslie explained that his father had been selling kindling to pay for his wife’s medical bills and to make ends meet, and since her death a few weeks ago, he has also lost half of the income that the couple had been relying on to pay their bills.
“He is 80 years old and has always been a hard working man all of his life,” Leslie Smith wrote. “His wife (my step-mom) has been battling cancer for a few years. He was selling kindling fire wood to make ends meet. On a fixed income of social security alone, it can be hard to do.”
“His wife lost her battle with cancer a few weeks ago and now his income has been cut in half,” he wrote. “They spent their life savings during her cancer battle. He is still selling fire wood for extra income but some people have asked if they could help him out.”
Since the widower received news of the GoFundMe page, he has been excited but also concerned that people might think he was begging for money, his daughter says. She commented on the GoFundMe page that her grieving father and the family were touched by the donations and support.
“My Dad just came by and he is as nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. He said he ‘hoped people did not think he was begging for money.’ I told him people thought he was inspiring. He has always worked hard. He is grieving and likes to stay busy. His Social Security is less than $1000/ a month with no extra cash. He is loved. Thanks so much for the donations your outpouring of love is what I find truly inspiring.”
Kenneth told KLOX that he and his wife, Helen, had been married for over 30 years. The couple had been selling bags full of kindling to help pay for her medical bills.
“She was right here with me,” said Smith.” Should would sit and wave at all the people that would come by.”
The widower says that even though Helen is not by his side anymore, he still feels her presence.
“She’s a proud woman because she’s looking down on me,” said Smith.
The GoFundMe campaign had raised over $106,000 by Wednesday.
[Featured Image by Irina Fischer/Shutterstock]