Episode 2 of ABC’s Secret Millionaire (aired 3/13/11) featured Marc Paskin. This real estate investor spent a week in a dangerous part of his Detroit seeking how best to help those that need help the most. It’s far removed from his posh lifestyle on the San Diego, California beach where the 61-year old, Marc, is a successful real estate investor. He will be offered an opportunity to see how the “other half lives”.
Marc left behind his credit cards and wad of cash to head to the Motor City as an anonymous volunteer hoping to make a difference in the murder capital of the nation. His quest began by picking up the oldest car in the rental car lot. He noted there were no businesses as he drove down the street, except for liquor stores which seemed to be thriving. He ended up renting a small house and having $50 to live on for the week for food, which is how much a single man over age 55 would get from welfare, for food, each week.
At the house he got an ad for a restaurant that he couldn’t afford to eat at. Also there was an ad for a place hoping to ‘put the neighbor back in the hood to make a neighborhood’. This would be his first step in trying to make a difference.
His first full day in Detroit took him to “Be a Man” which is a group of volunteers that patrol the neighborhoods to prevent crime. The irony: the first scene of The Man network showed a loud woman airing her hopes for the world working together to help people. Bishop Tony Russell runs it with his wife, Valerie. Their emphasis is to help provide a safe place for Detroit’s kids to grow up in. Marc began his work that evening, patrolling on foot with a 28-year old father.
Next in his mission to help he met Bev, who ran Young Detroit Builders. Her organization was hoping to help young adults rebuild a community. Targeted to 18 to 24 year olds, the group has young people spending half the time in class and the other half in rehabilitating old homes or building new ones. Over the past 17 years YDB has rebuilt 800 homes in the neighborhood. This program had Marc spray painting inside buildings and meeting some of the program students and graduates. He met a young lady whose mom had left her when she was a child and she shared how YDB had provided opportunities to heal, learn and get job opportunities. Marc noted, “People go bad for a lot of reasons, but I think if you don’t have a reasonably decent upbringing and a decent home and a mother and father that are doing their job then the deck is stacked against them.”
His research led him to Jon, 39, who founded Really Living which provides free transportation to medical appointments for Detroit’s uninsured. Through Jon’s experience in being a dialysis patient he observed people waiting for hours after their own appointments because they didn’t have a ride home from their medical treatments. Marc came in with a car and a license offering to drive whomever he could and help wherever he was needed. Jon introduced him to Matt. The newest volunteer would be both care giver and driver for this man who’s been relying on RL for the past 8 months to drive him to dialysis appointments three times each week where his blood gets cleaned. Matt introduced him to some other patients at the clinic. One patient was Courtney,24, someone on the kidney waiting list, who anticipates being on dialysis for about four more years. Marc approached Courtney and asked if there was some way he could help her. She said she’d just moved into a new apartment and there was a lot of heavy lifting and moving that she couldn’t do. Marc was moved by what he saw at that clinic. He commented, “If I could write a check and buy kidneys, I’d give every penny I have to buy every person a new kidney and I’d stay in this house in Detroit and I could do with nothing because I have my health.”
Going back to YDB to get more information, Marc learned its annual budget has shrunk by $350,000 in the last 3 months because of the sad financial situation in Detroit. Bev said “What feeds my soul is working with young people. It’s a lot easier for people to give to kids than for people to give money to young adults.” Continuing on, she said, “We underestimate the wisdom that the lives of these young people have had to face from very young ages… of what they’ve learned…and I feel honored that I’ve been able to learn from them because they’re so strong and resilient.”
Marc recognized that Detroit gets a bad rap because of some of the problems they have, but 99% of the people care about the community. Back at “home” he approached his neighbors for some oil to cook a burger; they suggested using water instead of oil. He shamefully recognized he felt more connected with his neighbors of just a few days, than with his neighbors in California whom he’s shared a street address with for years.
While contemplating how to spend his money he met with Courtney, who greeted him with a big hug. She put him to work moving furniture and boxes down into a storage area in the basement. They spent some time getting to know each other, with the hope of letting her know he cares. When he asked about her daughter, she discussed her daughter and some major health issues that her daughter has to go through. He asked her if she had three wishes, what they would be. She said she wished for her daughter to be healthy and happy. That was all she wanted. Not three wishes, just ONE.
Of the people he’d met, Marc said they all have one thing in common, “They are all fighters! They are all good causes, but some need my help more than others.“
On reveal day, he was very contemplative about the past week and the experiences he’d had. He let his heart guide him on what to give and to whom to give it. His first stop was the Man Network where he gave lots of high praise and $10,000 to help them in their efforts to keep Detroit safe. Randy was brought to tears of gratitude as he tried to thank Marc for his gift.
His next stop brought him to Young Detroit Builders and Bev. There he thanked her for letting him volunteer there and told her how impressed he was with her work there. He also donated $40,000 to her cause. She was brought to sobs of disbelief. She recognized his giving as a miracle, and that it restored her hope and faith.
Later he met up with Jon at Really Living. Marc spent time lifting Jon and his organization up. He gave Jon $40,000 to continue in his efforts to help the medically needy in Detroit. He hoped to make things a little easier for them. His last stop took him to Courtney’s house. He recognized that she’d been through a lot in her life. He recognized that she puts her daughter first and wanted to help bless her by giving her $20,000. “Are you for real?” she asked over and over. “Good things don’t happen to me.” Both he and Courtney were wiping their eyes, ok, so was I!
Marc Paskin had some parting words of wisdom. And as I dry my eyes, I’d have to agree. “It’s time to give back!”