In less than a week, locals helped raise $9,200 to help those in need here in Lamar County with the hopes of re-opening the much-needed emergency homeless shelter.
What began as a viral social media video of one local disabled veteran Ashley Waggoner standing up to panhandlers that stood on the corner of Lamar Ave. and Loop 286 NE, has now turned into something much bigger.
“It’s not right what these guys [panhandlers] are doing,” said Waggoner on Feb. 19. “They’re not only scamming people. They are also taking away from other homeless people and homeless veterans in the county.”
After her initial video swept across Facebook, local businessman Chuck McMasters of Wash Masters immediately rallied behind Waggoner. Between the two, they came up with a more positive way to utilize money donated within the county.
“We’re tired of seeing good money go to a terrible cause,” said McMasters.
He further explained that the community does, in fact, care about its homeless citizens, and people want to do something positive and proactive to help them. But what he and a large number of citizens do not like, is their money not being used correctly by the panhandlers that took up post in Paris.
“We have the ability here in Lamar County to help all people who need it. When it comes to panhandling and what we have seen here with people being dishonest in their needs is when we decided to be proactive on this issue,” said McMasters.
So Waggoner, McMasters with a few other individuals brought to life the “We Care Paris” Facebook group where they say every penny that is raised will stay 100 percent in Lamar County to help organizations that need it.
“We aim to raise $15,000 and would love the money to go towards re-opening the emergency homeless shelter,” said McMasters.
He added that if, for some reason, the shelter could not be re-opened, he hopes to continue to work towards the goal of ensuring locals in need of help can get the help they need.
He also said he is currently speaking with a handful of people in hopes that the correct channels can work in favor of seeing the shelter once again come back into use.
Since the initial “stand” that Waggoner took, fighting fire with fire, other local businesses began contacting McMasters pledging to match dollar for dollar all funds raised.
“The money we have raised so far has been great!” he said. “We [We Care Paris] are so thankful that we have had several businesses get on board to make a positive change to our community.”
Even though the recent inclement winter weather hasn’t seen the We Care Paris volunteers hit the corners some days, McMasters said they aren’t slowing down and are determined to make a change here in Lamar County for the better.
“We may not be able to change the world, but we can make a change here in our community for our community,” he said.
For now, the We Care Paris volunteers are working to help make Paris and Lamar County the community citizens are proud to be apart of ensuring anyone that needs a hand up can get the help they need.