By Amelia Ferrell Knisely, The Contributor
Mario, a formerly homeless vendor at The Contributor, recently donated a portion of his paper sales profits to the victims of the fatal East Tennessee fires.
Mario, along with his dog Bear, made the donation to the Smoky Mountain Wildfires Telethon aired by Nashville-based, TV station WSMV in December.
Officials say the wildfires killed 14 people and destroyed more than 1,700 homes in the mountain resort town of Gatlinburg.
After Mario heard about a telethon to benefit the victims of the fires, he saved portions of his Contributor profits for three days in order to make a donation. He and Bear visited Highland Park Church, the live site of the telethon, to make the donation in person.
Sharing empathy for the fire victims and their families, Mario says, “Bear and I know what it feels like to lose your home and your business. If it weren’t for my Contributor customers, I wouldn’t have been able to have a home now. I just wanted to pay it forward.”
Mario began selling The Contributor in 2012 and Bear often accompanies him at his usual spot in the Jackson Downs Shopping Center in the Nashville neighbourhood of Donelson. He rose to the top of The Contributor sales list early on in his selling, which he attributes to Bear, being the best bit of marketing he could ask for.
Since, they’ve become steady fixtures in their pitch, and have several regular customers. Earlier this year, Mario purchased a home with profits from selling The Contributor as well as starting up his lawn care company, Bear Care Lawn Service.
He adds, “It made me feel good [to donate] because when I fell on hard times, and Bear and I lived in a barn until we got our house, we have been blessed. People have helped me out and been very generous just by buying my papers.”