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Best of the Week

Secret Millionaire on ABC

Catherine Nailog

Release Date: 8/8/2013

For an inspirational hour of television for the whole family, look no further than ABC’s Secret Millionaire that aired on Sunday, August 4th at 8:00 p.m. (ET). The touching television show featured a successful businesswoman’s journey in thanking dedicated people who improved the lives of others. The show has been given the title of Best TV Show of the Week.

Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne’s pretzels, took the Secret Millionaire journey under the guise of Anne Fern, a woman being featured in a documentary on volunteers. She drove from her home in Gap, Pennsylvania to Baltimore, Maryland where drug addiction and violence plagued the city. Anne grew up Amish until she married Jonas when she was 19 years old. She and her husband had three daughters. Tragically, Angela, the middle daughter, died in a farming accident at 19 months old. It was one of the saddest moments in Anne’s life, but she was grateful for a supportive and loving husband and family who got her through the difficult time.

After Anne settled into her new home in Baltimore, she took a walk in the neighborhood and greeted people along the way. She remembered a quote from her mother, “If you want to have friends, you’ve gotta be friendly.” She initially felt unwelcome in the neighborhood until she met Blast, who handed her a flyer for Rose Street Community Center, a center that provided services for people in the community. As she continued her walk, she was surprised to find a garden in the neighborhood called The Miracle Garden that serviced a local soup kitchen, Moveable Feast. She met the garden’s caretaker, Lewis, who used his nominal pension to pay for gardening supplies.

Anne then visited Casey Cares, a children’s foundation dedicated to critically ill children and their families. Anne helped Casey, the founder, and Lauren, prepare donated pajamas for children admitted to the hospital. Lauren, who is 21 years old, used the foundation’s services when she was diagnosed with a Stage IV brain tumor at the age of 13. She loved the program and now, while in remission, wanted to return the favor. On another day, Anne went to Casey Cares Care-nival. The event was to bring joy and entertainment to the sick children and their families. Anne helped with the carnival by assisting in the games and making cotton candy. She also spoke to a volunteer parent whose 7-year-old son succumbed to his disease over a year ago. Anne understood the loss of a child and how difficult it is. She also met with other parents who struggled with their child’s illness.

On Anne’s first visit to Rose Street Community Center, she met Millicent and Mr. Black, who spoke about how their community was once riddled with drugs, violence, gangs and trash. Since Rose Street’s inception by local residents for local residents, the problems have greatly diminished. The center’s mission was to provide job training, housing, and education to those who needed it. To help the center, Anne went out with Blast to pass out the center’s flyers. Blast believed that if people in the community were employed, illegal activity wouldn’t exist in the neighborhood. Blast revealed to Anne that he was homeless from the age of 11 to 16½. He had sold drugs in the community and came to a point where he no longer cared about living or dying. After burying two brothers 30 days apart, he realized he needed to change. He started to care more about his life. He began to have faith in people, and realized that with a little help and the right information, better choices could be made. On another day, Anne returned to Rose Street Community Center to join others on a daily solidarity walk. The walk created a safe place for neighbors to come together and show pride in their community. During the walk, Anne met with various people who were grateful for the help the center provided.

Anne then went to Moveable Feast, an organization that prepared and delivered meals to ill, homebound clients. Moveable Feast depended upon private donations to cover over 50 percent of its operating cost. Anne met with Chef Damon, who put her to work in the kitchen. He told Anne about how lucky the organization was in getting fresh vegetables from Lewis’ garden. Once food was prepared and packed, deliveries were made to over 2000 homes throughout the city. A former priest, Thom Bonderenko, was the executive director of Moveable Feast. He, Anne, and another volunteer delivered meals to a woman. She shared her story of being homeless and addicted to drugs. Her mother had taken custody of her son so that he wouldn’t be left to the state. While in a drug treatment center, she was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS and had less than a year to live. Knowing that she was rummaging for food in dumpsters, her case manager told her about Moveable Feast. She has been a client of Moveable Feast since 1995. Annually, Moveable Feast delivers 739,000 meals to clients all over Baltimore. Thom told Anne that it costs $32.50 a week per person for delivered meals. He could never say no to a person in need.

It was the end of Anne’s Secret Millionaire journey. She was inspired and appreciative of the people she’s met in the various communities and their devotion in improving the lives of others. As she revealed herself to the organizations, she also made financial contributions to further their work. And the people running these organizations were overwhelmed with emotion for her generosity. She gave Casey Cares more pajamas for the drive and a check for $45,000 which helped in continuing to comfort sick children and their families and further expanded the program. For Rose Street Community Center, she gave $65,000 which would be used for a daycare center and a program where jobless parents can reintegrate into society. Anne gave Lewis, the gardener at The Miracle Garden, $5000 and a new tiller. He planned to use the money for new fencing for the garden. For Moveable Feast, Anne gave $35,000 which was to be used to purchase two new vehicles and to expand their services in Baltimore.

Anne was sad to see people struggle, whether it was dealing with a dying child or overcoming drugs or a negative environment. But her sadness was temporary when she became hopeful and inspired by the humble people committed to helping others to conquer life’s challenges. No one is immune from struggles or challenges in life. But when someone cares enough to help and provide support, anything can be overcome. And that is why Secret Millionaire has been given the honor of Best TV Show of the Week.

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