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Mother's tears fuel Hero's philanthropy

updated 8:34 PM EDT, Thu November 3, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sal Dimiceli was named one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011
  • Dimiceli gives financial assistance to the working poor near his home
  • People reach out to Dimiceli through a local newspaper column

(CNN) -- Sal Dimiceli has spent decades helping people get back on their feet.

Through a local newspaper column and his nonprofit, The Time Is Now To Help, Dimiceli assists about 500 people a year with food, rent, utilities and other necessities. He concentrates most of his work in the Wisconsin area where he lives.

CNN asked Dimiceli for his thoughts on being chosen as one of the top 10 CNN Heroes of 2011.

CNN: How does it feel to be selected as a top 10 CNN Hero?

Sal Dimiceli: I'm ecstatic. I want to cry thinking that CNN and people recognize the poverty that is out there so we can help even more people.

I hesitate to talk about myself. My heart is about giving, helping, not receiving. This is such a great, great honor. At the same time, the help I provide is from my desire, my heart, to ease the pain and suffering and fear of the poverty-stricken.

I find myself in tears. For many years, I felt alone making money, giving it away helping the less fortunate, and now I'm being recognized for doing what I vowed to do. I'm in shock. I thank God and CNN for telling the world: "Yes, something can be done. Yes, together we can make a difference."

CNN: What do you hope this recognition will mean to The Time Is Now to Help?

Dimiceli: I hope it will bring an awareness of what's going on in our great country behind closed doors and show how more than 50 million Americans are desperately suffering the pains of poverty. By showing how we are coming together, networking with people to find solutions for helping them, I pray that other areas around the U.S. will come together with their local people to make a difference.

My biggest prayer is that our government will put aside their differences and exercise the simple solutions that do exist for any problem they presently have. ...

The one thing I keep trying to grasp is the fact that the global news media, CNN, is recognizing the philanthropy and love all over the world and the solutions we are presenting. CNN is my hero for taking all of us to the forefront, recognizing that we are making a big difference in the world around us.

CNN: How will you use the $50,000 award that you receive for being selected as a top 10 CNN Hero?

Dimiceli: I'm going to put that right into the charity (and) use that for immediate funding. That's why it's called The Time Is Now. I can never catch up with the requests for help financially. And with this recession right now, there are a lot of people in extreme desperate need.

People who are homeless, we'll help them get shelter; people who are hungry, we're going to feed them; people who have utilities off, we're going to turn them on; people that need transportation, we'll help fix their cars. Every penny is going to help our fellow creations in dire need, and I'm going to do it as expeditiously as I can.

We're going to utilize all of our several hundred volunteers to make sure we can end their pain and suffering and show them there are people that care. We want to give them hope and show them that we do have a love for all people. I can't wait.

CNN: What do you want people to know most about your work?

Dimiceli: Everything that I did to help others would not be possible if it wasn't for my mother. I grew up as a little boy watching her cry through our utilities being off, of us being evicted, of us having little food, and with her pride of not letting people know. It's because of all those tears I saw on and off for many years. If it wasn't for my dear mother, I wouldn't be doing this.

I made a promise to God at 12 years old. I'm 60 now, and I'm going to keep that promise for as long as I can breathe.

Read the full story on CNN Hero Sal Dimiceli:
A 'Dear Abby' for the down and out

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