CHARLOTTE, N.C. —A Charlotte, N.C., businessman created a poster of homeless people holding up words to The Lord's Prayer, which inspired a Winston-Salem, N.C., surgeon to create a similar poster with words to a Bible verse, which in turn inspired a former teacher from Thomasville, N.C., to create a poster.
Sales of the three posters have brought more than $14,000 to help the homeless.
And there's no telling where Brian Hadley's idea may turn up next.
Hadley, who is 44 and works as a sales manager for Royal Paper Products, created the first poster in fall 2009.
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He cut out 30 cardboard squares, wrote down one or more words from The Lord's Prayer on each square, then paid homeless men and women in Charlotte, N.C., $5 to allow him to photograph them holding the words.
He sells the posters for $10 and said he has raised more than $6,000 for Samaritan House, where homeless people in Charlotte can recuperate after getting out of the hospital.
Darlene Beard read an Observer story about Hadley in March 2010. She said homeless people had been on her mind for some time.
She bought four posters and gave one to the families of each of her four children, including her daughter, Melissa, who is married to Ray Workman, a vascular surgeon in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Workman felt moved to create a poster of his own to raise money for the Bethesda Shelter for homeless people in Winston-Salem.
Workman, 47, took advice from Hadley and paid homeless people $5 to let him photograph them holding up squares of cardboard with words printed on them.
Instead of The Lord's Prayer, his poster comes from the gospel of Matthew in the Bible: "I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Workman said the posters have raised about $4,000.
The Winston-Salem Journal published a story in mid-November about Workman's poster, and that's how Tracy Brinkley of Thomasville, N.C., got inspired. She suffers from a neuromuscular disorder called myasthenia gravis and, while she was undergoing dialysis, a nurse at Forsyth Medical Center read the newspaper story out loud to her.
Brinkley, who served on the Thomasville City school board, decided to create a poster that would raise awareness about homeless school children. In the Thomasville school system, she said, about 100 of the 2,500 students are homeless.
The result is Project Divine Interruption. Her poster spells out the word LOVE using photographs of homeless and non-homeless students.
"If you were to walk down the hallways of our schools, we have enough homeless children to fill five classrooms," Brinkley said. "In a system as small as ours, that is staggering." Thomasville, a city of about 27,000, is about 70 miles northeast of Charlotte.
In a month, she said, her poster has raised $4,000 for homeless students and their families.
"There is one homeless family who has a special-needs child, and we purchased school uniforms for this child and vouchers for her to get back and forth from school," Brinkley said. "Another family with three children is sleeping in a rest stop off I-85, and we purchased coats for them."
In Charlotte, Hadley is stunned by what he started.
"I'm glad I did what I did, but I'm more than impressed by what has happened to it," he said. "Ray Workman is a surgeon. I'm a toothpick salesman."
He said he had two purposes behind his poster: To raise money for the homeless and to change how people think about The Lord's Prayer. He believes the poster accomplished both. "The biggest thing is the Lord's Prayer is for everyone," he said, "and everyone is benefiting from this project."
Hadley included. He has had a few setbacks in his life over the past year, and keeps a poster in his office and one in his basement.
"It's been the thing I relied on," he said. "In a very strange way, I think if I die tomorrow at least there will be something that will carry on."