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Unemployed D.C. man giving money away to strangers to help foster kindness

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The generosity comes naturally to Sandridge, who grew up in a close family in a small Pennsylvania town.

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He studied international business and Spanish at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, worked for a Finnish telecommunications software company, for which he started a subsidiary in Brazil (sleeping in his office sometimes because he was working so much), returned to the United States to oversee its Americas operations, and then joined the management team of a health nonprofit founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.

Sandridge tells people that he doesn't care what they do with his money. But that's not exactly true. When someone who is jobless and has alcohol on his breath says he'll buy a drink, Sandridge doesn't regret the gift but hopes the next $10 has a better impact than just another buzz.

His favorites are those (more than 30) who say they'll use the money to help someone else: He likes to see the $10 snowball. A woman went to a homeless shelter the night after she met Sandridge and found someone who could use the gift. A Haitian man who had just learned that his mother had died in the earthquake told Sandridge that he was going to the island to look for other relatives and would put the money toward bringing satellite phones there.

Ideas to help others

On his Web site, Sandridge keeps a list of ideas for helping those he has met: Ron, who has experience with heavy machinery, wants day-labor work. Nikki needs help with filing disability claims. Garland, a street drummer, wants gigs. Anthony needs a pair of size 9 sneakers.

Sometimes, someone following the blog, another stranger, will step in to help.

"He forces attention to people who are usually ignored," said his brother Ryan Sandridge. "I hope others maybe slow their life down just a little bit and see that there's more than just the daily grind. I don't know if that's part of his message or not -- but that's one of the things I take out of it. Look around, pay more attention, be more giving."

Canales takes the money, talks to Sandridge some in Spanish and introduces him to his father, Emilio Canales. Carlos tells him that when he was a little boy, he would sleep under the tables behind the meat counter while his father and uncles set up their stands early in the morning. He's not sure what to do with the $10. Maybe the next time someone asks him for food, he will give it to that person.

"I'll pass it along," Canales said.

Sandridge has already started to think about Dec. 16, when the year is over. "It's going to be a letdown," he said.

So he's planning a party for all the people who got his money and all the people who read his blog as he gave it away.

Sometimes people ask him: Why not give all the money away at once?

He didn't want to write a check to an organization -- he wanted something more personal. "But I get their point," Sandridge said. "If I gave $3,650 to one person, I could probably change their life.

"Maybe I'll do that next year!" Then he laughed. "I'll need a good job, first."

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.


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