Three weeks ago, 16-year-old Chauncy Black approached Matt White at the Kroger grocery store in Memphis, asking if he could help carry White’s bags in exchange for a box of donuts.
“He had me at donuts,” White would later write.
White, a 30-year-old singer-songwriter, asked Black if he had come to the store alone. Black said he had, and in fact, he’d trekked across town to make it to the “rich people’s Kroger” in an effort to find someone who could buy him and his mother food.
And so, instead of parting ways at the end of the transaction, Black and White went on a shopping spree, buying “just a little bit of everything”: chips, pizza, vegetables, melons, pasta, toothbrushes, soap, peanut butter. They talked while they shopped, and Black explained how he was trying to help his mother pay the rent. Black also said that, despite his poverty, he was earning straight A’s in school and hoped to someday be wealthy enough to help the poor and needy, just as White was helping him then.
Astonished by Black’s story, White gave the boy a ride home. Walking into his house, White had to hold back tears, as everything Black described was true — and then some: The house had no furniture, except a couple of lamps, a couch and some sleeping bags. The refrigerator was empty. Black’s mother, Barbara, turned out to be his 61-year-old grandmother (he calls her “mom”) who is physically disabled because of diabetes, according to the Commercial Appeal.
The whole experience left White so moved that he posted a long account of it on his Facebook page. To his surprise, the story was shared thousands of times.
Realizing the power and the draw of Black’s story, White decided to set up a GoFundMe page, titled “Chauncy’s Chance,” on which he listed items that Black and his grandmother needed.
“I didn’t think it could happen, but it did. I’m 30 years old, and I have a new hero,” White wrote in the GoFundMe description, before going on to describe his first encounter with Black. He listed the clothing sizes for Black and his grandmother, solicited part-time job offers on Black’s behalf and set up an email address through which donors and readers could contact them. He set the fundraising goal to $250.
It was met within a few hours. White raised it to $500, which was met in just hours as well. In this short time frame, Black also received a lawn mower, an entire bed set, and a window AC unit.
By the next day, someone had offered Black a job.
And so, roughly once a day, White posted an update on the site. In almost every one, he expresses his gratitude for the donations and for God, explains what new items Black has received and increases the fundraising goal. Some updates include videos of Black and his grandmother.
“I’ve never cried so much in one day,” he wrote in update five.
By update 10, posted a week ago, $15,000 had been raised. “I have a new family!!!!” White wrote.
Update 12: $17,000. “It’s like a love avalanche and we’re buried alive!!!!” White wrote.
At update 14, three days ago, White announced that he was making the GoFundMe campaign public. Since then, the total amount raised has gone up to over $271,000 — more than 10 times what White and Black had received before going public. The campaign page has been shared 9,600 times, and more than 11,000 people have donated.
In their comments on the GoFundMe page, donors have noted how moved and inspired they are by the resilience of Black and his grandmother, and by White’s generosity. Many share White’s religious fervor.
Some have picked up on the story’s racial coincidence:
“With all the racial problems were having between Police and African-Americans lately, could this be a sign from God for us to all get along[?]” wrote a donor who self-identified as “A G.” “Not only has God given this great kid a chance to prove himself, but to show his real power God picks a Black person named Black, and he picks a White person named White; what are the odds of that ever happening again?”
The success of the fundraising has led to some distress for Black and his grandmother. Barbara Black told the Commercial Appeal that previously estranged family members, including Chauncy’s birth mother, have reappeared in their lives to ask for money.
“We’ve had phone calls from them constantly saying, ‘Where y’all at? Send me some money,'” White told the Commercial Appeal. To avoid this unwanted attention, the family has been living in local hotels. In his most recent GoFundMe update, White wrote that he went to Black’s house with a police escort to pick up their belongings.
Despite these disturbances, Black and his grandmother are grateful for the financial boon. Soon, they may have a new house, with furniture donated by local businesses.
“God’s looking over Matt right now, saying, ‘This guy is a hero,'” Black said to the Commercial Appeal.