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KERO 23 Leadership Award:  Dr. Russell Travis

POSTED: 11:54 a.m. PDT April 19, 2003

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- In recent months we've told you about a fund-raising effort to help ease the problem of homelessness.

It's called "homeless quarters."

A California State University professor came up with this simple but effective way of making a difference in Kern County.

For the past several months, Dr. Russell Travis has been going door to door at local businesses, convincing more than 100 of them to display small plastic banks to help collect quarters for the homeless.

"If one quarter of the population of Kern County puts in one quarter a day for one year that comes out to $14,886,000," Travis estimated.

The professor says he's lectured on homelessness for years and he knows how many people are just one or two paychecks away from living on the streets.

He says he also knows how many can't get off the streets simply because they can't come up with a deposit. Those are the people and families he wants to help.

"Once you get past the myth that homeless people don't want homes, then you have to do something if you have a chance to," Travis said.

Travis says once word got out about his project, volunteers from all walks of life were willing to walk miles to help him get his banks into businesses.

"It's nice that the businesses offer to hold these banks and we know we're helping out people locally," said Marilyn Anchell, one of Travis' volunteers.

Volunteer Joan Diggs calls Travis a "visionary."

"He sees past the problems to the solutions and he's willing to take the risks to make it happen," Diggs said.

Travis, who says his volunteers will keep the effort going, eventually hopes to have 500 banks across Kern County.

"I'm looking forward to it being a huge success so we can make a dent in the homeless problem," Travis said.

For coming up with a creative way to provide living quarters for the homeless, Travis is this week's winner of the Kero 23 Leadership Award.

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