Anonymous Donor Pays Overdue Water Bills for Struggling Residents of Entire Town

BY Louise Chambers TIMEJuly 31, 2020 PRINT

For hundreds of Harrison, Arkansas, residents, a huge burden was lifted when their overdue water bills were settled by an anonymous donor, sparing them from disconnection amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A benevolent member of the community, who wanted to remain anonymous, contacted Mayor Jerry Jackson offering a donation of $15,000 to cover all outstanding water bills.

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Luke Feighert, the city’s chief financial officer, had announced to the Harrison City Council that water customers would not be cut off for non-payment in April 2020. The decision was made with respect to the financial difficulties that many residents are facing during the pandemic, reported the Harrison Daily Times.

However, water customers were advised in June and again in early July that disconnections for non-payment would resume in the week beginning July 27. Feighert estimated that as many as 500 water customers may have faced disconnection, with collective arrears adding up to between $10,000 and $20,000.

Jackson confirmed that the anonymous donor’s gift was likely to cover all outstanding payments and that Water Department employees would be contacting vulnerable customers to inform them that their bills had been settled.

The mayor added that anybody who wished to show their appreciation to the anonymous donor would be welcome to leave cards at City Hall, where they would be forwarded.

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During these trying times, many kindhearted people are coming forward to help those in need. A couple of similar random acts of kindness also happened in the past few months. For instance, in April 2020, a group of anonymous donors lifted the burden for roughly 4,000 residents of an Indianapolis, Indiana, suburb by covering their water and sewer bills for the month.

The town of Fortville officials made the announcement on Facebook, saying: “The town has received a gracious donation with the stipulation that it be used to pay for April water/sewer bills. If you have already paid your April bill, you will see a credit on the May billing.”

An additional message from the donors read: “This gift was made by local businesses as an encouragement that we all might look out for one another, find the needs of our neighbors, neighborhoods, and do our part in helping them through this uncertain and unprecedented difficult time … and the good times that will soon follow. Thank you and God bless our people and our nation.”

According to a report by Indy Star, Fortville town manager Joe Renner said that the group donation exceeded $210,000. Some individual water bill arrears were as high as $100. “I thought that was pretty great for a town that’s no bigger than what Fortville is, to have such caring people,” Renner said in the report.

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Weeks later, on May 22, an anonymous couple donated their government stimulus checks to pay the overdue water bills for 41 people in the small Kansas town of Abilene. Julie Roller Weeks of the Abilene Convention & Visitor’s Bureau told CBS 19 that the couple donated $2,000.

“The act of kindness is something very positive that has come from something very unsettling in this pandemic,” Weeks said. “This kind gesture of Paying it Forward for those who may be struggling right now is something this staff has never seen happen in this magnitude before.”

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Louise Chambers is a writer, born and raised in London, England. She covers inspiring news and human interest stories.
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