Diverse Power's Anthony Talley has always been a helper at heart.
As a youngster in rural Georgia, Talley was quick to help his elderly neighbors with yardwork. And then there was Norse Burton, a father figure whom Talley visited every morning at a nursing home for four years before going to his job as a building and ground maintenance worker at the electric cooperative based in LaGrange, Georgia.
Now there's $1 Thursdays, Talley's Facebook-based fundraiser that has raised about $20,000 for local residents in need since he started it in 2017. The largest one brought in $8,000 for a man who lost his wife and children in a house fire. Another netted about $2,200 for a barber with COVID-19.
Proceeds stay local, benefiting five towns in west-central Georgia. But recognition for Talley's acts of kindness have gone beyond LaGrange. In September, Talley appeared on ABC's “America Strong” and “Good Morning America.”
“I'm not sending your money across the country,” Talley says in the ABC segment. “It's right in our hometown. If I put my name on something, I will see it through, no matter how it goes.”
How It Started
While the fundraisers have helped dozens of struggling LaGrange residents, they've also been an emotional and spiritual lifeline for Talley during his own dark times, including his wife LaTasha's two miscarriages in 2005 and 2010, the temporary breakup of his marriage and near-homelessness.
“What I took away from all the hardships is that God took me through all that to build me up for something better,” he says.
In 2017, Talley ran into a high school friend beset by hard times. That night, while he was sleeping, Talley says a voice came to him in his sleep and whispered, “$1 Thursdays.”
The next day, a Thursday, he posted on his Facebook page about his friend and asked for $1 donations. He set up a Cash App account to accept funds for her.
“Probably 20 minutes later, the chime went off,” a $2 donation, Talley says. “Before I knew it, I raised $120, which doesn't seem like a lot, but to someone who's struggling, it's everything.”
Talley used the money to buy his friend groceries, fill her car with gas and put the rest on a gift card to “spend in any way she saw fit.”
“And that,” he says, “was the beginning of $1 Thursdays.”
How It Works
Each week Talley will go through the many emails and messages he receives from and about people in need. Then he goes live on Facebook twice: on Wednesdays to tell the story of the person or cause he's spotlighting and to ask for donations the following day; then on Sundays to report that week's results to his followers, currently just shy of 5,000.
“I talk about what my plans are for the week, and then I'm live again on Sunday, the day of the blessings,” he says. “People want to see how much is raised.”
He says gift totals are usually between $150 and $300.
He's only missed one week since he started, and that time he donated his own money.
Talley doesn't ask for proof of need. Sometimes he'll reach into his own pocket to boost donations during slow weeks. For a $1 Thursday last October, he rounded out the week's proceeds with action figures and puzzles for a boy with Down syndrome.
“Mr. Anthony wanted to bless him with some items to help with further developing his fine motor skills,” wrote the boy's mother on Facebook. “What a blessing he's been to Asher! The world needs more people like Anthony!”
Given the magnitude of Talley's generosity, do people ever try to take advantage of him?
Sometimes, says LaTasha, who will occasionally give Anthony a gut check on whether someone's request seems legit.
“But I would never tell him to stop,” she says. “That's just the type of person he is. $1 Thursdays are his life's purpose. He's amazing.”
Ken Pope, a longtime co-op colleague, says for all of Talley's humbleness and sincerity, “he's pretty wise and reads people well.”
Talley says his story shows that we're all capable of small acts of kindness, no matter our circumstances.
“It's really easy to be bitter," he says. “But as we go through life, we're all going to have our hardships. We can focus on the bad moments, or we can focus on the good. But you will see real quick that there's really a lot more good than bad.”
He says his passion is fueled by the gratitude of the beneficiaries of his work.
The man with COVID, for instance, sadly died late last year. But before he passed, he asked Talley to give a personal reflection at the service.
“That,” Talley says, “was an honor.”