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Saturday night panhandler gets more than a hand-out

Two panhandlers worked the theatre crowd for about five minutes Saturday night before the curtain went up on the depression-era play, Annie, at Sunnyside High School.

Shaking a little jar, the two collected whatever change they could cajole out of the theatre-goers.

Some thought they were part of the act and gave accordingly, others marched by as if they didn't see them, and at least one reported them to the show's organizers, who disclaimed any knowledge of the two rather raggedy clad fellows.

This morning, the Reverend Ron Jetter 'fessed up.

"Yes, I was out there with another actor," said Jetter, who had the lead role of the affluent Daddy Warbucks.

When he stepped outside Saturday night he was coming straight from a scene called Hooverville in which he was dressed as a panhandler, complete with coffee grounds for an unshaven look.

"I guess we were convincing," said Jetter, when told that his dunning act outside had been reported.

He said he didn't pandhandle on a whim; he had a purpose.

"The play dealt with the theme of wealth and poverty and there were statistics quoted in the play that a third of all Americans had no visible means of support at that time. What did the people do, I wondered."

Jetter said he also was scheduled to preach at the Community Thanksgiving Service Sunday evening about how the community is helping the needy.

"I wanted to talk about how to give the poor dignity," said Jetter, who added that his five-minute experience as a panhandler Saturday night gave him insights he shared Sunday.

"There were people who recognized me, and put coins in my little jar," said Jetter. "But there were others who walked by and wouldn't look, and others who went out of their way not to pass us.

"It made me ask myself if I've also been one of those who make the poor invisible. It made me more aware of what I have to do in the future," said Jetter.

After Saturday's experience, Jetter said he came to a conclusion.

"We have to find a way to treat all people as the children of God they are and it should have nothing to do with how they look. We need to be willing to look people in the eye and say 'I know of a program or shelter to help you'. That (message) can be more important than giving them money."

. Frances Potts can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail FPotts@eaglenewspapers.com

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