Gene Epstein, an eccentric Pennsylvania philanthropist who has pledged to donate $1,000 to charity for every time a small business hires an unemployed worker for the good of the economy, says 80 businesses have told him they'll make a hire.
Now Epstein is taking out full-page ads in local papers to keep the momentum going for his "Hire Just One" campaign, which he launched in September.
"There's so many things going on and I don't want the momentum to stop," Epstein, 71, told HuffPost. "This is changing people's lives. This isn't something I'm doing that I'm gonna benefit from. It's bringing me nothing but incredibly great feelings and at the same time, at two, three in the morning I'm up wondering, 'How can we improve this?' My wife said, 'When are you gonna stop?'"
Epstein is relentless. He started a website, www.hirejustone.org, to promote his scheme. He sends dozens of emails every day and seems to have a dozen different email accounts. He's looking for volunteers to drive a van plastered with the 'Hire Just One' logo. He saw Gov. Ed Rendell on CNBC and immediately sent an email asking Rendell to endorse the plan -- an aide patiently responded that there was no way to reach the governor while he was still on TV.
Epstein said his lifelong motivation has been his brush with near-poverty after his father died when he was a little boy. "That made a hell of an impression on an 11-year-old kid," said Epstein, who likes to tell the story of how he and his mother opened a candy store to save their home from foreclosure. "I just can't stop."
A sales rep with the Bucks County Courier Times confirmed that Epstein's taken out ads in three papers that go to 137,000 homes in the Delaware Valley (Click HERE to see it!)
"Hire just one person," the ad says, in humongous letters. "Watch our economy turn around."
In smaller letters: "Small businesses have always been the driving force behind the American economy. If we're to bring our economy back, our small businesses need to start hiring again. Hire Just One is encouraging every profitable small business to hire just one new employee from the unemployment ranks. If just 10% of the 5.7 million small businesses in the U.S. hired just one employee, 570,000 people would rejoin the workforce. As they begin to spend again, more businesses will begin to hire."
Here's the Epstein Incentive: For the first 250 small businesses who hire an unemployed worker and keep that person for six months, Epstein will donate $1,000 to a charity of the business's choosing. Two small business owners right at the outset told HuffPost that they would make a hire.
Epstein also recently pledged $10,000 to a "No Pay-Copay" fund for cancer patients.
HuffPost readers: Own a small business? Inspired by Gene's idea? Tell us about it -- email firstname.lastname@example.org.