As I got on to Memorial Circle yesterday I saw a man holding a sign. Not unusual at all. What WAS out of the ordinary, however, is this sign wasn't looking for a handout of money. Instead, it encouraged people to give to the Salvation Army and local food banks!

Also, the man holding the sign was neither grungy looking nor was he smoking a cigarette, both of which are the norm for people on the rotary. I knew this guy's sign was a juxtaposition to the regulars' signs and I nearly took my hands off the wheel to applaud him. Good thing I didn't. It was Bob Gregoire, the Augusta Chief of Police.

I spoke with Chief Gregoire this morning and asked him why he decided to do this? I told him I'd heard stories about these guys using the money from well meaning people to buy booze and drugs.

"I know that happens," he told me, "but I can't say they all do it. Even if they use it for food, they're going to spend five bucks to go buy a sandwich. If you give that same 5 bucks to a food pantry, they'll be able to buy several meals with it."

Kudos to Chief Gregoire. I love that we have a proactive chief who is not afraid to go out and do something that, in my mind, needed to be done! This is public education 101, in my book. Go ahead and give...but give to groups who'll use it to do good...not individuals who will use it to do who knows what. These people CAN get help from the local pantries run by churches or organizations. Not to mention, they're a danger on the rotaries where drivers need to be paying close attention to driving!

Feed the problem and it will stay. Stop, and the panhandlers will go away. Take the chief's sage advice. Give to the Salvation Army or another organization that can help many get what they need, not a few get what they want.