Man spends $4 million on minor miracles

LAKE GENEVA, Wis. - "We have to love one another and take care of each other," Sal Dimiceli says. "That's what it's about."

Dimiceli pours over the dozens of letters asking for help every week. CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman reports the letters are from poor people in need of minor miracles, mostly - like getting their furnace fixed. Or maybe it's a utility bill that needs to be paid to get the gas turned back on.

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Dimiceli makes it happen, using donations and a lot of his own money. He then recounts the stories in a local newspaper column he writes called "The Time is Now to Help."

Learn how to help at Dimiceli's website

His latest tip brought him to a should-be-torn-down trailer. "I thought there can't be people living in here," Dimiceli says. "And all of a sudden I heard little children inside - and my heart just sunk."

There were six children inside, and as we learned, each more adorable than the next. They belong to Henny Acup and her boyfriend, Tim. He works as a roofer but doesn't make much. The only heat they get is from the electric stove. Yet Acup said she didn't write a letter. Somebody else must have.

Acup said she never realized that she was like those people in the articles. "Not really. I feel lucky. I feel like just having my family they're all loving and caring."

That's all the more reason for Dimicili to want to help. But his main motivation for doing so is much more personal. Dimicili remembers things being tough economically when he was a young boy. "I remember being evicted," Dimicili recalls. "Evictions. We were like gypsies."

Poverty chased his family to every new address. "I made a promise to God that I would never forget these roots."

Eventually Dimicili would own a real estate company and become a multi-millionaire. His bookkeeper and wife, Corrinne, says Dimicili has given away pretty much their entire life savings: $4 million and counting.

Corrinne worries sometimes, "But there's no convincing him."

"It feels so good," Dimiceli says about helping people. "It's contagious - you want to do it again and again."

Over the last 20 years Dimiceli has helped about 20,000 people. Now, he's helped Henny Acup and her boyfriend Tim get into a new, completely furnished apartment.

Who knows how much longer he can afford to keep doing this - he doesn't know.

If hugs were dollars, it wouldn't be an issue. Or If only there were more people like Dimiceli in the world - there wouldn't be the need.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.