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  Secret Millionaire Comes from Richmond VA to Save Richmond CA
August 19, 2013

There were a lot of Facebook comments following last night’s airing of Secret Millionaire on ABC Channel 7. If you missed it, the short version is that a millionaire from Richmond, VA (Debbie Johnston) spent a week in Richmond, CA,  volunteering at three local charitable organizations (Fellowship International, NIAD and Self-Sustaining Communities) and then revealed her true identity, handing out a total of $150,000 in donations to the three.

See http://allieiswired.com/archives/2013/08/secret-millionaire-season-4-episode-3-debbie-johnston-richmond-ca-recap/ for a synopsis.

These are three great organizations that were showcased, and both the donations and publicity for them and their programs were welcome.

We all know that Richmond, CA has a lot of challenges, and we all work every day to make things better. For the sake of drama, the show made Richmond look like the worst place on earth. If that’s what we have to endure to score a $150,000 contribution for local charities, then maybe it’s worth it.

But it’s hypocritical and cynical. The plot made it look like Ms. Johnston came from paradise to hell to do good. There was repeated discussion of homicides and fears in Richmond. They chose the most foreboding streetscapes  they could find for Ms. Johnston’s strolling commentary.

In fact, Ms. Johnston’s home town of Richmond, VA is more dangerous than Richmond, CA. In 2012, the Richmond, CA homicide rate was 17.1 per 100,000, while Richmond, VA was 20.4. In 2009, New Orleans and Richmond, VA had the highest murder rates in the country. In 2012, Richmond, VA was the 5th “emptiest city in the U.S.” with a rental vacancy rate of 15.1 percent, Virginia's capital ranks fourth among all major U.S. cities for empty rentals over the past year, with the first quarter of 2012 showing a 19 percent rental vacancy rate. And I could go on. Richmond, VA outstrips Richmond, CA in most negative statistics.

Didn’t someone say, “charity begins at home?”

Next time, ABC, just send us a check and skip the denigration.