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CINCINNATI THANKS WYCHE FOR CHARITY WORK

Sam Wyche, already on the job as coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, bought a house there Thursday, hastening his final departure from Cincinnati.

But on Friday, which Mayor Dwight Tillery proclaimed "Sam Wyche Day," friends gathered in an inner-city park to thank Wyche for his charity work during the eight years he was coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.Helen Francis, assistant director of the FreeStore-FoodBank, said Wyche donated time and money generously, and inspired others to do so.

"People trusted Sam," she said. "People who really wanted to help with hunger and homelessness contributed to him because he was integrity.

"When he worked for these things, Sam was here for the people, not Sam's image. His care was genuine and absolute."

She gave Wyche a scrapbook of letters written by fellow volunteers and heads of relief agencies.

"When you get down South, if you wonder who loves you, it's right in here," she said.

"I will read every one of them," said Wyche. "Going to Tampa is tough because we have to leave our dear friends here. . . . This is the part of it that yanks you."

Last year, when the Bengals were 3-13 and Wyche was under fire, he asked grocery stores to set up barrels and let customers vote whether to "can the coach" by putting canned goods in "keep Sam" or "dump Sam" barrels, with the food going to the needy.

"Our citizens are willing to contribute when they feel they can trust the hand that's receiving that money and are certain that hand is going to get it to the poor people," she said. "He was a good hand."

Wyche, who often spent Sunday mornings with inner-city youths, said the charities he championed and helped support will go on without him.

"It will continue - maybe in a different way, with different faces - but it will continue," he said.