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Generosity keeps a low profile

A light rain was falling when I walked into the Grand Ballroom entrance of the Salt Palace Convention Center.

At the request of friends, we had been invited to a banquet. I wasn't sure for what.

An organization called the Humanitarian Resource Center of North America was the host. I had personally never heard of HRC, but it was soon obvious that the more than 500 people filling the ballroom were much better educated than I was.

They knew that HRC is a charitable organization started here in Salt Lake City by Kelly Farmer and Robert Haltom four years ago on one simple premise: that one person's garbage can be another person's salvation.

Each year, millions and millions of dollars' worth of medical supplies and equipment is rendered obsolete or damaged and earmarked to be tossed in the Dumpster. HRC is the charity that steps in, like your mother, and shouts, "Don't throw that away!"

Instead, it redistributes medical equipment and supplies around the world to places down on their luck — and some places that have never had any luck.

Friday night was "Humanitarian Ball 2001," and its purpose was to raise money — the goal was $400,000 — to further the cause.

It is HRC's pledge that for every $1 they take in as donation, they can create $25 to $30 worth of non-cash humanitarian aid.

From what I could tell, HRC's goal was well on its way to being met Friday night. Every table in the great hall was filled, sponsored by dozens of Salt Lake's charity-minded businesses; and in the next room, a silent auction for everything you can and can't think of — including an autographed photo of Dale Earnhardt and a soccer ball signed by the 1999 U.S. women's World Cup team — was fetching more needed funds.

The real draw was the awarding of the organization's "Globous Awards."

These awards are given to people and organizations "demonstrating extraordinary commitment, leadership and continuous service toward humanity."

This year's recipients were the George S. and Dolores Eccles Foundation in the Outstanding Partner Division; Pamela Atkinson, director of mission services for Intermountain Health Care, in the Community Service Division; and President Thomas S. Monson, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the International Service Division.

If you want to see somebody squirm, give them an award for providing humanitarian service.

It's a classic Catch-22: True service means you don't want any credit.

The Eccles Foundation laid low, asking the trophy to be sent to a P.O. box.

But what could Atkinson and President Monson do? It was for a good cause, so they took one for the team and showed up in a glittery dress and tuxedo, respectively, gave gracious acceptance speeches, accepted their heavy trophies and hurried back to blend in with a crowd of their peers — people who were collectively emptying their pockets of (hopefully) $400,000.

There was a good mood in the Grand Ballroom at the Salt Palace Convention Center Friday night. You could sense that nobody needed to be there. Indeed, some may have preferred to be somewhere else. But the charity was real, and the need was great.

Just a lot of generous people being generous.

Saturday morning, I looked in both Salt Lake newspapers to read all about it. But there was no publicity, no coverage at all of the event.

Good news travels slowly.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to and faxes to 801-237-2527.