A homeless U.S. Army veteran witnessed a miracle on Monday: a millionaire traveling 1,000 miles to hand him the keys to a new car.
For Michigan businessman Bill Pulte, it was just another day at the office.
‘I’m trying to inspire the average American,’ he told DailyMailTV in New Orleans, explaining why he flew in from Detroit to make sure Horace Scott has a reliable set of wheels to get to his two jobs.
Scott, 59, served in the U.S. Army from 1979 to 1982 and is struggling to save enough money to move into his own apartment. Gretchen Smith, an Air Force veteran who founded a nonprofit called Code of Vets, found him in a transitional housing shelter and put him on Pulte’s radar.
Standing in a Post Office parking lot across the street from a car dealership – brought there by a retired colonel on a pretext, surprise-party-style – the unexpected generosity left Scott speechless.
‘Get outta here! Oh, man. What? Oh, man, I’m ecstatic!’ he said. ‘I don’t have words right now. This is heaven-sent.’
Pulte says he’s trying to change the way people think about charity, moving its center of gravity away from lumbering-dinosaur institutions and directly into people’s laptops and smartphones – all at the speed of Twitter.
Homeless veteran Horace Scott got the surprise of a lifetime Monday in New Orleans: a new car, courtesy of a Michigan millionaire who is trying to shake up the charity world by showing it’s possible to conduct philanthropy on Twitter
Bill Pulte has given away more than $100,000 this summer, almost entirely through tweeting and running Periscope videos on the platform; he expects that number to grow to $1 million but his real goal is to inspire others to follow his lead
‘This is one of the best days of my life!’ Pulte handed Scott the keys to a new Chevy Trax in the parking lot of a Post Office near the car dealership, so he wouldn’t know what was about to happen
Horace Scott drove to work in his own car this week, one step closer to saving enough for his own apartment; Pulte and his Twitter army bought the Chevy Trax, valued at about $20,000
Pulte hopes to persuade Kylie Jenner, the 22-year-old who leaped from reality TV star to billionaire businesswoman, to introduce the Twitter philanthropy concept to the masses
His philanthropic resume is growing fast. The 31-year-old has expanded his Twitter audience from a handful to nearly a half-million in the past two months by giving away money in amounts ranging from $5 to $10,000 – sometimes completely at random, but mostly determined by the wisdom of the crowd.
Pulte has bought needy Americans groceries and air conditioners, paid for veterans’ dentures and heating bills, covered funeral costs and funded the rehabilitation and education of an African orphan through the Family Legacy project.
And he has convinced hundreds of people to look at the classroom supply wish-lists of a growing number of teachers, and buy everything on them.
‘Anyone wanna help this teacher with school supplies? Here’s her Amazon wish list,’ Pulte tweeted last Friday along with a heart emoji, pointing to a list of items a North Carolina kindergarten teacher hoped her friends and family would fund.
Nine minutes later everything was paid for.
Rachael Galati, a first-grade teacher in southwestern Ohio, tweeted a photo of more than 20 Amazon.com boxes on her front porch – stacked taller than she is – and called the surprise ‘better than Christmas.’
‘I didn’t think that that was even possible,’ Galati said in a video message. ‘My heart is so full. I honestly want to cry right now and I can’t stop grinning.’
Pulte says he will soon give away a Tesla electric car and a Bitcoin worth more than $11,000.
A joyful Scott hugged Pulte in New Orleans on Monday; he works two jobs and lives in transitional housing for homeless veterans while he saves money for an apartment
Scott filled out paperwork at Banner Chevrolet in New Orleans, but walked away owing nothing
Scott served in the U.S. Army from 1979 to 1982, laying cables for communications between military units; he later fell on hard times and lost everything – including the only photographs of him in uniform
Gretchen Smith (right), an Air Force veteran who founded a nonprofit called Code of Vets, found Horace Scott in a housing shelter and put him on Bill Pulte’s (left) radar; the pair said strangers approached Pulte on Monday in a New Orleans Chipotle restaurant and offered him money to give to Scott for the gas tank he would soon need to fill
So far he has committed more than $100,000 from his own pockets to retail-level acts of charity that defy the traditional model of centralized organizations collecting and distributing cash.
‘I am taking out the middle man and giving the money directly to the people. No more fancy dinners and all that overhead. Give the money right to the cause!’ he tweeted in July.
His sales pitches keep coming.
‘Imagine a service where you could find people most in need, and help them directly. Now make it free,’ he wrote last week.
‘Now realize that’s what Twitter can be. Manage your feed appropriately and you have a more powerful resource to help people than many of our nation’s charities.’
‘Decentralize philanthropy,’ he urged on Monday, just a few hours before he handed Scott his keys.
Pulte predicted that when his Twitter audience – he calls them ‘teammates’ – hits the 1 million mark, he will have sunk $1 million into his crusade.
Pulte, 31, is the grandson of a home building entrepreneur but has made his money by incubating new companies and investing the profits
Monday’s giveaway happened because President Donald Trump retweeted Pulte’s pledge to donate cars to a pair of veterans; the other recipient got his car last week in Michigan
Trump has made caring for former servicemen and women a major plank in his presidential and re-election platforms; Pulte said he wasn’t surprised Trump responded online
Scott said he had a message for the president: ‘Commanding officer, I want to thank you, sir, for honoring all vets. We really appreciate you.’
Scott’s car, and another like it that went to a Michigan veteran last week, were the results of Donald Trump’s Twitter addiction. The president saw Pulte’s pledge to donate the vehicles if the he retweeted him, and he did barely two hours later.
‘Thank you Bill, say hello to our GREAT VETERANS!’ Trump wrote.
Pulte is carefully nonpartisan, but he wasn’t surprised.
‘He tends to think outside of the box,’ he said of Trump. ‘Bringing philanthropy online is an outside of the box idea. With one tweet he punched a hole in the reality of philanthropy.’
Sitting in his new car, Scott said he had a message for the president: ‘Commanding officer, I want to thank you, sir, for honoring all vets. We really appreciate you.’
Pulte said Monday that other wealthy people, including some billionaires, will soon put their own money on the table to change the way Americans think about giving.
He also hopes to persuade Kylie Jenner, the 22-year-old who leaped from reality TV star to billionaire businesswoman, to introduce the Twitter philanthropy concept to the masses.
Pulte has found ways to mobilize his nearly 500,000 Twitter ‘teammates,’ including organizing them to buy everything on classroom ‘wish lists’ that teachers post on Amazon.com; this appeal cleared out a teacher’s list in just nine minutes
The move to help teachers with needed materials before the school year starts has caught fire on Twitter under the hashtag #ClearTheLists; Pulte says it’s a great example of the kind of generosity he wants to remind ordinary Americans to practice
Rachael Galati, a first-grade teacher in southwestern Ohio, tweeted a photo of more than 20 Amazon.com boxes on her front porch – stacked taller than she is – and called the surprise ‘better than Christmas’; Pulte’s Twitter audience bought everything for her and her students
‘If we can get somebody of that generation – we really have Americans’ attention now, and we just need to push it a little bit further,’ he said.
Asked to deliver an ‘elevator pitch’ to Jenner, he stared down the barrel of a DailyMailTV camera and made his case.
Bill Pulte sponsored the living, medical and education costs for Esther, an orphaned girl in Zambia, through the Family Legacy project; he says the whole world, not just America, can benefit from Twitter philanthropy
‘Kylie, you have a huge platform,’ he said. ‘You can inspire, with the click of a button, people to be able to give millions of dollars away all across the world. Please join Twitter philanthropy and help us spread love, kindness and generosity. It’s a movement. We’d love to have you.’
His famous allies already include boxer Manny Pacquiao and ‘Dilbert’ cartoonist Scott Adams, who relays to his own audience nearly every development in the Pulte saga.
But whether or not Hollywood jumps on his moving train, he said his larger mission is to nudge ‘average Americans who just want to help out others.’
‘I’d like to give away millions and millions of dollars, but I’m just one person,’ he explained. ‘So I’m like a drop in the bucket. But if I could inspire hundreds of thousands of people to give, that’s when it becomes really interesting.’
More than 600 people, all of them new converts to Pulte’s cause, chipped in small amounts of money to help pay for Horace Scott’s car.
Pulte spells out his philosophy: making charitable giving a more personal experience by taking it out of the hands of impersonal institutions and helping small donors make connections with people who need help
‘Dilbert’ cartoonist Scott Adams is among Pulte’s loudest cheerleaders, saying he has stimulated ‘some part of what humans really require to have meaning in their life’
‘Everybody can be a philanthropist with social media. … Everybody can give,’ he said. ‘It’s not reserved for the elites, for the wealthy class. Average people can give to other people now with technology.’
Pulte encourages his followers to retweet his near-daily pledges to fund needy Americans, and to publicly post their own usernames from Square, Inc.’s Cash App.
Then the fun starts. He makes student loan payments, helps teachers pay for their licensing credentials, covers veterans’ utility bills and walks the streets giving $100 at a time to homeless people.
And people on Twitter follow his lead – including some who replicate his giving and tell their own followers, and some who would rather pass his money on than keep it.
‘When I give one hundred people $100, it’s amazing how many people want to give it to other people,’ Pulte said.
Scott Adams, a quiet intellectual who made his fortune drawing a comic strip about the frustrations of office-cubicle life, said in a phone interview that he’s fascinated by the potential of social media alms-giving on a micro scale.
DailyMail.com U.S. Political Editor David Martosko traveled to New Orleans to meet Pulte and Scott and record a moment that changed a man’s life
Random act of kindness: On his @pulte Twitter feed, the 31-year-old Michigan businessman regularly drops money into people’s Cash App accounts for a variety of reasons
Pulte’s upcoming giveaways include a bitcoin and a Tesla automobile
‘Nobody knows’ whether Pulte is changing the world or buying expensive entertainment, he said, ‘but it doesn’t matter because if you try a lot of good stuff, some of it will work. Some of it will stick.’
And he said what gives this summer’s online generosity experiment its sticking-power is the personal connections it enables among people who have lost the human touch behind flat screens and keyboards.
‘We have this big old, cold world where we talk to people on the Internet, and we’re all insulting each other and calling everybody a racist, and you get so disconnected with your technology,’ Adams said. ‘You’re just so disconnected from people.’
‘And then Bill comes along, and he says, “I’m going to connect you to a person, and you’re going to watch them cry when we help them.” He’s taking it down to the tear level.’
‘You can tell from the comments on Twitter that people are touched,’ he said. ‘You can tell that some part of what humans really require to have meaning in their life is being stimulated by this.’
Pulte’s brand of raw, unfiltered kindness is ‘connecting people to the recipient, which is important,’ Adams added. ‘And it’s just sort of waking people up. If you can help, you know, why not? Usually it doesn’t take much more than just a few dollars.’