Remembering George T. McDonald, Founder and President of The Doe Fund for 35 Years
In the 1980s, George walked away from his lucrative career as a garment industry executive to dedicate his life to ending homelessness. He moved into a tiny Single Room Occupancy unit and took a minimum wage mailroom job to walk a mile in the shoes of New York City’s working poor. At the same time, he served sandwiches to the homeless people living in Grand Central Terminal for 700 consecutive nights; while they appreciated the food, George knew what they really needed was a room and a job to pay for it.
On Christmas morning 1985, George experienced a tragic loss: the death of a homeless woman he befriended—known only as “Mama” by those living in Grand Central Terminal—of pneumonia after being evicted by transit police into freezing temperatures the night before. George realized that merely providing clothing and food would never create real change. It was in Mama’s memory that George founded The Doe Fund, named for the pseudonym authorities use on the death certificate of an unknown person.
In 1988, George delivered the eulogy of April Savino, a homeless woman who died by suicide. Speaking on behalf of homeless people was a duty he met with increasing frequency, and he would go on to anonymously pay for the funeral arrangements of homeless people for the rest of his life.
It was at April’s funeral where George met Harriet Karr, a writer equally committed to social and economic justice. Harriet was moved by the passion of George’s eulogy, while George was captivated by Harriet’s empathy. Six months later, they married and devoted themselves to a lifetime of service. Together, they created Ready, Willing & Able.
Designed to provide economic opportunity to homeless and formerly incarcerated men, Ready, Willing & Able has helped more than 28,000 individuals transform their lives for over 30 years. George leaves behind an incredible legacy, one that The Doe Fund will continue for generations to come.