Gene DeSantis is a private man. He has no phone or email, and even the friends in his life know little about his habits or past. He keeps to himself, a rarity in a time when social life is about expansion above all else.
But that’s not to say he doesn’t make huge ripples.
“I keep a busy schedule,” says DeSantis, and that schedule is almost entirely devoted to helping others.
He runs errands and completes menial tasks for his elderly neighbors. He cooks, bakes, and packages food for the homeless. Basically, he volunteers wherever volunteers are called for in his corner of Baltimore, Maryland. Without a car, he walks miles a day to keep up his volunteer regimen, which includes donating blood as well.
DeSantis isn’t a wealthy man, and can’t cut a check for these causes he obviously feels called to support. But he has time, and spends his hours freely on behalf of others.
Atop of his work feeding the dispaced, on Saturdays DeSantis plants trees for the Flowering Tree Trails, a friend’s nonprofit reforesting project.
“I’ve never gotten a penny for any tree I’ve ever planted,” he says proudly. “It’s all volunteer. But everywhere you look, you see my trees. I like to take walks and look at them. Some have died. But, most have thrived and matured.”
“Gene comes in almost every afternoon and works through the evening serving food and washing up,” says Chuck Buettner, director of the Rescue Mission where DeSantis cooks, serves, and cleans for their soup kitchen service. “He’s forever going around asking people how he can help.” Hopefully, some of the lives he touches there thrive from his efforts as well.
By DeSantis’s account, he’s donated over 300 pints of blood, planted over 15,000 trees, and fed countless hungry mouths. He’s hazy about his own age, but he knows those facts about himself. Gene DeSantis: the philanthropist.