Jefferson Award winner Gail Burns says growing up poor gave her - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Jefferson Award winner Gail Burns says growing up poor gave her more compassion

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La Crosse, WI (WXOW) -

Gail Burns says her front porch is her little piece of heaven because it's here that she creates unique little blessings for people in the community.

"I love people and I don't like see anybody hurting," said Gail.

Gail knows a thing or two about feeling alone. Ten years ago she almost ended her own life. Gail overdosed on prescription medication because the pain was just too much. Knowing what it feels like to be down is perhaps Gail's biggest blessing because she is able to use that to connect with the poor and homeless.

"Whatever their circumstances are I'm not gonna judge them," said Gail.

Gail volunteers at Harvest Lane Treasures, a thrift store that sells second hand items but mostly gives free clothing to the poor. She also makes walking sticks for people who need a little extra support. 

"I had taken a bunch of nail polish that I hadn't used and I had taken it to the Warming Center. Those women just had a ball," said Gail.

Gail has a group of people she sends cards to every week.  She says she does that to remind them that someone cares.  She also makes crafts for them to hang in their home, sometimes they have a simple word like welcome or courage...depending on their situation.

"My goal in life is just help somebody so they don't have to feel all alone in the world," said Gail.

Gail credits growing up during the Depression for helping her keep things in perspective.

"To be a kid growing up back in that time and to have people telling you you're street trash. I've always thought, well not anymore but I use to always think that everybody was better than me," said Gail.

And while Gail's gestures might be small she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for her volunteerism from the Obama Administration.

"I get such pleasure from it to know that I'm able to do a little bit in somebody's life," said Gail.

LEARN MORE: Jefferson Awards

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