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An Alabama farmer secretly helped strangers pay their pharmacy bills

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

For almost a decade, some residents in the tiny town of Geraldine, Ala., were having their pharmacy bills paid by a secret benefactor. They didn't know how or why.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

But in celebrating the life of a local farmer, the mystery has now been solved.

BROOKE WALKER: It was such a blessing to so many in the community.

KELLY: That is Brooke Walker, an owner at Geraldine Drugs. She told us about Hody Childress and the first time he handed her a $100 bill.

WALKER: He just came in the pharmacy one day, and that's when he asked me if anyone ever has trouble paying for their medications. And he handed me a bill, and he said, the next time that happens, will you use this? I don't want them to know who I am, and I don't want to know who they are, and just tell them that it's a blessing from the Lord. So I thought that was a one-time gift. And, of course, I was blown away.

But then he shows back up the next month with another bill folded up, and all he says is, you know what to do with that. This began a pattern of every month, he would come in, and he would give me a folded up $100 bill. I was honored that he thought, you know, I was the person for that job.

SHAPIRO: Walker says that fund grew and grew. It all remained a secret until late last year. Childress told his daughter about the donations after he had grown too sick to make his regular visits to the pharmacy.

KELLY: Childress died on New Year's Day, and word of his generosity began to spread through his family, then the whole community.

WALKER: And since then, we've had people come and say, oh, my goodness, I was a recipient of that money. And now they know who it was from.

Probably one of the greatest blessings I had in the pharmacy was a young mom that could not afford her medication. And so we were able to use the fund for that. But what blew me away is a few months later, she came back into the pharmacy, and she paid that money forward. And I know that Hody, he made a difference in her life. And I think that she's going to make a difference in many others' lives because he instilled that in her.

SHAPIRO: And he instilled that spirit in others. Walker says more donations have come into the pharmacy in recent weeks, inspired by Hody Childress. He was 80 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.