UNSUNG HERO: Greg Poole - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

UNSUNG HERO: Greg Poole

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BENTON -- In this week's Unsung Hero, a Franklin County man turns his love for Sports into a way to help his community. The Benton native said one of his childhood teachers taught him a lesson on giving that really hit home. Now, he's made it his mission to be there for others.

Greg Poole has been a sports fanatic his entire life.

"I played baseball, basketball. In high school, I played football. I ran track," said Greg.

The self-proclaimed "autograph hog" has been collecting memorabilia since he was a kid, starting with baseball cards. Greg now has basketball's, jersey's, pictures, and much more, all signed by athletes and coaches.

"It's been a lot of late nights scouring the internet. It's a lot of phone calls made. A lot of letters written so it does take a while but it is a labor of love. There's nothing else I'd rather do," said Greg.  

Over the years his collection has turned into a way to give back to his community. About 15-years-ago the coal miner and his wife, a Benton High School teacher, started the Can's Can program. The program allowed the couple to collect recyclables and use the proceeds to help teachers in need of school supplies or items for students.

"I had a really good teacher in high school that pushed us to do Meals on Wheels at lunch and we get exposed to things. My wife and I, we realized that there are more and more needs out there."  

For 12 years he's been selling from his personal collection of sports items, using 100 percent of proceeds to fill a nee His booth is set up at the County Seat Antique Mall on the Benton Square.

"You just can't be out in southern Illinois and not see people in need," said Greg.   
    
He also uses his personal Facebook page to advertise items and what's needed.

"It's really easy to bury your head in the sand or change the channel when you see something that might not really be a pleasant site. So really just expose yourself to the needs, don't hide from them."   
    
He used the money to help the Benton food pantry, buy toiletries for an assisted living facility, area teachers and students, the Shriners, and many other causes. Now, he's working on a project for Christmas.

"When you do something you love you find time for it and we love doing it."  
    
Greg takes his three-year-old daughter, Emy, with him to teach her the importance of giving and being kind to others. Emy loves it.

"You don't have to really step out of your comfort zone to find ways to help people. I mean we do what we do with baseball cards and when my mom was picking them off my bedroom floor and yelling at me, I'm sure she never thought that this was the direction it was going to."  

Greg and his wife tried to stay anonymous but more than one person contacted News 3 wanting to highlight all he does. 

Greg is also working on getting enough money to purchase Chromebooks for local classrooms. If you want to donate any sports items to his booth it is open every day till 5 p-m.  The store is open Monday through Saturday starting at 10 a.m. and opens on Sundays at 1 p.m. You can also contact Greg here

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