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Woman who slept 19 days in car gives Charlotte charity $12,000

Debra Harvey ate, slept and changed clothes in her Chevy Tahoe for 19 days before Charlotte’s Hospitality House learned of her plight and offered the disabled retiree temporary food and shelter at no cost. In this Observer file photo, Harvey is shown helping out at the charity in October 2012 during her stay.
Debra Harvey ate, slept and changed clothes in her Chevy Tahoe for 19 days before Charlotte’s Hospitality House learned of her plight and offered the disabled retiree temporary food and shelter at no cost. In this Observer file photo, Harvey is shown helping out at the charity in October 2012 during her stay. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Debra Harvey ate, slept and changed clothes in her Chevy Tahoe for 19 days before Charlotte’s Hospitality House learned of her plight and offered the disabled retiree temporary food and shelter at no cost.

Harvey, who is from the Waxhaw area, stayed at the house for nearly six months during 2012-13, while comforting a younger sister who was in critical condition at nearby Carolinas Medical Center.

On her last day at Hospitality House, Harvey vowed to repay the kindness.

That day came this month when 59-year-old Harvey presented the charity with a check for $12,000 – most of the money she received after settling her late sister’s estate.

Hospitality House Executive Director Carrie Howell said the donation left her speechless.

“Ms. Harvey lives on a fixed income and could have used this money,” Howell said. “People leave here all the time and say they’ll remember what we did for them and pay us back, but time passes, and they don’t remember. And that’s fine. But she kept her word. It’s fabulous.”

Hospitality House, with a budget of $640,000, is a nonprofit that offers meals and temporary housing for low-income travelers who must stay in Charlotte while a relative is receiving treatment at a local hospital. The agency averages 4,500 guests a year and maintains a waiting list of 10 to 15 people.

A $40 fee is asked of the guests, but a community fund covers that cost for guests such as Harvey. Her $12,000 donation will cover the cost of 600 people staying one night in the house, Howell said.

Harvey says she and her late sister, Lisa Cline, discussed the donation on multiple occasions during Harvey’s visits to the hospital. Cline, 56, died in July of a massive intestinal infection. Along with the gift to Hospitality House, Cline also asked Harvey to give $1,800 to the Stanly County Humane Society.

“My sister went through 19 operations, and several times she was close to death. When she died, she weighed just 68 pounds. Hospitality House kept me by her side through all that,” said Harvey, noting a doctor who learned she was living in a parking garage had referred her to Hospitality House.

“It was my time of need, and the help I got was made possible because other people had donated to that house before me. I remember giving them the $5 on my way out the door and saying I’d one day be back with more.

“This is what my sister wanted, and I’m honoring her memory.”

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Did a stranger step in to offer you help? Email rwilkerson@charlotteobserver.com. Include name, hometown and daytime number. Or mail Everyday Angels, Charlotte Observer, 600 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC 28230. Roland Wilkerson

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