Many Michigan citizens show compassion by quietly helping the poor and needy become self-sufficient—all without any guidance or money from Washington or Lansing.

Henry and Ellen Rykes, for example, help the poor by hiring them. They take into their workforce poor and learning-disabled people whom they train to work and earn wages in their Muskegon bakery.

The bakery’s 30 employees enjoy a dignified, personalized work atmosphere. Henry and Ellen act as mentors as well as employers, and they tailor individual training to their employees’ skills and abilities.

The Rykeses do not view helping others as somebody else’s responsibility. Rather, as Ellen asks, who better to teach those who don’t know how to work than those who do?

Over the same time the Rykeses’ personal assistance has helped hundreds of people escape poverty, the federal government waged a thirty-year "war on poverty" that cost 5.4 trillion dollars—more than we spent to fight and win World War II—that failed to reduce the poverty level.

Policy makers could learn from Henry and Ellen Rykes that no amount of government spending, programs, or good intentions are a substitute for one-on-one compassion and mentoring.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.