Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (CNN) - For years, Jennifer Cervantes struggled to make ends meet.
She worked 30 hours a week at Wal-Mart, but her paycheck - along with child support and disability payments - never seemed to cover living expenses for her and her five kids. Despite her best efforts, she kept falling further behind.
"Paying the rent, electric and gas - it takes everything I have," she said. "I don't like digging up change ... so I can buy the kids' food. I needed help somehow, somewhere."
Desperate, Cervantes decided to write a letter to Sal Dimiceli, whose newspaper column might be considered a "Dear Abby" for the down and out.
Within a few weeks, Dimiceli showed up on her doorstep. They talked for a while, and then he offered to pay one month's rent as well as her outstanding gas and electric bills. He also went to the local grocery store and stocked the family's empty refrigerator.
"I was shocked," Cervantes said. "I feel relieved. The kids are getting tired of macaroni cheese and Ramen soup every night."
It was just another day's work for Dimiceli, a 60-year-old real estate broker whose weekly column in the Lake Geneva Regional News focuses on people in dire straits. Through his column and his nonprofit, The Time Is Now To Help, Dimiceli has provided about 500 people a year with food, rent, utilities and other necessities.