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Inside People

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Marilyn Mock went to a Dallas foreclosure auction and spotted a woman weeping as her home went up on the block. Without a moment’s hesitation, Mock started bidding, bought the house for $30,000—then returned it on the spot to an astonished Tracy Orr. Motel owners Tim and Nancy Nicolai learned of families in Sioux Falls, S. Dak., who had nowhere to live. Their response was to open up vacant rooms for the homeless until they got back on their feet. Hal Colston of Burlington, Vt., discovered that people’s broken-down cars were hampering their job hunts; Hal started rehabbing and selling used, low-cost autos—more than 3,000 to date.

These are just some of the everyday heroes doing their part to help neighbors hit hard by the recession. They are PEOPLE’s Heroes in Hard Times, and when they see a problem, they don’t look away.

Neither does Oprah Winfrey. To celebrate our heroes’ amazing acts of kindness she’s devoted her entire May 19 show to them. “These heroes inspire us to come up with ideas that are right at our fingertips—to see what the need is and to reach out and respond,” Winfrey says. I had the privilege of sitting in the audience during the taping in Chicago. What you notice when you see all these heroes is how there was never a moment where they asked, “How will I do this?” They simply saw a need that wasn’t being met and figured out the details later. Their matter-of-factness is as inspiring as the help they deliver.

We hope you’ll tune in to The Oprah Winfrey Show Tuesday, May 19, for this special hour. And we hope these stories will inspire you to listen to your gut instinct to do something when you see a neighbor, or a stranger, in need. The pieces will fall into place—and the rewards are boundless. Just ask PEOPLE’s heroes. “When you help someone move to a different place in their lives,” says Hal Colston, “oh man, there’s nothing like it.”