News 12 First at Five / Friday, July 12, 2013
HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW) -- You may not know the name Siri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji, but more than 10 million people follow the spiritual leader worldwide. He came to Georgia after seeing a News 12 story on a Harlem bird rescue called Feathered Friends Forever.
Swamji is a bird lover as well and has thousands in his home country of India. When he saw the report, he wanted to help.
"Swamiji felt deeply connected with the organization and also in the way the news was presented," said an assistant to Swamiji.
Swamiji says charity work and bringing people closer to God are his calling. That's why he donated $20,000 dollars to Feathered Friends.
"We get some decent donations," said Ron Johnson who runs the organization.
But when we asked if this was the biggest donation received, he smiled and said one thing.
"Yes! In one lump sum ... yes, it is!" Johnson said.
This visit was supposed to be a secret, but some of his followers found out.
"It's an amazing blessing," said one follower.
Another one said, "We drove from Charlotte, N.C., and it's about 3 and a half hours."
People drove and flew just to say they walked where Swamji did. Ravi Anupindi is one of those folks and says it's all because he's multi-talented spiritual leader.
"When you go into Wal-Mart, you can get just about everything. So, you go and pick what you want and you are happy with it, right? Just like that, Swamiji is a multi-talented personality," Anupindi said.
The volunteers at the refuge say membership has grown by 50 members since Swamiji's visit and that they expect it to grow a lot since he has asked all his followers to join.