NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The man featured in a now-viral commercial for the Nashville Rescue Mission was an accomplished musician and even sang back up for Reba McEntire.
Martin Ollenberger is the star of the 30-second spot, which provides a look at the life of someone experiencing homelessness. Ollenberger, homeless himself, pushes a shopping cart through the streets of Nashville while singing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”
Michelle Sanders Brinson, a spokesperson for the Nashville Rescue Mission, said The Mission gets frequent requests from people asking about Ollenberger and wanting to help him.
The calls include a woman informing The Mission that her 95-year-old aunt had fallen in love with Ollenberger. She asked if her aunt could meet him, but Brinson informed the woman that Ollenberger had died in 2018 after a cancer diagnosis.
After the commercial was shot in 2015 and became popular, Brinson said The Mission learned Ollenberger once had a career in music that included singing backup for Reba McEntire and touring with the “Fancy” singer when she was first starting out.
Despite Ollenberger’s passing, The Mission said it will continue to air the commercial to honor the man’s memory, but also to spread his message of hope for the homeless community.