Anquan Boldin grew up poor, something he learned only later in life.

"I didn't realize I was poor because everybody else around me was in the same situation," he said.

Now that he's making $6 million a year, the 49ers receiver has a belated understanding of what it means to struggle financially. He sees the hardship firsthand whenever he returns to the neighborhoods littered with boarded-up windows in his hometown of Pahokee, Fla., where the median household income is just over $20,000.

When Boldin goes back, he does so as the conquering hero: the Pahokee High kid who went on to win the Super Bowl and earn NFL riches.

Which is why he goes back.

"I try to make sure that I show my face around town," Boldin said. "People can get a sense that even if you make it out, you can still reach back and help others.

"That's my main focus. I'm not in this position just to live a life of luxury. I think I've been placed here to help others. That's my sole purpose."

Boldin, in his 11th season, has had the same priority at each of his NFL stops: to receive (he leads the 49ers with 38 catches for 551 yards) and to give (his charitable foundation, Q81, is in its 10th year).

He has already introduced himself to the Bay Area on the field. This Monday, Boldin will launch his first major fundraising event in San Jose by hosting a celebrity server dinner and silent auction at Morton's The Steakhouse. (Details at q81.org).

Over the years, Boldin also has provided college scholarships, taken kids on holiday shopping sprees and served Thanksgiving meals for thousands of families. He's flown to Ethiopia to study the drought problems and to Senegal to champion the rights of poor mining families.

Next up, Boldin said, is probably a trip to West Africa to work with a women's microfinance group.

"There was a lot that I lacked growing up," Boldin said. "And I hate to see others not have."

Because of so many phony baloney charity efforts among athletes, it's easy to get cynical. Write a check, show up at bowl-a-thon, and all of a sudden you're a heck of a guy.

Andrew Blejwas, who works with Oxfam America, remembers being on a street in Ethiopia when he got a call about Boldin and NFL pal Larry Fitzgerald being interested in traveling to the country to see how they could help.