Friday, July 21, 2017

Teen raises funds, makes sunscreen available at county pools

As part of a school project, 16-year-old Lynly Brennan researched tanning beds. She learned that wearing 30 SPF sunblock consistently reduces the risk of skin cancer by 80%. She also learned that the city of Boston had installed free sunscreen dispensers at its public pools. Inspired, she saw no reason why the county pools in her St. Louis Missouri area couldn't have them too.

So she set about raising funds. Brennan wrote letters to 40+ dermatologist, health professionals, city administrators, and pool patrons. A total of $1600 rolled in, allowing her to purchase and install sunscreen dispensers at all the public pools in her home county. With the free sunscreen so readily available, Brennan hopes people will be more likely to use it and reduce their cancer risk.

Brennan identified a need, figured out how to fill that need, and then made it happen. Kudos.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trenton Powerball winners invest in their community

Last May, Pearlie Mae Smith and her seven adult children won the Powerball jackpot - $429.6 million. They chose the cash payout, a cool $284 million which they split eight ways. Who among us hasn't dreamed of such luck? But Pearlie Mae doesn't call it luck. She says the numbers came to her through divine intervention. 
What these eight people have done with their windfall speaks to their individual and collective character. Instead of spending millions on yachts, extravagant vacations, etc., they created a charitable foundation. The Smith Family Foundation's theme is 'Sowing into the city of Trenton, one grant at a time, with love and dedication to our community.' 

They have provided funding for youth programs and scholarships, with an eye on long-term benefits for the community. They are committed to helping those in poverty, not through temporary fixes of food and shelter, but through job training so those affected can eventually care for themselves. The foundation hopes to partner with city organizations which share its vision - nothing less than the transformation of Trenton's image from a violent gang-run city into a city full of opportunity and hope. 

Talk about divine intervention.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

100-year-old man volunteers 20 hours a week

Harold Hager of Steuben County NY is familiar with charitable work. A WWII Navy vet, he distributed food when his home region was devastated by Hurricane Agnes in 1972. When his wife of 71 years was placed in a nursing home, he visited every day. After she died, he connected with RSVP, an organization which helps seniors find volunteer opportunities. Habitat for Humanity's program touched his heart and he began volunteering with them in 2011. 

Six years later, Harold still donates about 20 hours a week to Habitat's ReStore, sorting the donated household goods and construction supplies. He was recently honored for donating the most hours of any volunteer for two years in a row.

Harold's goal is to reach 105. To the best of his ability, he wants to do so while continuing to touch the lives of those in his community.

Monday, June 26, 2017

400,000 people applaud this young man's small kindness

With the divisive atmosphere in our country and our media's focus on bad news and sensationalism, human decency seems in short supply. In fact, bad behavior seems more common than ever. As headlines and 24-hour news channels broadcast more and more stories of worthy of a dystopian novel, I ask myself - is the escalation in bad behavior a matter of garbage in, garbage out?

Call me callous, but I limit my intake of news. I can't spend my life's energy fretting about other people's bad behavior. I'm on the lookout for good news, hoping to fill my mind with examples of goodness and decency so my heart will absorb the message and my actions will reflect that. Goodness in/ goodness out.

That's the purpose of this blog. It's my way of calling attention to kindness, a chance to spread some decency, share some small reminders that people who behave with respect for themselves and others still exist. I believe their stories should be broadcast far and wide. Their behaviors are the ones which can and should be emulated.

Take this story for example. At a busy Massachusetts shopping mall, an 83-year-old man hesitated at the top of an escalator. A few people walked around him and still the man stood in place. Several paces back, a woman named Paula witnessed a young man later identified as 23-year-old Alonzo Johnson approach the elderly man. "Do you need help, sir?" he asked. The man explained that he'd once been caught by an escalator and still had a phobia about them. Johnson offered an outstretched arm and said he'd ride with him to the bottom. The man accepted the offer and did just fine.

Paula captured the kindness on her cell phone and posted the act of decency to Facebook. The shot has gone viral, which surprised both Paula and Mr. Johnson.

Apparently I'm one of over 400,000 people who like hearing good news. Here's hoping each of those 400,000 people spread some kindness of their own.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Teen raises funds to send Holocaust survivor to Israel for his bar mitzvah, finally

When Holocaust survivor, 89-year-old Henry Oster spoke at Viewpoint High School in Calabasas, California, 17-year-old Drew Principe was fascinated.  He spoke with the elderly Jewish man after the assembly and presented him with a gift - a bracelet inscribed with a Jewish prayer he himself had bought on a trip to Israel several years earlier. Oster was overwhelmed with the gift, and admitted that he had never been to Israel.

The two kept in touch. Principe learned that Oster was detained by the Nazis just a few weeks before his bar mitzvah and spent time in Auschwitz. After the camp was liberated in 1945, he tracked down one of his few remaining relatives, an uncle in California. At 17, he was adopted by that uncle and began a new life in America. He never did get his bar mitzvah.

The man's story bothered Principe, and he decided to act. He wrote a letter explaining his dream of sending Oster to Israel and sent it to family and friends. They in turn spread the word. Over $15,000 was raised to cover Oster's travel expenses.

Principe didn't stop there. He learned that Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel, had listed Oster as a victim of the Holocaust, not as a survivor. He contacted them and set the record straight.

When Oster travels to Israel this summer, Yad Vashem will conduct an official ceremony to change his status to that of a survivor. Plus, he will finally celebrate his bar mitzvah, attended by his last living relative in Israel.