Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Kindergartner empties piggy bank to buy milk for classmates

Five-year-old Sunshine Oelfke of Michigan was emptying her piggy bank onto the floor when her grandmother, Jackie walked in. Jackie knew Sunshine was saving up her money (for a snowmobile!) so she asked why she was taking money out now. Sunshine said, “I’m going to take it for milk money for my friend Layla. She doesn’t get milk — her mom doesn’t have milk money and I do."

Jackie was touched by Sunshine's kindness and decided to investigate. She learned that Layla is one of about 10 students in Sunshine's Kindergarten class who cannot afford the $0.45 carton of milk cartons at snack time. And the school cannot provide them for free - if each child is that one class were to get just one carton of milk per day, the total cost would be about $180 per month.

Jackie set up a GoFundMe account, hoping to raise the money needed to pay for milk for the whole school year. To date, over $6000 has been raised, exceeding their goal. 

All because of a child's kind heart.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Stranded airport passenger dances 'All Night Long'

One woman's decision to stay positive has brought pleasure to millions.  

When Mahshid Mazooji learned she had missed her connecting flight and would be stuck at the Charlotte NC airport all night, she decided to make the best of it. She wouldn't pout and grumble and curse her bad luck. She'd have a dance party

The fact that she didn't know anyone in the airport was irrelevant. She asked perfect strangers, fellow passengers and airport staff alike, to join her in a bit of spontaneous dance to Lionel Richie's song 'All Night Long.' With the participants' permission, she videoed the dances and shared the result on You Tube. 

Now viewed over 2.5 million times, the video has spread smiles around the world. Airport administration gave her kudos for making the best of a bad situation. Even Lionel Richie himself shared the video on his Facebook page, saying, "HAHA! Seems like a really fun use of downtime at the airport... That moonwalk though, wow!" 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

He makes kids' prosthetic arms for free - in his shed

Born without a left hand, Stephen Davies never found arm prosthetics especially helpful. In fact, he disliked both the functional design and the aesthetic of the arms he'd tried, calling one such device 'medieval torture.'

Enter Enabling the Future, a "global network of passionate volunteers using 3D printing to give the world a helping hand." Through that organization, volunteer Drew Murray created a hand for Steve using a 3D printer. Steve was delighted with the outcome.

So delighted in fact that he and Drew teamed up as Team UnLimbited. They do their own research and development, and then publicly share their discoveries and limb designs so people anywhere can reap the benefit. They have received thank yous and photos from amputees around the world, beaming about their newfound function with these inexpensive prosthetics.
The stories of children with missing limbs are especially close to Steve's heart. He remembers what it was like and does what he can to make a difference.
So now Steve has a backyard shed which houses his creation lab. In it, he uses a 3D printer to custom-make an arm for a specific child, using the child's choice of templates and colors. He has made Spider Man, Iron Man, Harry Potter, Lego, and a number of other designs, each created for a nominal cost of about 25 pounds (British.)

Even at that low price, the family is not charged for the arm. Team UnLimbited receives donations to offset the cost of materials; Steve donates his time and effort in exchange for the smiles.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Ten things that are going right!

If you're anything like me, you're heartsick over recent news headlines. That's why this headline is as delightful as fresh air in a smoke-filled room! I share the entire column with permission:

Here's Your Antidote to Current Events: Positive News About 10 Death Rates That Keep Going Down

While the media today might cause you to believe that we're surrounded by death and destruction, these positive trends will convince you many things are improving. With advancements in medicine, along with better safety practices, fewer and fewer people are dying of common diseases, accidents, and problematic lifestyles. Don't believe us? Here is the list of…

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Teen finds wallet containing $1500, returns it

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Opdyke was on foot, delivering flyers to advertise his uncle's pest control business near his California home. He spotted a wallet on the sidewalk outside a home and approached the home to return it. 

Inside the home, Melissa Vang heard the doorbell, but didn't recognize the young man. Afraid to answer the door to a stranger, she chose to ignore the bell

Not getting an answer, Opdyke lifted the wallet to the porch surveillance camera and then tucked it beneath the front doormat.
Still concerned about the wallet, Opdyke returned to the home later. That time, Vang and her two children opened the door to him. “It’s sad that I didn’t trust him to open my door when he was just doing a good deed,she later told reporters“We all need to be reminded that there are still good people out there.” 

Vang gave the teen a $150 reward, and her overwhelming gratitude. Opdyke took the reward of course, but shrugs off the idea that he did something special. "I just felt - this isn't mine. I need to give it back," he said.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Survivalist donates his stash of 'doomsday' food to Puerto Rico

Joe Badame was feeling pretty low. The 72-year-old recently lost his wife, and his house was in foreclosure. An estate auction was underway as part of the foreclosure, and Badame watched his worldly possessions slip away.

But he didn't want to lose all the food. He and his late wife Phyllis had constructed an underground 'doomsday' bunker beneath their home (8500 square feet!) large enough to shelter 100 people. Outfitted with kerosene refrigerators, coal furnaces, and lead walls, Badame spent decades stocking the bunker with barrels of dried and preserved food. 

The day of the estate sale, Tony and Tori's food truck was on hand to feed the crowd. Badame learned that the food truck's sales were going to help Tori's family in Puerto Rico. Tori's family was safe, but homeless and hungry in Arecibo following Hurricane Maria. Badame gave Tori $100, then showed her the bunker.

He then donated all the food barrels, about a hundred of them, containing rice, beans, flour, powdered eggs, and dry milk. Each barrel holds enough food for 84 people to live for four months on 2,000 calories a day. The barrels will ship to Puerto Rico starting Monday.

So the doomsday Badame expected never arrived. But his stored food will be eaten by people thousands of miles away surviving a different kind of doomsday

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

This Cat in the Hat gives free birthday parties to kids who wouldn't have one otherwise

About six years ago, Meg Yunn was working as the director of volunteer services at a small college near Pittsburgh. She sat with 12-year-old Beverly at a local youth program to help the girl with her vocabulary homework. One of the words was 'accustomed' and Meg used the word in a sentence, something on the order of "When people are at a birthday party, they are accustomed to eating cake." Beverly looked confused and told Meg she'd never had a birthday party or a slice of birthday cake.

Meg was shocked. The mother of three burst into tears on her way home from work and told her husband she had to do something about it.

Within a year, Meg left her job and started "Beverly's Birthdays," a non-profit, using $2500 seed money from contest winnings. Beverly's Birthdays' mission is to partner with local agencies to offer free birthday parties (including cake, favors, and gifts) for children who are poor, homeless, or for other reasons would not celebrate their birthday. The 43 Pittsburgh-area agencies who have partnered with Meg on this project include homeless shelters, schools, and social-service agencies, and donations come in from both individuals and corporations.

Now including over 200 volunteers, Beverly's Birthdays hosts 120 group birthday parties a year in the Pittsburgh area. This spreads the fun over 2,000 children and guests, each and every year. Meg still gets into the thick of things, donning her Cat in the Hat costume and handing out donated gifts to the birthday boys and girls.

Meg and Beverly's Birthdays didn't stop at group birthday parties. Working with local food banks, they also offer birthdays-in-a-bag for families to take home, complete with balloons, cake mix, and candles. Birthday boxes are available for schools too, for those occasions where families don't have the means to send in something to celebrate in the classroom. And recently, Beverly’s Birthdays began to host baby showers for new mothers who might not otherwise have one.

All because one woman listened to the pain behind a child's words.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Once bullied for her love of bugs, 8-year-old co-authors scientific paper

Before I start, please check out a piece I wrote a while back. It's the 'teaser' for this fan club's upcoming magazine issue. I hope it brings a smile to your face. British Beatles Fan Club: All I Need Is Love…and The Beatles

Now, onto my blog. 
Eight-year-old Sophia Spencer adores bugs. Grasshoppers are her particular favorite, and she was often seen giving one a ride on her shoulder. Classmates made fun of her for this habit, calling her weird and gross for her love of insects. Sophia's mom Nicole, didn't want Sophia to turn from her natural interest because of the teasing. In fact, she wanted to encourage Sophia's passion. She wrote to the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC) for support, hoping for penpal for her daughter. 

ESC did one better. A tweet went out to their membership. 

Responses poured in, giving both Nicole and Sophia assurance that a bug-loving girl was not weird, that it was in fact totally cool. Then Sophia joined forces with an entomology grad student named Morgan Jackson. Together, they wrote a paper about how to use Twitter to promote women in science. So yes, this formerly ostracized 8-year-old has a publication credit to her name. 

Let's hope her classmates don't bug her anymore. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Cake-decorating stranger saves a wedding cake from disaster

Like other engaged couples, Millie and Matt wanted their wedding day to be special. Millie, an avid and accomplished baker, decided to personalize their day by making the wedding cake herself. She created a three-level beauty of a cake, fully decorated and anchored with dowels and rigid bases between the layers.

But a hot day and heavy traffic on the way to the hotel reception site wreaked havoc on the buttercream and fondant, causing the entire middle layer to collapse when Matt lifted it from the car. Millie was prepared to accept the damage and enjoy the day anyway, but Matt felt horrible. He repeatedly apologized. Nothing Millie could say calmed his sense of guilt.

It so happened that Clare Vaz was in the same hotel at that time, delivering a batch of cupcakes. The owner of a bakery, Clare was approached by a hotel manager. He told her of the damaged wedding cake and asked if she might be able to help. She said she would do her best to restore the cake to its former beauty.

And she did, even though it meant she needed to drop everything and devote hours to the task. To date, she still hasn't met the delighted bride and groom and hasn't asked to be paid for her time. She was just happy to restore a lovely cake to celebrate Millie and Matt's wedding day.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Dancing away the hurricane

Osceola County Deputy James Froelich was stationed at a shelter during Hurricane Irma. He was charged with making sure everyone stayed safe and calm while the storm raged outside. 

He noticed a frail elderly woman sitting alone, looking worried. He approached and asked her what he could do to help her feel more comfortable. Her response: dance. So he took her hand and they danced. He even provided the music, singing Bobby Darin's Beyond the Sea while the two swayed. 

A fellow evacuee captured their dance on video. The shared dance and the smile it brought to the woman's face says it all. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Florida man gives a stranger his generator, then Lowe's gives him one for free

Pam Brekke of Sanford Florida did what many Floridians did before Hurricane Irma - she prepared. A generator was tops on Pam's list to maintain her elderly father's oxygen supply in the event of a power failure. She waited in line at the nearest Lowe's, about 30 miles from her home, to buy one of their 200+ generators. The customer in front of her got the last one. Brekke burst into tears.

Ramon Santiago of Orlando had a generator already in his cart. He was walking through the store picking up other items he needed when he saw Brekke break down and cry. Because English isn't his first language, he did not understand the details, just that Brekke needed a generator and didn't have one. He had planned to buy the generator to help his mother take care of his two aged grandmothers, but he offered the generator in his cart to Brekke. She accepted it with hugs and thanks.

Unbeknownst to Santiago and Brekke, Nancy Alvarez, a WFTV morning newscaster who happened to be in line behind Brekke, saw the whole transaction and filmed it with her smartphone. She shared the story on the station's social media within hours. It went viral.

Santiago wasn't aware of it until he walked into a doctor's office several hours later and the nurses stood and applauded him. And it got better. Lowe's management learned Santiago's identity and tracked him down when a new shipment of generators came in. They gave him one for free, their thanks for his kindness to a stranger in need.

Friday, September 8, 2017

LOC research day

In an effort to accurately portray era events in my novel-in-progress, I spent Wednesday conducting research at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. What a treasure trove we Americans have at our disposal - all open and free for the asking.

Beginning a couple weeks ago, I spent hours on the LOC website, scouring their archive. Some documents and images I was interested in were readily available on their website, while others were identified as 'available on site' at the LOC. For those items, I jotted down LOT numbers and contacted librarians in the Photographs room and Newspapers room by email and gave them the date of my planned visit. Within 24 hours, they responded to let me know the items were available and would be waiting for me upon arrival. And they were.

In one (very) long day, I saved over 300 images and newspaper articles onto my memory stick. Obviously I haven't had time to sift through them all, but some of my amazing preliminary finds include:

1. A private photo album of a Lebensborn home in Steinhoring, near Munich;

2. Two full-sized Nazi propaganda posters;

3. The apparent lack of any mention of the events of Kristallnacht in the Munich newspaper in the days following the violence.

In contrast, the New York Times was chock full of articles, op-eds, and letters to the editor for days.

Talk about the value of free press. Wow.

After I sift through the overwhelming volume of material obtained, I'll integrate relevant details and facts into my story's backdrop. My hope is to accurately portray what it must have been like to be 15 years old in Munich in 1938.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Cajun Navy rides again

In a previous post on this blog, I reported on the unheralded rescue efforts of the self-proclaimed Cajun Navy during flooding in Louisiana in August 2016.  In the overwhelming aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas last week, the Cajun Navy rode again. Private boat owners, many from Louisiana, drove their own vehicles, towing their boats to areas of need. This shot of a highway exit ramp laden with volunteers and their boats warms my heart. Our own Dunkirk. 

Small boats made a huge difference. The scale of destruction, the speed of rising water, and the number of people needing help across such a large area completely overwhelmed local emergency services. These volunteers with their bass boats, airboats, and inboard/outboard motors supported the local effort with timely help and manpower. And boats, of course.

We're told that rescues totaled in the thousands over a period of days. It's unclear how many people were rescued by official emergency services, and how many by volunteers like the Cajun Navy. I doubt those who were rescued would make a distinction. A hero is a hero. Humanity at its best.

Friday, September 1, 2017

DIY writers retreat

I've just returned home from a DIY writers' retreat. This was the second time my friend Hildy Morgan and I traveled to the shore to carve out a time away, a time dedicated to concentrated effort on our works-in-progress. No meals to prep, no laundry or dirty floors calling, no weeds or seeds or countless other needs of home vying for attention. Just stories - telling them, discussing them, dissecting them, writing them. Hildy is a perfect partner for such a retreat.

Stories flowed as we watched the rising sun transform the visible world, the churning sea at first steel gray, then touched with a glowing band of red, then coral, then gold, until the full sun danced silver-white on the water. Who wouldn't be inspired?

In the days away, I wrote 5000+ words on my novel-in-progress, the sequel to Risking Exposure. That places me about two-thirds done with the first draft, on target with my goal - finish the first draft by year's end.

Next week, I head to Washington DC for a research day at the Library of Congress. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Reporter helps rescue stranded Houston truck driver on live TV

The devastation in Texas caused by Hurricane Harvey has dominated our news in recent days. Amid the heartbreaking images, the loss of life and livelihood and property are those images which give us hope. As Mister Rogers said, if we "Look for the helpers" when tragedy strikes, we see the good people can do.

One of many such helpers is Brandi Smith, a reporter for KHOU TV in Houston. She and her cameraman, Mario Sandeval, were covering the flooding of a Houston beltway when they noticed a rig stuck in rising water on the highway below. The driver was trapped inside the cab with water up to the window.

Smith urged him to stay in the cab and not try to swim to safety. Then, with the camera still rolling, she flagged down a sheriff's rescue team and told them of the situation. Thankfully, they had a boat and were able to rescue the man. The cameraman even captured the grateful driver hugging the reporter.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Meanwhile, at the Little League World Series...

Because of the way players are encouraged to become high-paid demigods, I'm not a fan of professional sports. But kids playing a sport, learning to win and lose with grace, trying their best and pursuing a dream - that I can get behind.
This summer's Little League World Series showcased a number of such instances in the players, coaches, and spectators alike. Here are a few:

This image may look like kids tied up in their own texts. In fact, the boys come from different countries and were talking to one another using Google Translate.

After a heartbreaking loss to the team from the Dominican Republic, the Venezuelan pitcher collapsed into sobs on the mound. Here he is comforted by coaches from the Dominican team, even before his own teammates and coaches can reach him.

And then this - spectators cheering for kids they don't know, kids who may play against their own kids in upcoming games.

Sports at their best, supporting and encouraging fairness and good faith effort.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Anonymous donor supplies an entire primary school with back-to-school items

A California woman has donated school supplies for all 200+ students at an elementary school in central Texas.

Kendra Lorenz, a first-grade teacher at Rosebud Primary School was initially contacted by the anonymous woman last year. That's when, through an organization called Donors Choose, the donor bought school supplies for Lorenz' class. Lorenz was delighted to learn that this year, the same donor wanted to donate supplies for the school's entire student body. She told reporters, "Our families struggle. That's the nature of the beast around here. You can't put into words how much that support means."

Donors Choose connects potential donors with public school projects of their choice. Teachers in high-poverty public schools post details about a class project they'd
undertake - if only they had the supplies. Donors scroll through the list of projects ranging from literature to robotics, from health to music and get more information about the needs and costs involved. Then they pledge financial support at any level for projects which tug at their heart.

The result is more engaging lessons for students. Ultimately, a better educated student creates a better society for us all.

Friday, August 18, 2017

7-year-old hosts 14 foster kids in Princess for a Day Party at Disney World

Jordan West is not a typical 7-year-old. She's grown up with an awareness of her social responsibility, fueled by her brothers' activities in founding the charitable organization Champions of Change. Their mom Olivia acts as Executive Director for the non-profit.

Like many girls her age, Jordan likes write stories and play princesses. She thought other girls might like that too so last July she sponsored her first 'Princess for a Day' party. She invited two dozen girls in the Rochester NY area foster care system to join her at a spa. The girls got hair up-dos, manicures, pedicures, and make-up to let them know, in Jordan's words, "You are beautiful, and you are loved."

That first princess party caught the attention of the White House. Last fall Jordan was invited to host a party there which she did, of course! She invited 115 girls from the Washington DC foster care system.

Several months ago, Jordan and her mom started fundraising to sponsor a party where 'real' princesses live - Disney World. Through garage sales, lemonade stands, 'pennies for princesses' drives, and private donations, about $10,000 was raised, enough to allow Jordan to invite 14 girls from the foster care system to her Disney World party. The girls were treated to pampering at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Cinderella Castle.

And the girls' reactions? The photos say it all.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

What to do when you're 94 and lonely? Build a pool

Keith Davison and his wife Evy were married for 66 years. When Evy died from cancer last year, 94-year-old Davison was understandably overwhelmed by grief and loneliness. A retired judge living in Morris, Minnesota, Davison didn't want to dwell in that sad place, isolated and alone. He decided to do something.

His 'something' took the form of an in-ground swimming pool, 32 ft long and 9 ft deep, which he built in his own backyard. When he opened the pool to the neighborhood kids in July, kids came in droves. "I knew they'd come," Davison told reporters. "Now I'm not sitting by myself staring at the walls."

One mother whose children often enjoy the pool told reporters, "It's him spreading joy throughout the neighborhood." To Davison, she said, "You kind of adopted this whole neighborhood of kids. These are your grandkids."

A winning situation all the way around.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Southwest employee personally delivers lost luggage containing meds to chemo patient

Stacy Hurt was anxious to get home. The 46-year-old flew on a Southwest flight direct from Nashville to Pittsburgh, but her luggage remained in Nashville on a previously booked connecting flight. Hurt was scheduled for her monthly chemotherapy session the following morning, and really needed her luggage. Packed inside were medications which helped with the chemo's side effects, as well as a rosary and a favorite T-shirt, both of which brought comfort to the mother of two in her fight against stage 4 colon cancer. Hurt called Southwest's Pittsburgh office and spoke with Sarah Rowan in Customer Service. Hurt told her story to Rowan, who listened and understood the importance of the luggage contents. Rowan promised to contact Hurt when the luggage arrived in Pittsburgh, and that a courier would deliver it directly to Hurt's home.

Problem was, the bags arrived at 2 am, too late for the last courier run. Rowan was about done with her shift then, so she tracked down Hurt's address. She drove to the woman's home and placed the luggage on the porch with a note.
Sorry for the delay getting your bag to you. Myself and my Southwest family are thinking of you and wishing all the best. Kick that cancer's butt!
         With luv, 
         Sarah from Pit

Overwhelmed by Rowan's kindness, Hurt contacted Southwest and tracked her down to thank her. She also sang Rowan's praises to her bosses at Southwest so they would know their employee had literally gone the extra mile to care for one of their passengers.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Toronto police officer buys shoplifter the interview clothes he was trying to steal

For Toronto Constable Niran Jeyanesan, it sounded like a routine call - respond to the local WalMart for an apparent shoplifter. When the officer met with the young suspect and learned he was caught stealing a dress shirt, tie, and socks, he asked more questions. It seems the 18-year-old had faced some difficult times and was looking to turn things around for himself and his family. He had a job interview coming up and didn't have any decent clothes to wear. 

Constable Jeyanesan saw the authenticity of the young man's story, and did not arrest him. Even more surprising, he himself then paid for the clothes and presented them to the would-be shoplifter. 

With support like that, here's hoping the interview goes well and the young man in question can indeed provide for his family in a positive way. As for Constable Jeyanesan, he was commended by Staff Sergeant Paul Bois when he said, “We [the police] need to make a positive difference in people’s lives. I think he did.” 

Friday, August 4, 2017

His daughter's disability kept her from enjoying amusement parks. He built one for her.

Gordon Hartman witnessed his daughter's heartbreak all too often. Twelve-year-old Morgan would try to make friends at a pool or other public places, but children shied away from her. Hartman assumed it was because of her cognitive disability and his wife Maggie agreed. They asked other parents of children with special needs to recommend places Morgan could enjoy, and soon realized a harsh truth - there was no such inclusive place in their San Antonio area.

Hartman decided to build one

In 2005 he sold his homebuilding business and set up the Gordon Hartman Family Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is 'Helping organizations that serve individuals with mental & physical special needs.' Then he set out to build the world's first completely accessible amusement park which could be enjoyed by children of all ability levels. After consulting and working with professionals, designers, and builders galore, Morgan's Wonderland was born in 2010

Since then, the park has drawn over one million visitors, hailing from all 50 states and 67 countries. Visitors enjoy the fully accessible ferris wheel, the carousel with wheelchair-friendly chariots which move up and down with the animals, an adventure playground, and a miniature train

This year, Morgan's Inspiration Island, a fully accessible water park, was added next door. Motorized waterproof wheelchairs are provided so all guests can cool off on the river boat ride and the splash park. Hartman is delighted that 3 of 4 guests to the park don't have a disability. His goal of creating an inclusive play experience for Morgan has been met.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Seamstress rescues bridal gowns, alters them for free

In mid-June, corporate owners of Alfred Angelo Bridal, a nationwide chain of bridal stores, declared bankruptcy. Their stores were shuttered, leaving untold numbers of brides in limbo about the fate of their dresses.

On the last day at the Oklahoma City store, seamstress Rose Ellis grabbed every paid-for dress she could find and brought them home, 60 in all, plus veils, belts, and other accessories. She then contacted each bride-to-be individually and, without asking for personal payment, finished alterations and fittings out of her own home. "Even though I'm not getting paid for it, my conscience wouldn't let me go without having completed the work as promised,” Ellis said.

The response to Ellis' generosity has been more generosity. One appreciative bride started a GoFundMe page to cover Ellis' expenses, which met its goal (and then some) in just a few days. A local Holiday Inn Express offered Ellis a conference room to work out of, and has even offered the brides a free night in the bridal suite. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Auto repair staff fixes cars after hours, then gives them away

Several months ago, a customer came into Knibbe Automotive Repair in Calgary with a problem. Her van needed some expensive brake work, and since her husband had recently left her and their three children, she was unsure how she'd pay for it. Compassion for the young mother's situation tugged at the hearts of several of the shop's mechanics. They volunteered their own money for parts and their own time after hours to implement the repairs.  

Since then, the shop has launched a unique give-back-to-the-community program. When a customer sells them a car cheaply, the mechanics work their magic. They donate their time and energy to do body work, tune-ups, and whatever repairs are needed to ensure the car is in good working condition. Then they post pictures of the car on their company Facebook page, and take nominations for folks who really need wheels but can't afford to buy a car. Once chosen, the lucky recipient gets a fully serviced car, free of charge, no strings attached. The shop even throws in a free year of routine maintenance and repairs!

What do the mechanics and the shop get out of it? "It really just has to do with helping people out that just don't have the means to do it themselves either through money or time," managing partner Joe Kirk says. "If you can do that kind of thing, it's what you have to do as a decent human being."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Stranger carries a frightened 100-pound dog across a boulder field

Amanda Bowler and some friends were hiking to Alaska's Reeds Lake last weekend. Accompanying them was a friend's 100-pound Bull Mastiff named Bocephus. All was going fine until, about 2/3 of the way through the hike, Bocephus had 'a colossal meltdown.' Frightened, he hunkered down and refused to move. To make matters worse, a couple of passing hikers told of an aggressive grizzly which had terrorized hikers and their dogs near the lakes earlier that day.

The three young women knew they had to move on so they urged the dog forward. Bocephus wouldn't budge. They tried to carry him, even pass him between them hot potato style as they walked. They didn't make it far before the struggle became too great.

A second small group of hikers noticed their problem and approached. One of them, later identified as Ryan Pepp with the US Army in Anchorage, took off his own pack and slung Bocephus around his shoulders. Pepp then carried the dog across the boulder field until they reached a spot where the dog could continue safely on his own.

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.