Thursday, April 27, 2017

Kind-hearted repo man raises funds for elderly couple

For Jim Ford of O'Fallan Illinois, that day last November was a regular day in his job as a repo man. He had to repossess the Buick Century belonging to Stan and Pat Kipping because they'd fallen behind on their payments. When he learned the elderly couple's story, he knew he had to do something to help them out.

The couple explained that the reason they'd fallen behind was the cost of Stan's medications. The prices had doubled in a year's time, a big problem for the couple on a fixed income. Jim was obligated to take the car that day, but he also opened a conversation with the bank to come up with a plan. The bank agreed to work out some finances with the couple. A good start.

In the meantime, Jim set up a GoFundMe page for the couple. In a few days, donors contributed enough to pay off the car. A friend of Jim's gave the car an oil change and detailing. Someone else donated a Thanksgiving turkey. Needless to say, the Kippings were grateful, overwhelmed.

But Jim didn't stop there. He and his wife and children took the Kippings out for dinner in a nice restaurant, a treat the Kippings hadn't enjoyed since 'I can't tell you the last time.' In March, while Pat was hospitalized with a heart condition, Stan fell at home. He later died at age 83. Jim again worked from the goodness of his heart, updating the info on the GoFundMe page with the need for funeral expenses. To date, over $28,000 has been raised.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, I'm taking a break from my usual blog in which I highlight one right thing done by an individual. The reason? Today, April 24 2017, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. Because of its origin on the Hebrew calendar, the day falls on a different Gregorian calendar date every year. Unesco has set January 27th as Holocaust Remembrance Day, so I suppose that makes two dates each year in which we are to remember. Either way, the date's purpose is to give us pause so we can remember victims of the Holocaust and to refocus on the pledge: Never Again.

Twenty years ago, Holocaust survivors talked with school students and civic groups, putting a personal face and story to the greater horror. Fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors are alive now to share their stories in person. Thankfully, many documented their truths via the archives at US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, and numerous books, articles, and videos. There is great wisdom there, free for the asking.

And so here we are, a third generation away from those horrible events, and the question is as relevant as ever - have we learned the lessons of history so we can, with confidence, say 'Never Again'?

Prejudice and racial/religious profiling still exist worldwide, including right in our own country, our own towns. People are still lumped into categories and weighed against a popular standard in an assessment of worth. Genocide, wiping out entire populations based on some defining feature, still happens around the world.

In addition to the prevalence of anti-semitism in today's world, the 'other' victims of the Nazi regime also continue to be viewed as lesser human beings, still fighting for basic rights and basic dignities. This includes people who are homosexual, disabled, Roma Gypsies, or anyone who resists their government's status quo.

So no, even with two recognized dates in which to examine our prejudices and our actions toward one another, we haven't learned. The possibility of another holocaust is quite real.

God help us.

And that's why I continue to read and write about those years. I can't change history, and I can't fix the world. But I must do what I can to share what I've learned with subsequent generations. Anyone who reads Risking Exposure and its sequel (my work-in-progress) will hopefully see how dreadfully simple it is to move from feeling prejudices to verbalizing them to acting upon them (or turning a blind eye while others do so.) Only awareness of the historical cost will prevent us from going down that road again.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

12-year-old stops a carjacker to save her little sister

Brandie Weiler expected a terrific day with her daughters, 12-year-old Maddie and 7-year-old Mollie. They were headed to Busch Gardens last Saturday, ready for a day of fun. In moments, everything changed. Two cars right in front of them were involved in an accident. Brandie pulled over, grabbed her phone, and left her car to help.

As she was calling 911, Brandie spotted a man who had been involved in the accident walking toward her car. Knowing her girls were in the car, she started yelling and ran back over.

Meanwhile, Maddie kept her wits about her. She saw the man whom she described as 'psycho' climb into the car, mumbling to himself about having to get away. She put the transmission in Drive, knowing that the car wouldn't start while in that position. While the man, later identified as Paul Salsman, struggled to start the car, Maddie kicked and screamed and punched him, allowing Mollie to escape the car's back seat. Salsman was soon restrained and has been charged with several felony counts.

Brandie is grateful she and her husband taught Maddie how to stand up for herself. When asked where she got the presence of mind to fight back, Maddie, an avid horseback rider, shrugged and said, "If I can control a 1500-pound animal, then I sure was gonna try to take care of him." She comes from a family of police officers and fire fighters, and has been told many times that if in danger, she has the right to kick, scream, hit, gouge eyes, whatever it takes.

Maddie injured the growth plate in her wrist during the altercation. For anyone who might find themselves in a similar situation, Maddie has one word of advice. "Fight."

Monday, April 17, 2017

14-year-old has raised money for 400 wheelchairs, passes torch to younger sister

When Zach Francom was 6 years old, an organization called LDS Philanthropies challenged each class in his school to raise enough money to buy a wheelchair. The chair would then be donated to someone who needed it but didn't have the funds.

Zach wanted to participate in a big way. With his parents' help and approval, he set up a cookie and lemonade stand in front of their home. Promptly dubbed "Zach's Shack," he sold out of his stock in a few hours.

Since then, Zach's Shack has been open for 2 days during his spring break each year. In its 8 years of operation, Zach's Shack has raised about $85,000 which purchased almost 400 wheelchairs for worldwide distribution.

This year, Zach's 6-year-old sister Helen asked to get involved. "Helen's Hut" appeared alongside Zach's Shack this month. Helen is every bit as enthusiastic as Zach was, and she expects to keep up this generous family legacy. Zach will now move on to other ventures, confident that his works have borne good fruit and that he leaves his kindness project in good hands.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Waitress gets a huge tip and a life-changing offer

Cayla Chandara moved from Santa Rosa to Hawaii to attend college. Between the high cost of living there and her school loans, she was soon financially overwhelmed. She quit school and started working two waitress jobs in Honolulu to pay down those loans.

Last week, she waited on a tourist couple from Australia . She chatted with them, learning a bit about them. In turn, they learned a bit about her, including her dream of paying down loans and finishing college. The couple left her a $400 tip.

Cayla was stunned. At the end of her shift, she delivered some flowers and a thank you note to the couple at their hotel (thankfully, they'd mentioned where they were staying!)

The next day, the generous couple returned to the restaurant and spoke with Cayla. They offered to pay $10,000 of her debt so she could return to college. Their only condition - they wish to remain anonymous. 

An overjoyed, overwhelmed Cayla accepted the offer with an open heart. She promised the couple that she will be the best person she can be, and will return to college this fall to continue her studies.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Getting folks back on their feet, literally and figuratively

Two years ago, Eugene Yoon followed his heart. He quit his job at a California research company and began a hike from the California/Mexico border all the way to Canada. Why? To raise funds for a total stranger.

That stranger, Arthur Renowitzky, had been mugged and shot ten years earlier. His injury left him unable to walk, and though he vowed to walk again, it seemed less and less likely as time went on. For some inexplicable reason, Eugene felt he needed to help Arthur walk again. The two spoke and Eugene was determined to make it happen.

Eugene learned of an exoskeleton which would give Arthur the support he needed to walk. It cost $80,000, well out of reach financially. Where others would see an obstacle, Eugene saw an opportunity. The hike raised the needed funds, and Arthur got his exoskeleton. When he took his first steps, Eugene was there to witness it.

Now Eugene's heart has led him to another need. He met Alberto Velasquez, a skilled garment worker, in Skid Row, and learned that the man and 24 relatives lived under one roof. Alberto and other family members already worked long hours, but were unable to earn enough to free them from their poverty. With Eugene's help, a new clothing line called KIN LOV GRA was born. Proceeds from the sales will ensure a living wage for Alberto and his family.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Man stops to help stranger, returns to build a ramp

Jennifer and Don Austin were ready to get home. Don had undergone a below-knee amputation because of months of medical problems, and the couple was anxious to let him rest and recover in his own home. They knew Jennifer couldn't get him into the house in his wheelchair, so Don was ready to hop up his front steps with crutches.

He couldn't make it. He was too weak and off-balance, and try as she might, Jennifer couldn't help him. Don sat on the stairs to scoot up on his bottom, but even that proved too much.

At that moment, Steve Smith happened to be driving by. He didn't know the Austins, but decided to circle back and stop. Smith asked the couple if they needed help, and the Austins gratefully said yes. Smith picked Don up and literally carried him into the house.

Smith's kindness didn't end there. The next morning, he came back and asked the Austins' permission to build a ramp. He supplied the manpower and made it happen.

The Austins call Smith an angel, one who saved them twice within 24 hours. They shared his kindness on social media.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Man pulls stranger off subway tracks in the nick of time

We humans like to think we can be brave when needed, that our inner hero can be readily called into action to save the day.

If only.

Truth is, most of us hesitate, grapple with indecision or surprise, or are sluggishly weighing out the pros and cons while the problem unfolds. Perhaps that's why we love hero stories. When seconds count, their best self emerges and they act.

Thankfully, Jonathan Kulig acted. On Saturday night, the 29-year-old had just gotten off a subway and stepped onto the platform. On the opposite platform, he saw something fall onto the tracks. When he reached it, people yelled and pointed to a person lying on the tracks below. The train would come into the station in less than a minute.

Kulig jumped down and scooped up the barely conscious young man. He lifted him to the edge where other subway patrons helped him to a bench. Then Kulig climbed out himself, and was promptly proclaimed a hero. The rescue was caught on video, including the dramatic moment when the train rushes into the station.

Word is that the young man who fell was drunk. He was taken to the hospital with non-critical injuries.

Kulig is employed by Con Edison, and had just gone through the MTA's track safety course. He knew how to keep himself safe as he helped the fallen person. "I did what I had to do," he said.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

The persistence of a 6-year-old saves a man's life

Six-year-old Karter Thorpe of Franklin, Virginia was riding in the backseat of his grandmother's car. As they trolled the Lowe's parking lot looking for a space, Karter called out to his 'Mimi' that he saw a man lying down on the pavement. She later reported that since Karter has such an active imagination, she doubted his words and kept driving. Karter wouldn't let it go. "You have to go back!" he told her. "He's hurt!" So to prove him wrong, Mimi turned the car around.

Sure enough, a man was lying beside a car just where Karter had seen him. The man was gasping for air. Mimi called 911 and a second passerby performed CPR until the ambulance arrived.

Mimi later learned that the 64-year-old man had suffered a heart attack. He likely would have died if Karter had not spotted him and kept after Mimi until she stopped. The man and his family want to meet Karter to thank him personally. The police officers who responded to the scene have offered to buy Karter ice cream.