Every week, I go in search of good people, people who care enough about others to spend their valuable time or hard-earned money to help people who need it. You’d think I would run out of those good people eventually, but so far … knock on wood … I haven’t, and in fact some weeks I don’t even have to look, but they just fall into my lap. That was the way of it this week. One of today’s stories was sent to me in an email, and another caught my eye when I was looking on the local news for a story about a shooting. It helps to restore some balance in our lives when we realize that there still are … and I think always will be … good people in this world.
This first one is sad, but still shows how a community comes together in times of need. It takes place in Vestavia Hills, Alabama where 7-year-old Ally Cheek lives with her family. Ally and her twin sister Bailey Grace were born with a rare genetic condition called HECW2, a progressive illness that took Bailey’s life last year, and will almost certainly take Ally’s before Christmas this year.
The girls’ mother, Morgan Cheek, happened to mention to a neighbor one day last month that they would be decorating early for Christmas this year, because Ally so loved the twinkling Christmas lights and that she was not expected to live until Christmas. Well, word spread, as sometimes happens, and before long every house in the neighborhood had put up outdoor Christmas lights … for Ally.
Said Morgan …
“For me, in seven and a half years of twins with medically fragile needs, and burying my first child, and then starting hospice with my second daughter shortly after … I think having that reminder from so many people that the light does always shine in the darkness has just been such a beautiful reminder for us as a family.”
But, the story doesn’t end there …
After photos of the twinkling neighborhood and the hashtag #lightingtheloopforally went viral, other neighborhoods across the globe chimed in with their own early Christmas cheer in honor of the Cheek family.
“The next thing I know, I’ve got Christmas wreaths coming in from Italy and Spain and Peru and Switzerland!”
The Christmas spirit also made it to actress Kristen Bell (she portrayed Princess Anna in “Frozen,” one of Ally’s favorite musical movies) who lit up her tree with a heart for Ally.
“I am thinking of you, and hoping that you are cozy and happy and in your parents’ arms,” Bell said in a video message to the 7-year-old girl. Ally’s mom said she recognized Bell’s voice from the songs in the film.
One neighbor lent the Cheek family their golf cart, so they can ride around her street to see all the lights even as her condition weakens.
“For some reason, music and lights are two things that she continues to be able to enjoy. We have been able to wrap Ally up in like a billion blankets, and just ride around and listen to Christmas music while Ally gets to see the lights.”
It will be a sad Christmas for the Cheek family, but they have good neighbors who I’m betting will be there by their side to offer them comfort, food, hugs, and anything else they can.
Imagine you’re in the checkout line at your local grocery store a day or two before Thanksgiving, your cart piled high with the usual … celery, onions, potatoes, a fresh turkey, milk, butter … well, you get the picture. And when you finally reach the cashier, your order is rung up, totaling say $90 and change, and a young man tells you it’s paid for. And you hear shouts from the next aisle, turn to look, and a woman has broken down into tears as her Thanksgiving groceries were also paid for.
That was the scene at a Kroger store in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, Georgia, last week when a young entrepreneur, Jason Lobdell and his friends Alix Burton, Marcus Barney, Neo Davis and Jonathan Gooch, took over the store on November 23rd, paying for everyone’s groceries for about two hours!
At first, the group was planning to just hand out gift cards, but … in the end, they decided this way was better. According to Lobdell …
“We literally took up every register at the grocery store and family after family would go through. We took over all 12 aisles for two hours. We were roughly around $40,000. I’m still floating on cloud nine after seeing those faces and getting all those hugs from the grannies and whipping those tears. It was just a good feeling. A lot of us come from those situations and that type of background. So, we understand the true meaning of giving back and pouring back into our community.”
Speaking of whipping those tears … here, have one
In addition to the grocery giveaway, they said they’ve also paid for gas for dozen of people at QuikTrip locations, and on Wednesday, the day before the holiday, Lobdell gave out 600 boxes of food that included turkeys in a poor neighborhood in Atlanta.
And this local story out of Cincinnati, Ohio …
While many high school students are relaxing over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a group of students spent last weekend working to feed hungry families.
“With the holidays and everything, there’s a lot more people that are trying to pick up (food) boxes and our need is actually expanding,” said Hunter Cornelius, a senior at Ross High School. He spent the Saturday after Thanksgiving working with Jee Foods, a student-operated, anti-hunger nonprofit that grew out of a single class at Butler Tech. About 13 students and 200 volunteers are part of the organization, which reclaims and repurposes food that restaurants might otherwise throw away.
According to Levi Grimm, assistant director at Jee Foods …
“When the pandemic hit, all of the clients came all at one time. So, we had a lot more restaurants and schools, when they were closing, that were donating this food.”
Grimm said initially the group’s goal was to extend the shelf-life of food to give time for it to get to families. He said there’s little need for a longer shelf-life now.
“Instead of transforming it, we were able to get it directly to people in need.”
Every Saturday, students and volunteers unload semitrailers filled with food boxes. The boxes get loaded into vehicles representing 30 local partners, which then distribute the food. About 2,500 food boxes are headed to communities across the Tri-State within a few hours.
“It started at 30,000 pounds. Now we’re up to 60,000 pounds of fresh food. And each combo box that we give out to a family is about 30 pounds and it includes meat, dairy, produce. They distribute all the food out that day, or they have refrigeration space where they get it within the week. I don’t think we really expected this scale to happen within the pandemic.”
Imagine … high school students who care enough for their community to spend every Saturday working hard to ensure the people in their community have enough food to eat. My hat is off to these young people and the volunteers who are helping them.
See, folks … they ARE out there and they ARE real … more real than the people I write about the rest of the week! With 23 days remaining ’til Christmas, I bet we can all find a way to be a ‘good people’ in that time … what do you think?