Good People Doing Good Things — Luke Mickelson

I had to flip a coin tonight, for I was hard-pressed to decide between two good people, both of whom are dedicating their lives to helping children.  I didn’t want to leave either one behind, but there was only so much time, so after the coin flip, I promise to bring you the other next week.

Mickelson-2Luke Mickelson’s life changed back in 2012 when he was asked by his church to build a bed for a little girl who had none.  It was Christmas time, a cold and blustery winter in Twin Falls, Idaho where a little girl was sleeping on the floor on naught but a pile of clothes.

“This little girl had a nest of clothes, it looked like a little bird’s nest. And that’s what she slept on, that’s what her bed was. When we delivered the bed, she hugged it and just couldn’t let go. It was such an eye-opener to me. I sat there in silence thinking, ‘Is that really what’s going on?’ I had no clue about what the need was. There’s kids next door whose parents are struggling just to put food on the table, clothes on their back, a roof over their head. A bed was just a luxury. “

Using his daughter’s bunk bed as a template, Mickelson started buying wood and supplies to build beds with his own money. He recruited friends and family members to help around the holidays.  As word spread, interest and involvement from his and other communities surged — along with Mickelson’s bunk bed output.

Mickelson-3That first year, Luke and his team of volunteers built 11 bunk beds in his garage, and the next year it was 15. As their project became known around the community, the demand rose and before long, Luke had a dilemma … he had a lucrative job, with a six-figure income, but building beds was becoming more and more time-consuming.  What to do?  Luke did what few would likely have done … he quit his job to make beds!  He took a significantly lesser-paying part-time job to support his family and turned his attention toward the needs of his community.SHP-2Mickelson set up a non-profit called Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) and their motto is “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town”.  With the help of volunteers and donations for materials, SHP in Twin Falls built and delivered 612 beds to children in 2017.

But the organization is no longer just in Twin Falls, Idaho. Mickelson began a training center where people interested in starting a chapter in their own community can come and learn how to make beds and how to organize their own chapter.  In February, Mickelson and SHP were featured in a Facebook video feature titled Returning the Favor and the response was so overwhelming that they increased their chapters from 14 in February to 100 today.  And per their website, they have more than 900 pending requests for new chapters.  This is an idea that is taking off like wildfire, and for such a good cause. mapIn September 2017, a storage unit used by SHP to store materials, mattresses, etc., was burglarized and over $2,000 worth of materials stolen.  From the Idaho State Journal …

CHUBBUCK — A local charity wants those who burglarized the storage unit that contained several mattresses and bedding supplies to know that their actions have kept eight children sleeping on the floor at night.

“It’s very heart-wrenching,” said Luke Mickelson, the founder of the non-profit Sleep in Heavenly Peace, or SHP, which builds and donates bunk beds to children and families who don’t have anywhere to sleep. “Anytime you have something stolen you feel very stripped. But in this case, when you think about it, those people just robbed eight children of a place to sleep.”

First reported to the Chubbuck Police Department on Sept. 1, Mickelson said the thieves stole eight Malouf Lucid twin-size mattresses, along with several boxes of sheets, pillows, pillowcases and custom handmade quilts from a storage unit located in Chubbuck.

Mickelson continued, “If someone is so desperate they have to steal bedding, I hope they were in dire need and they can put it to good use because the quilts were really priceless and were donated from these awesome elderly ladies that put a lot of time into making them. How do you put a price to their time?”

In June, Luke Mickelson and SHP were featured on CNN Heroes. From the SHP website:

We have grown a lot in just the last year. As you can imagine, we are still working out all our processes and bugs. We are currently a 100% volunteer board and staff. No one currently receives a dime from any of the donations.  

Where we didn’t expect such a torrent was in requests to start a new chapter. It was such a flood of requests to start up that we had to better define our processes. As of the writing of this post, we have have a total of 521 requests to start new chapters in 47 states, in 4 provinces of Canada, 1 in the Philippines, 1 in Kenya and 1 in Mexico.

Perhaps the most important thing we can give to others is our time.  Luke Mickelson gave up a lucrative job and countless hours of his time to do something for children.  He and his team of volunteers from coast-to-coast are bringing smiles to kids’ faces every day.  People like this, my friends, are the ‘real’ people in this world, the ones that restore our faith in humanity.

Good People Doing Good Things — Carolyn Collins

I was working on a special piece for this week’s ‘Good People’ feature, but as often happens, I find that it requires more digging and research than I have time for right at this moment, so I will have that one next week.  But for today … you are going to fall in love with this woman!  She will restore your faith in human nature!  Please allow me to introduce …Carolyn-Collins-2Carolyn Collins, a high school custodian in Tucker, Georgia.  About four years ago, Carolyn was working the early shift, it was still dark out, and she was getting ready to take out the trash when there came a knock on the cafeteria door.  Two students — a boy and a girl — looked at her nervously. “Can we please come in?” asked the boy, even though school didn’t start for two more hours. “Me and my sister are getting tired of waiting outside.”

Talking to the two, Carolyn learned that they were homeless, living in a car with their mother, and hadn’t had much to eat for several days.  She fixed them something to eat and sat chatting with them for a few minutes.  It was from them that she learned there were actually several homeless kids in the school, some living in cars, some in homeless shelters, some even living on the streets.  Carolyn’s heart was touched, and she knew she had to find a way to help.giving closetAfter work that evening, Carolyn stopped at several dollar stores on her way home, purchasing $200 worth of snacks, toiletries, socks, underwear, notebooks, and pencils.  The next morning, she dropped into Principal Eric Parker’s office to let him know what she was doing and to ask if she could make use of a small, mostly-unused storage closet near the cafeteria.  And with that began the Giving Closet.

Many of the students at Tucker High School live in poverty, and according to Principal Parker, at any given time there are typically 10-15 students who are homeless.  Carolyn started out with just a few items, but as she realized how great the needs of the students were, she expanded and now has clothing, belts, shoes, gloves, hairbrushes … you name it, she’s got it, and if she doesn’t have it, she’ll get it.  She spends a few hundred dollars of her own hard-earned money each month keeping the closet stocked.  These days, teachers, other students, and members of the community also bring items to help keep the closet stocked.

Carolyn’s son was murdered during the Thanksgiving weekend six years ago in a home invasion.  She hopes that what she is doing will help keep the young men and women of Tucker High off the streets and prevent what happened to her own son from happening to these young people.

Earlier this year, her efforts came to the attention of television host Steve Harvey after Atlanta-based TV station 11Alive shared Carolyn’s story in December of 2017. Grab your box of tissues and take peek …

“I never anticipated it would get this big, lots of good people want to help. Not every kid who comes to the closet is homeless — some come from single homes and don’t have dads in their lives. It’s hard not to have a dad at home, especially when you’re a young boy. I just hug them and love them and let them know that I’m here for them.”

One of the young men she helped who has since graduated and is now a sophomore at Savannah State University, says of Carolyn …

“I love her with all my heart, she was my angel. Ms. Collins took me aside a couple of times and made sure that I was doing okay and asked me what I needed. And I basically told her, ‘everything.’ I didn’t have clothes or good shoes or food, or even a toothbrush. She gave me all of that and more.”

I so admire Ms. Carolyn Collins … she is what we should all aspire to be, don’t you think?

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“They can come to me for anything. If I have it, I’m going to give it to them.”

 

Good People Doing Good Things — Florence Phillips

Good people.  They are not hard to find.  They come from all walks of life, and their contributions to the world are many and diverse.  As we have seen since I started this feature in February 2017, some contribute large amounts of money to worthy causes, others just do small things that may go unnoticed.  They are young, old, every ethnicity, race, gender and religion.  The common bond they share is that they care about people.  While giving money to good causes is certainly admirable, I always enjoy highlighting those who give of themselves — their time and energy.

Today I have the honour of introducing you to one great lady, Ms. Florence Phillips.  She was born in New York in 1931, shortly after her Jewish parents came to this country from Europe prior to the Holocaust.  Young people are most always able to learn a second or even third language much more easily than adults, and Florence was no exception.  Her parents struggled to learn English, and for most of her childhood, Florence served as their interpreter.

“I did all the translations for them. I saw how they struggled being new to a country and not knowing the language.”

For most of her life, Phillips worked various desk jobs. Then, in her late-50s, she enlisted in the Peace Corps. She served three tours—in Kenya, Guatemala and Jamaica—working on community-building projects and teaching English.  When she returned to the U.S. after her last tour, as she said in one of her videos, she found she had “nothing to do”.

“It came to me that I didn’t have to leave the US or my hometown to help. I could do here what I did overseas.”

She volunteered with AmeriCorps, a voluntary civil society program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in public service work with a goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.”  She moved around the country, eventually settling in Carson City, Nevada, where immigrants comprise some 22% of the population.

Florence-Phillips-4She started out by contacting some of the immigrants, and one woman asked her to come for a visit.  When she arrived, she found five people, three of whom spoke no English, all eager to learn.  As she worked with this family, teaching them to speak the language, word spread and before long she was getting dozens of calls.Florence-Phillips.jpgNow, Florence is an energetic woman, but even so, it soon became more than one woman could handle. And thus, her ESL In-Home Program of Northern Nevada was born.  The organization is a nonprofit that provides free ESL (English as a Second Language), citizenship, GED and computer classes and relies strictly on volunteers.  Started in 2004, they have thus far helped more than 5,000 people become more proficient in English.

Recently, Ms. Phillips was interviewed by CNN’s Laura Klairmont … let’s listen in, shall we?

Laura Klairmont: What are some of the barriers that get in the way of immigrants accessing English classes?

Florence Phillips: It was amazing to see how many immigrants there were that wanted to learn English. I got calls from all over Nevada. Many of these immigrants could not attend ESL classes because the schools and other organizations have a set schedule, and their times were not convenient for the student who works three jobs. So, my program teaches morning, noon, night, weekends, holidays. We provide these services at the times and days that the student is available and wherever the student is or can be. My program is very flexible.

We teach English on all levels to immigrants and refugees in Northern Nevada who want to learn. There is no other program like this in the state. We give the students personal attention; I match them with a tutor. We teach at no cost to the student.

There are people who were living in rural counties and in other counties where they did not have transportation if there was a class available for them to go to. If they lack transportation, just had a baby, are sick or disabled, we will tutor in their own homes or the tutor’s home.

Klairmont: Your program also provides free classes that help people prepare for their citizenship test.

Phillips: It is a very difficult test. A lot of Americans say they could not pass. These people have to know the answers to questions about the branches of government, how many senators there are, etc. It’s a lot of history, a lot of civics, a lot about our government. They have to know how to write, how to read. They have to know how to converse in English with the interviewer. We do all of that for them. We have a mock interview at the end of the class so that they know what to expect when they go for their exam. It takes a commitment of coming to a 12-week class. It takes a lot of memorization.

To apply for citizenship today, it costs more than $700. Many of our students cannot afford to apply. So, we help to raise money to help these students apply.

Whether they’re working two, three jobs, they have to sit down and study every single day, and they make that commitment because it is their desire to become an American. My students inspire me because of their dedication, their commitment, their motivation to learn.

Klairmont: How has your work affected the lives of your students?

Phillips: I have students that were promoted to be supervisor. I get students who call me and say, “I was able to talk with the teacher about my child.” And I’m being told by the students that they went to the market and the clerk understood them. Those are the rewards I get as they progress.

My students love this country. They are very proud about being here, learning English, learning our culture. I see the pride when they say, “I am an American.”

Florence-Phillips-2.jpgIn this day, when fear of immigrants is being manufactured by politicians, isn’t it refreshing to see people who are actually trying to help immigrants assimilate and become contributing members of our society, realizing that they have so much to offer.  My hat is off to Ms. Florence Phillips, who at age 87 has more energy than I do at 67!

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Good People Doing Good Things — Little Things

Some weeks I focus on people who are making huge contributions to the world, the environment, education, etc.  Other weeks, I like to shine the light on everyday, ordinary people like you and me, people who are giving and doing good things, but on a much smaller scale.  It reminds us that we can all be ‘good people’ … we just have to remember to care about others.


WilkinsonWilliam Wilkinson is a teacher at Grace Christian Academy in Powder Springs, Georgia.  One of his sixth grade students, Kaden Koebcke, had received a kidney transplant from his father when he was five-years-old, but it failed and the kidney was removed within days.  Thus, Kaden was on dialysis three days a week. The entire family had been tested to see if they were a match, but none were, and Kaden’s mother had been searching Kadenfor a donor ever since.

Last May, miraculously, a donor match was found for Kaden, but the doctor did not reveal the name of the donor.  One day shortly thereafter, Mr. Wilkinson knocked on the Koebcke’s door and asked if he could speak to them for a moment.  I’ll let Kaden’s mother, Cami, tell you what happened …

“He says, ‘Well, do you guys really wanna know?’ And we said, ‘Yeah, we wanna know, we wanna thank him’. And you know, He’s like, ‘Well, it’s me.’ And I mean it just — I mean … it was unbelievable. I can’t come up with the words to describe how much we appreciate Will Wilkinson. He has given Kaden the chance of living a normal life! He is truly our hero! I want to thank his family, because they are a part of this too! The Wilkinson’s moved to the Atlanta area almost the same time as we did. We both chose the same school for our kids. Our sons are in the same class. We have been blessed to call them our friends.Will-KadenWill, you are such a selfless person, our true hero. The definition of selfless is concern more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own. That is Will. We love you, we appreciate you, and we just cannot thank you enough!”

Will-Kaden-2The transplant took place on Tuesday, 14 August, was successful, and Kaden left the hospital on Saturday, August 25th.  Mr. Wilkinson is only a bit sore, but otherwise doing fine and will return to work in a few weeks.  William Wilkinson is but one of those people that gives of himself … a good person who did a good thing!


Charlie Poveromo was a good guy.  Charlie died of a heart attack this past March, but I will let Velvet tell you what qualifies Charlie as being a ‘good people’ …

“Maybe 5+ years ago, we were suffering thru a brutal summer heat wave and Charlie saw our garbage truck pull up and the men were pale and sweating profusely.  He came running into the kitchen, grabbed a bunch of plastic cups and our big jug of water and made sure everyone got as much as they wanted. That very afternoon, he ran to the store, bought several cases of bottled water and bags of ice and the next morning at 6:30 am, after working all night and only getting a few hours of sleep, he loaded them into one of our coolers and waited for the truck to roll up. I watched as he went up to the truck and explained that, from now on, the cooler would contain cold drinks for them all summer long. As word spread, we’d often see not only our sanitation engineers, but DPW employees, police officers, firemen, construction workers and the like stop by for a breather, some shade under our tree and a nice cold bottle of water. Last year, he expanded his ‘menu’ to include Gatorade and orange juice.”

But the story doesn’t end with Charlie’s death, for ever since, Velvet has done her best to keep up the tradition!

Charlie

Charlie-1Two good people, Charlie & Velvet, doing things to help others!


James Johnston spends his days mowing lawns … for a living.  He is the owner of J&J Lawn Service in Moorefield, West Virginia.  On his way home after 10 hours spent mowing lawns, he passed by an elderly gentleman struggling to mow a quite large lawn with a push mower.  James can tell you about it …

“I said no way was I gonna let this guy tackle this on his own.  So I turned around and went back and unloaded my mower and drove across the street and ask the gentleman if I could help. His eyes lit up and I took that as a yes. I ran down, jumped on my mower and went to work. As I’m cutting the lawn I look over and see the gentleman hunched over his wife, resting his head on her shoulder. So I get it knocked out in no time. I give them a thumbs up and proceeded to load my mower up.

The wife makes her way over before I could leave. She was so thankful! Their riding mower broke down and her husband has been mowing their big lawn with a push mower. It only took 15 mins of my time. I changed their life, for a small moment. I hope someone reads this and feels like doing something good for someone tomorrow. I’m grateful to be where I’m at and I’m thankful for the people that help me get here.”

But he didn’t stop there, for the very next day he launched a GoFundMe page and made a $100 contribution to buy the man a new riding mower!

“I have started the process and I’m donating $100.00 and I’m inviting 9 other local businesses to match my donation. Any donations from anyone is a true blessing. We reached over 15,000 people with our original post and that’s amazing. $1 dollar from each of you would be amazing. Remember, we all have been down and out sometime. Just think of the relief the family can have.”

mowgrass1As of August 12th, $1,200 had been raised by 42 donors, and the man has his new riding mower.  Hats off to James Johnston, a truly good people.


The last good person for today is 94-year-old Wally Richardson, and what he does isn’t big, doesn’t cost him any money … he gives simply of himself.  He stands outside Marina Village Middle School in El Dorado Hills, California, every morning and gives a few words of encouragement and a fist bump to each incoming student. old manRichardson says he started spreading messages of kindness with his wife, Jenny, 10 years ago, using bookmarks. and that it has grown from there. The veteran revealed that his wife isn’t able to walk, so she cannot join him at the middle school in the morning, but he still hopes he makes a positive lasting impression on the students.  “You’re different personalities, but you have to learn to give and take. What I do when I get really upset about something, I just walk away and let my anger disappear because it’s just an emotion.  Anytime you have a heated emotion, walk away from it.” old man-2What sound advice he is giving these young people!  A fist bump to you, Mr. Richardson, for giving of yourself to encourage these kids!  Thank you!  🤜🤛


What do all of today’s good people have in common?  They are giving of themselves.  No money is required, only time and compassion for others (and in one case, a body part!).  These people and all the others like them deserve this spot light as much as those who are doing big things.  We each do what we can, and if it’s something as small as a fist bump or mowing a lawn, it’s still a pretty big thing if you ask me.  Two thumbs up to all of our good people today!

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Good People Doing Good Things — Axana Soltan

Axana Soltan may be only 21 years of age, but she has already done more for human rights than many of us ever do in our entire lives.  When she was only 10-years-old, Axana immigrated from her native Afghanistan to the U.S.  At the time Axana lived in Afghanistan, the Taliban controlled the country and women endured unspeakably harsh conditions and were deprived of their basic human rights like education, employment and freedom of speech. Girl’s schools were burned down, teachers were threatened and women who spoke up against their regime were flogged and executed.

Axana’s family was forced to flee the country and became refugees. Axana has spent much of her childhood in refugee camps where there was no school, no medical facilities, no electricity, heating, and not even access to the very basic life necessities such as water. After witnessing the disparities in Afghanistan, she has witnessed the harsh life in exile inside a refugee camp in Pakistan: children passing away due to preventable illnesses, children not being able to get schooling, and families begging for food just to survive.

refugee campsWhile in the refugee camps, Axana was drawn to the good works being done by UNICEF – providing education, food, medicine, and other essentials to the dispossessed in the camps. At a very early age, Axana made it her life’s mission to help people in much the same manner as UNICEF.  Just five years after arriving in the U.S., her work began in earnest – at age 15!

In 2013, Axana founded Enhancing Children’s Living (ECL), a non-profit organization whose goal is “a world in which every child lives a healthy, fulfilling life and builds into smart, creative, and healthy children.” The stated mission per their Facebook page is …

ECL-2.jpgEnhancing Children’s Living is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit philanthropic organization based in Richmond, Virginia. Established in 2013, the society is organized to be a humanitarian unit that ignites the lives of children living in destitute. The organization provides access to meal nourishment, education, advocacy, and medical care to children in and out of the country.

Enhancing Children’s Living invests in a better future, a different future. It invests in a world in which no child left behind. Where children everywhere have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. By partnering with local government, and child advocacy organizations, we ensure every child has a voice and no child feels neglected.

For the past five years, ECL has done so much good for children around the world, from putting together backpacks full of school supplies for children in Pakistan, to sending nourishing meals to children in Haiti, to buying hundreds of pairs of shoes for children coming to the United States from Afghanistan.

ECL-1Axana has achieved global recognition for her activism. On May 13th, 2017, before an audience of 2,500 people, Axana spoke against the travel ban of refugees in her Commencement Address, declaring the ban of children from the seven Muslim countries a violation of the Article 22 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She was the first Afghan-American Hero recipient on CBS and received praise from national magazines, such as Blaze and Value Magazine.

Last year, Axana graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University where she received her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice.

Axana aspires to become a human rights lawyer and continue her advocacy through policy to ensure that  all children, regardless of country of origin or refugee status, are awarded children’s rights protections as guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).AxanaAxana Soltan has been the energy and the inspiration behind Enhancing Children’s Living, and ECL has secured the education of over 1,700 children around the world. The organization has also been actively providing these children with thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies, hundreds of shoes, clothing and even food.

Next time you hear somebody comment on how terrible immigrants are, that they are all lazy criminals and bad for our nation, think about Axana.

“Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. Once you have determined your purpose in life, then chase after it.  In the process, please remember to help others. I strongly believe that a just and compassionate world stars with each one of us. You don’t have to be a doctor, lawyer, or a rocket scientist to make a difference in the world. There is no timeline.  Together we can create a world that places human needs and human-rights above all.”  – Axana Soltan

Good People Doing Good Things — California Wildfires

Wildfires have been raging seemingly forever in California. I don’t know for certain that there was even a break between the fires last December and the current batch that started in early April and is still going strong.  Wildfires are almost a given in California on an annual basis, but this year’s fires have exceeded any in the state’s history.  A total of 5,283 fires have so far burned an area of 903,797.6 acres … nearly one million acres!  And the toll isn’t only land and homes, but there is a human toll also. Just two days ago, yet another fire fighter died in the line of duty, the sixth this year.  In addition, eight civilians have also died.

The fire fighters have been working non-stop, sometimes 24-hour shifts with very little time for rest in between, so they haven’t had the time to sit down and tell us their stories, but some day they will and then I will listen and write about their amazing stories, their acts of heroism.  Meanwhile, though, I do have a few stories about good people doing good things in the tragedy of the California wildfires.  Most of these are small, yet heartwarming stories … the bigger ones will, no doubt, come later.


California Highway Patrols across California have deployed officers to help California residents evacuate from the fires.  This unidentified CHP officer rescued this deer and received a deer kiss in return.police rescues deer


Susan and Jeff Grant were evacuated from their home during the Carr fire, the second largest. Luckily, the fire didn’t damage their home and after 10 days in a motel, they were able to return home. When they did, they found a note from one of the fire fighters who had been working to protect the area …firefighter noteHe had watered their flowers & garden, and looked after their turkeys!  A small thing, but consider this man was likely exhausted and yet took a few minutes to do this small act of kindness for people he doesn’t even know.


Last Friday, the Nelson fire was rapidly approaching the Solano SPCA in Vacaville, and there it was obvious that there was a limited amount of time to get the animals out and taken to safety.  There were 67 animals in the shelter, including a python, and only a few minutes to get them out.  All the animals were safely rescued, thanks to the fine work of these men and women.

The shelter was spared and the animals were able to return the next day.  An added side benefit … about a dozen of the animals are now being adopted by their rescuers!


World Central Kitchen is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters that was founded in 2010 by celebrity chef José Andrés.  Along with Guy Fieri of Food Network fame, they are on the ground in Redding, California, near the Carr fire, feeding both the displaced and the crews who are working to contain the fires. Guy FieriFieri and Andrés have combined their efforts with local branches of disaster relief organizations the Red Cross and Salvation Army, as well as Operation BBQ Relief, an organization that rolls up with smokers to feed victims of natural disasters.  Together, they are feeding about 1,600 – 2,100 people a day.


Photographer Noah Berger was on assignment shooting photos of the Clayton fire in Northern California when a firefighter came out carrying a goat.  He asked Berger to please take the goat, as he needed to go back and get the others.  Turns out there were 10 goats stranded in the midst of the flames!goatThe family that owned the goats had been forced to evacuate, and couldn’t get the stubborn goats to come along, so they had no choice but to leave them behind.  Thanks to some heroic firefighters and Noah Berger, the little goats are safe.


These stories may not seem like much … just little things, really, like watering someone’s flowers or rescuing an animal … but these are the things that people with kind hearts, people with compassion, people who care about others do.  We help others, even if only in small ways.  Every single firefighter and rescue worker out there battling the heat, exhaustion, and risking their life has my undying gratitude and utmost respect.  These are my heroes this week. Let us hope for an end to these terrible fires soon before the toll in property and lives goes any higher.firefire-2fire-3

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Firefighter gives CPR to rescued dog … the dog lived!

tired firefighters

Exhausted

Good People Doing Good Things — Above and Beyond

This week I decided to focus on those small acts of kindness people do that are just a bit ‘above and beyond’ … small acts that mean so much.  It’s never hard to find those people … they are all around us if we only open our eyes.


When I read a story about a police officer who rescued a man from a burning car, or foiled a bank robbery, I consider those things to be “in the line of duty”, and do not see them as fodder for this post.  But … jumping off an overpass is, I think, far above and beyond the ‘line of duty’, even for an officer of the law!CavalloMeet Officer Jessie Ferreira Cavallo, who was on her way to work Friday afternoon when she saw a boy running along the Saw Mill River Parkway in Yonkers, New York.  She watched in shock as the boy climbed over a guardrail and jumped. Without thinking, she followed right behind the boy and jumped in behind him!

“Everything was happening so fast, and I think my adrenaline was pumping so high. I just knew, when I looked down and saw him … he looked dead. I couldn’t see anything other than blood. I thought to myself, ‘He needs help. I need to help him’.”

A second woman – this one in a military uniform – stopped to assist and the two heroes began to give the unresponsive boy CPR and strap on a neck brace. The boy was then rushed to a hospital, where he was treated for broken bones. He is expected survive.

It wasn’t until the next day that Cavallo realized what she had done.

“Friday, after this whole thing happened, I went to work and worked to 11 p.m. I didn’t realize what was going on until yesterday. That’s when it hit me. I didn’t realize how high it was. It seemed doable. It didn’t seem that high. I thought I jumped over a brick wall, or a cement barrier. It was so fast. It was more like tunnel vision. I saw the boy and I needed to get to him. I didn’t see anything else.”

The boy had run off from an organization that serves children with special needs or emotional and behavioral issues.  He will survive, and Officer Cavallo gets a two-thumbs-up from Filosofa for her heroism above and beyond the call of duty!  👍👍


Ebony Harris is a cashier at the Wal-Mart store in Burton, Michigan.  Ms. Harris was on her break, about to get a sandwich at the Subway sandwich shop inside the Wal-Mart when she saw a young lady in a wheelchair turned away by the nail salon that is also located within the store.  Employees at the salon said the young lady “moved too much”.  She has cerebral palsy and therefore she has sometimes uncontrollable shaking.

Ms. Harris and a couple of her co-workers took matters into their own hands, buying nail polish and sitting at one of the tables in Subway to paint the young woman’s nails! Ebony-Harris

“I just wanted to make her day special. I didn’t really want her day to be ruined. That’s why I did it. And you know, she moved her hands a little bit and she kept saying she was sorry. And, I told her ‘don’t say that’. I said ‘you’re fine’.

We’re not trying to bash the nail salon. We’re not trying to make them lose customers, make them look bad,” she said. “But maybe spread awareness that no matter the person, who they are, what color they are, disability, whatever, they’re people too. She’s a girly girl. She’s just like you, me, Tasia, my daughter, anybody. She wants to look pretty, you know, and so why can’t she?”

Why can’t she, indeed! Hats off to Ms. Ebony Harris and her co-workers for going above and beyond with so much compassion!  🎩


Sometimes when the ‘do-gooder’ is a celebrity, I hesitate to include them in this feature, for often we think, “well, so what … they can afford it”.  But this story about a celebrity doing a small act of kindness struck a chord with me.

Rapper/actor Ludacris just happened to be shopping in the right place and at the right time.  He was in line ahead of a woman, Therra Jaramillo, at a Whole Foods market in Atlanta, Georgia, when some of the pet food she was purchasing for her rescue pets (and an elderly, blind chicken named Dixie Licklighter) was accidentally rung up with his order.  As Ms. Jaramillo tried to retrieve her items, explaining to the cashier, Ludacris stopped her, saying “I might as well get it”.  Well, long story short, he did get it and all the rest of her groceries, as well!

Ms. Jaramillo goes on to tell us that her father had recently died, and she was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina, which took the life of her mother.  She has been out of work, down on her luck, and the only reason she was shopping at Whole Foods was because a friend had given her a gift card, knowing that she needed food.

Ms. Jaramillo told her story through a series of tweets, ending with this one …LudacrisA small act, costing only a few hundred dollars, but … an act of kindness, above and beyond.


Last Monday it was 110° in Southern Nevada.  Bus driver Mike Blair noticed an elderly man trying unsuccessfully to board the bus, but he seemed in distress, unable to quite manage the steps.  Blair helped the man onto the bus and placed him right next to the air-conditioner, then he took a bottle of cold water from his own lunchbox and gave it to the man, helping him get the bottle to his mouth. BlairAfter about 10 minutes, the elderly man seemed to rebound and got off at the next stop, saying, “Thank you.  I’m 92 years old”.  A small act, indeed, but above and beyond the job description of a bus driver.


There are literally thousands of stories like these.  You don’t have to make huge sacrifices of money or time, just look around and when you see somebody struggling, help them.  This is what being human is all about, don’t you think?

Now, I don’t typically do this on ‘good people’ posts, but I came across this video and it was just so darned funny that I had to share it with you and give you a laugh this morning!  And no, before you even ask, this is definitely not how I fold fitted sheets!!!

And on that note … have a great day!  Remember, not all of us can be Mama Rosie, Mohamed Bzeek or Bill Gates, but all of us can do little things that are just a bit ‘above and beyond’.

Good People Doing Good Things – Mohamed Bzeek – Redux

Note to Readers: I am cheating on this one, for I first published this post in July 2017, just over a year ago. I know the ‘good people’ feature is one that we all look forward to every week, and I didn’t wish to disappoint you, but I simply could not focus last night for some reason. So, rather than leave you without a bit of cheer to chase away the gloom, I decided to re-post one of my favourites. Please forgive, and I will try to do an original ‘good people’ a bit later in the week. Thanks for your patience!


“I am not an angel. I am not a hero. It’s just what we are supposed to do as a human being.”

Three weeks ago I wrote about the couple, Michael and Camille Geraldi, who had adopted, over the course of 40 years, some 88 children with special needs.  They are an amazing couple and their story was one of my most popular ever.  Imagine my amazement when a similar story literally dropped into my lap on Monday night when I was not even looking for a subject for this post, but was doing research for another piece. Please allow me to introduce you to a gentleman with a heart of gold, Mr. Mohamed Bzeek.

bzeek-headerMr. Bzeek lives in Los Angeles, where he has made it his life’s mission to take in foster children.  Not just any foster children, but Mr. Bzeek takes in the foster children that nobody else will … those who are dying of terminal illnesses.  Mohamed Bzeek started caring for foster children when he met his late wife, who was then already a foster mom. At first, they took in children who had medical issues. In 1995, they started taking in only children who were terminally ill. Over the years, Bzeek says, he’s taken in about 40 children with medical problems, ten of whom died while in his care, some while in his very arms.

Why does he do it?  His faith, for one thing. He feels that it’s his duty as a Muslim to help those in need. “It’s the big factor, my faith, because I believe as a Muslim we need to extend our hand to help people who need us. Doesn’t matter what nationality, what religion, what country. To me it doesn’t matter, I do it as a human being for another human being,” he says. “You have to do it from your heart, really. If you do it for money, you’re not going to stay for long.”

bzeek-5Speaking of one of his former children, he says, “And this is my kid who died with the cancer. He has a cancer. He died. They operate on him, and they find the cancer separate all of his organs. So, the doctor said, let’s stitch him back, and said, there’s nothing we can do for him.”

Mr. Bzeek came to the U.S. from Libya in 1978, then an engineering student.  Years later, through a mutual friend, he met a woman named Dawn, who would become his wife. She had become a foster parent in the early 1980s, before she met Bzeek. Her grandparents had been foster parents, and she was inspired by them, Bzeek said. Before she met Bzeek, she opened her home as an emergency shelter for foster children who needed immediate placement or who were placed in protective custody. Bzeek became a U.S. citizen in 1997. And then, in 2015, Bzeek’s wife died, and in 2016, Bzeek himself was diagnosed with cancer.

“I had to face everything by myself. If I am 62-years-old and I’m scared and afraid to be by myself – I felt what the kids felt. The young kids, how they feel when they are alone, have no family, nobody comforts them, nobody tells them ‘It’s ok, I’m here for you, we go through this together and it will be fine.’ This operation in December has humbled me, and makes me work more and help more kids.”

The video below is short (3:33 min) but please watch it … I fell in love with Mr. Bzeek when I saw this:

Today, he is foster parent to a 6-year-old girl* born with microcephaly, a rare disorder in which a baby’s brain doesn’t fully develop. She cannot see or hear. She responds only to touch. At seven weeks old, the county took her from her biological parents. They called Bzeek, and he agreed to take her in.

bzeek-6The girl’s head is too small for her 34-pound body, which is too small for her age. She was born with an encephalocele, a rare malformation in which part of her brain protruded through an opening in her skull, according to Dr. Suzanne Roberts, the girl’s pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Neurosurgeons removed the protruding brain tissue shortly after her birth, but much of her brain remains undeveloped. She has been in Bzeek’s care since she was a month old. Before her, he cared for three other children with the same condition.

“These kids, it’s a life sentence for them.”  A snippet of an interview between Mr. Bzeek and NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

Bzeek: And, also, she has, like, seizures. She’s blind and deaf. She has clubfoot and dislocated hips.

Navarro: How do you communicate with her? She is blind. She can’t hear.

Bzeek: Touch – communication, touching her, you know? She smiled when I play with her and make a little bit, like, noise, you know? It doesn’t mean anything. But that shows you that, you know, she understands that somebody tried to communicate with her, you know?

Navarro: How many of them have died in your care?

Bzeek: Ten. They need somebody who will be with them and take care of them, you know? It doesn’t matter how hard, you know, because somebody has to do it.

Navarro: How do you deal with the loss when they pass away? How do you cope?

Bzeek: I mean, at church. You know, you have a kid since it was a baby, since it was one week or two weeks or a few days. And, like, some of them stayed, like, six years and four months. It’s really hard. I mean, I consider them as, like, my biological, you know? And it hurts. But I believe that is part of life, you know?

Bzeek-3

Melissa Testerman, an intake coordinator for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has nothing but the highest praise for Mr. Bzeek.  “If anyone ever calls us and says, ‘This kid needs to go home on hospice,’ there’s only one name we think of. He’s the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it.”

Neil Zanville of the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services says that without Bzeek these children would be forced to live in medical facilities rather than the comfort of a loving home. “Mr. Bzeek is dealing with children who only have a limited amount of time. I think he’s even taken children in that died days later. So it’s the rare individual, or he might be the only individual in LA county, that will provide a home environment and provide love and care when a child in fact has very limited time left.”

On reading his story in the Los Angeles Times (an excellent read, if you have time) in February, a woman named Margaret Cotts was so moved that she decided to set up a GoFundMe account to help Mr. Bzeek. The donations will be used to get him central air conditioning and heating (right now he only has a swamp cooler in his living room), additional help, a new car and roof repairs.  As of this writing, the account has received $496,253!!!

Bzeek’s own biological son, Adam, himself was born in 1997 with brittle bones, dwarfism and other physical challenges and requires much care. At 19 years of age, and a computer science student at a local college, he weighs a scant 65 pounds. A nurse’s aide helps with care on weekdays from 8:00 to 4:00. But, still, it’s a full-time job, one Mr. Bzeek handles by himself every night and every weekend. Sleep is a precious commodity, and other than his time in the hospital last December, Mr. Bzeek has not had a “day off” since 2010. With his foster daughter’s seizures happening more and more often, he usually sleeps near her on the couch, just in case.

So the next time you hear somebody say we should ban all Muslims, think of Mr. Bzeek and think about all the children who would have spent their last days on earth all alone if not for him.  I know that if I ever get to L.A., I will make time to stop by and shake his hand. In the words of Rod Dreher writing for the American Conservative, “The whole story is so beautiful it hurts.”

bzeek-4


*No names of the children can be used because of privacy laws

Additional Resources:

Mr. Bzeet’s Facebook page

PBS News Hour interview with 7:00 min podcast

Good People Doing Good Things — Today’s Youth

My friend rawgod had an idea for this week’s ‘good people’ post that I am pondering, but simply have not had time to pull it together yet, so perhaps next week.  No, I won’t give you a hint, for then you’ll pester me.  But what I do have for you today are some kids who are taking more than their share of responsibility for the wildlife on our planet.  These four have been hailed as ‘eco-heroes’ by the Sierra Club and I think you’ll see why.


Dessi-2Desmond Sieburth, nicknamed Dessi, lives in Pasadena, California.  Sieburth, a young bird conservationist, explains, “I got into birding when I was eight years old, after making a bird feeder.” Sieburth’s frequent birding expeditions soon led him to the unfortunate truth that populations of many types of birds are declining, thanks to factors including deforestation. So, he decided to help. To start, he made nesting boxes for the western bluebird, which typically make their nests in dead tree cavities—and he has been building and monitoring his homemade nesting boxes ever since. Last year, 21 boxes produced 163 fledglings.

In an effort to further preserve and create bird habitats, especially in urban settings, and to educate others about helping birds, Sieburth created an organization called Protecting Our Birds. He says that teaching Californians about the threatened and endangered birds right in their backyards—such as the California condor—is his passion. “Microtrash, lead ammunition, and habituation are the main threats to the California condors.”

DessiSieburth, who joined the Pasadena Audubon Society at age eight, also contributes to several Audubon newsletters. He regularly leads bird walks for kids and adults, and has presented on bird habitats before Audubon chapters, schools, and libraries, reaching close to 1,000 people. And, over three years of participating in Audubon’s “Big Photo Day”—an annual event that calls on birders to photograph as many species of birds as they can in a day, with each photo fetching a donation—he has raised more than $1,500 to protect a local watershed and wildlife corridor. The American Birding Association named Sieburth 2015’s Young Birder of the Year for his tireless efforts.

Sieburth’s plan for the future is to expand his conservation efforts globally—he already uses his Protecting Our Birds website to emphasize the importance of supporting bird-habitat-friendly coffee plantations in South and Central America. It was hardly a surprise to learn that when he grows up, he wants to be an ornithologist.   His website is amazing … you really should take a minute to check it out!


Isabella-WillowIsabella and Willow Poschman are 12-year-old twins who are out to save the endangered species of the world.  They have been involved in animal conservation ever since second grade, when they saw a film called “The Elephant in the Room.” Isabella promptly wrote letters to President Barack Obama, President Xi of China, and President Kenyatta of Kenya, urging leaders to do whatever they could to end the ivory trade. Since then, the twins have gathered signatures for an online petition version of that letter—signed by children in almost all 50 states and in more than 60 countries—and founded Kids Saving Elephants. Their organization not only educates kids and adults around the world about the plight of African elephants, but also raises funds to help fight the ivory trade. Isabella and Willow have also raised thousands of dollars by selling handmade elephant greeting cards, as well as lemonade and cookies, at the Aspen Music Festival, and throughout summers at the Aspen Saturday Market.Willow-letterSome of the twins’ most recent actions include sending letters to the Wall Street Journal and to Elle Décor magazine—one was published in Elle Décor’s September 2016 issue— beseeching editors to not feature elephant tusks and other endangered species in their spreads. Alongside a visiting conservationist from Kenya, they also recently presented to 120 of their fellow students at Aspen Middle School. Isabella and Willow now plan to hone this presentation and make it available online to schoolkids around the world. They also continue to fundraise via their elephant cards, which they plan to start selling online and at a couple of local stores.

Willow, who is currently an intern at a wildlife rehabilitation center in Silt, Colorado, as part of a sixth-grade mentorship program, plans to be a big-cat scientist when she grows up. This is according to the twins’ mom, Maureen, who adds, “Willow may become a best-selling author first, in order to help fund her wildlife conservation efforts.” Maureen says Isabella “wants to become a Broadway actress.”


Hannah-TestaAt age 12, Hannah Testa founded Hannah4Change to fight for issues that affect the planet and all of its animals. One of her most successful fundraisers—a movie night that attracted more than 300 guests and raised several thousand dollars for the nonprofit Save the Horses—led to the then-10-year-old Testa being featured on CBS News. She has since presented to thousands of children and adults (including Georgia governor Nathan Deal) on one of the biggest threats to wildlife—plastic pollution—and practical ways residents can reduce their “plastic footprint.” She has also made videos outlining the need to protect some of her other favorite animals, orcas and rhinos, and has presented at rallies and protests in the name of saving orcas. Additionally, Testa sells homemade cookies, through which she has raised $1,500 for elephant conservation.

Hannah-2Testa says her current mission is to make her native Forsyth County “the greenest county in Georgia, through education and awareness. This includes educating businesses as well as schools to become more green by using less single-use plastic products and to recycle as much as possible.” When this jack-of-all-trades conservationist grows up, she says she is interested in “working for the UN, where I can be in a position to truly make a difference in this world.”


In light of recent rolling back of environmental regulations here in the U.S., I worry about the future of this planet.  But with kids like Dessi, Isabella, Willow and Hannah, maybe … just maybe there is hope yet.  I applaud these four young people, and all the rest whom I haven’t yet discovered.

Good People Doing Good Things — Maria Rose Belding

Yes, I do realize it is Sunday morning, and yes, I do realize that “good people” is a Wednesday feature.  Further, I realize that there are three days between Sunday and Wednesday and that I have no earthly right to jump three whole days ahead with the good people post.  Yes, I realize there are rules, and they must be followed … protocols that ought not to be breached.  I know all of that … but guys?  I can’t take any more of the other stuff right now.  I need a break.  I need to be reminded … and just maybe you do too … that the world is not filled with evil, greed and hatred.

Maria Rose Belding grew up working in her church’s food pantry in her small Iowa hometown.  She also grew up being bullied, being shoved into lockers, physically threatened and told she should kill herself to make the world a better place.

But Maria had other ideas …

As she got older, Belding realized that feeding the hungry wasn’t as easy as it should be. The pantry’s shelves overflowed with some items while other foods were desperately needed.Maria Rose.jpgIn 2009, when she was 14, the pantry received a huge donation of macaroni and cheese that was more than the community could use, and she saw how hard it was to contact other charities that could take it.  Months later, she had to throw away hundreds of expired boxes as people waited in line for food.

“I remember just crying and being so angry. There was nothing that really allowed us to communicate in an efficient way. … The Internet was right in front of us!”

Belding had stumbled upon two problems that still plague the U.S. food system. According to the USDA, more than 40 million Americans don’t regularly have enough to eat while up to 40% of the country’s food supply is wasted.

In high school, she developed an idea for an online database that could solve both problems, but she didn’t have the programming skills to make it work. After graduating, she met Grant Nelson, a law student who was writing code on his laptop.

About nine months later, during Belding’s freshman year at American University, they launched MEANS, a free online platform that connects businesses with extra food to charities that feed the hungry.

Run largely by high school and college students, the nonprofit has helped redistribute more than 1.8 million pounds of food since 2015.

“Too often, grocery stores and restaurants find themselves throwing out food when there is great need in nearby communities. MEANS aims to make it easier to donate food than throw it in the dumpster. … We’re like a bridge that hasn’t existed before.”

Recently Ms. Belding was interviewed by CNN … here is a bit from that interview:

CNN: What does MEANS stand for, and how does it work?

Maria Rose Belding: MEANS is an acronym that stands for Matching Excess And Need for Stability; 14-year-old me had a fondness for acronyms.

It’s pretty simple. If you want to get food from MEANS, you have to be registered as a legal charity in the United States. So, when a soup kitchen, homeless shelter or a food pantry needs something, they tell our system. And when a grocery store, caterer or food retailer has something they want to donate, all they have to do is go online and say, “This is where I am, this is what I’ve got, and this is when I need it gone by.” Then the system automatically notifies all of those who have said, “I need things within these parameters.” We’re able to match up excess and need very, very quickly. At this point, MEANS has about 3,000 partners in 48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The Emerson Act — a ‘Good Samaritan’ law passed in 1996 — protects donors from liability.

We’re also part of a great partnership with the Rhode Island Health Department called Rhode to End Hunger, which encourages businesses to donate food to nonprofits. One of the shining stars of that is the Twin River Casino. They’ll post hundreds of pounds of food, and somebody in Providence — like McAuley House, which is feeding a lot of folks who are struggling — will claim it really fast. The average in Rhode Island is about 10 minutes for things to move.

CNN: What are some of the most unusual donations you’ve had?

Belding: We’ve got all these awesome stories. People think, “Oh, no one’s going to want that” — we can prove you wrong. We have had 50 pounds of squab — which is fancy baby pigeon — from a five-star restaurant in Seattle. That ended up being used in pork and beans — apparently it was a big hit. We’ve found home for 250 pounds of rutabagas, 11,000 pounds of green beans, 42,000 pounds of milk. We’ll find a home for it 95% of the time. The average amount of time it takes for food to be claimed is half an hour. Our record is two minutes and 37 seconds.

You’d think the novelty would wear off — nope! In our office, every time you see a donation go live on our admin panel, and then you see somebody has claimed it, you’re like, “It worked!” When you see food move, you know that that’s people getting to eat that maybe wouldn’t have been able to — or maybe they’re getting to eat better than they would have. You’re also keeping food from going to landfills. It’s just great for everybody.

CNN: How do you balance running MEANS with being a full-time student?

Belding: Pretty much everybody on our staff is running between classes, labs and work. Our original office was split between my co-founder Grant’s apartment and the basement of my freshman year dorm. Now we’re in the American University Center for Innovation, and this semester my physics class was down the hall, so I literally ran there a minute before class started.

I actually took a year off to devote myself to MEANS full time. Now I am a rising senior and will graduate next May with my pre-medical requirements met. I’m definitely not having a normal college experience. I’ve never been to a Greek life event, I’m not in any clubs, and I know I would have a much better G.P.A. if I wasn’t doing this. But this is more important than me.

What makes it worth it is knowing that we’re building something that matters a lot more than we do.

Wow … what a special young lady, don’t you think?  Check out their website, especially the awesome team of young people who make this all work.

I hope you can all forgive me for jumping the gun on the ‘good people’ post, and I really hope you enjoyed this breath of fresh air as much as I did.  Tough times, my friends … but as long as there are people like Maria Rose Belding out there, there will always be hope for humanity.  Hugs!