Good People Doing Good Things — JJ Watt

I did not even have to go in search of this week’s ‘good person’ — he fell right into my lap.  Okay, okay, no not literally.  But he was a headliner today, so he wasn’t hard to find.  As you all know, sports is not my strong suit, and football (American-style, with the ovoid pigskin, for my non-US amigos) is definitely not my forte.  But yet, today’s good person is an excellent football player, I am told, but an even better human being.  Allow me to introduce today’s good person doing good things, Justin James Watt, better known as JJ Watt.Ellen tweetJJ Watt is star defense end for the Houston Texans and on Saturday it was announced that Mr. Watt will personally be paying for the funerals of all ten victims of the Santa Fe, Texas, school shooting the day before, Friday, May 18th.  That’s right – you heard me – he is paying for all ten funerals, 9 students and 1 teacher, who were shot and killed on that fateful day.  Now, that in itself would have earned him a place in this post, but there is so much more that he gets the whole post.

Watt’s history of helping out after school shootings dates all the way back to 2012 and the Sandy Hook shooting where 27 were killed.  Watt invited some of the children from Sandy Hook Elementary to meet him and participate in a day of football and much-needed fun at the Texans’ stadium.

“I just kind of wanted to give them as normal a day as possible, just running around, having fun, going out on the field. We were kicking field goals. They were trying to put it through the uprights. Just be kids. And to see them in a normal setting, having fun and big smiles on their faces was awesome.”

Watt-Sandy-Hook

On Monday, Watt visited with survivors of the Santa Fe High School shooting at Clear Lake Regional Medical Center and cheered both the victims and the hospital staff!

Watt joined the Texans in 2011, and has been doing good things for the community almost since day #1.  On July 2, 2011, the Berry family was traveling home from a vacation in Colorado Springs. The parents, Joshua and Robin Berry were killed in a head-on collision while also leaving their two sons, Peter and Aaron handicapped. Their daughter, Willa, suffered minor injuries. Watt met the children at a fund-raiser and grew close with them. He played wheelchair basketball with them and pantomimed rolling a wheelchair after sacking a quarterback in a 2012 game. The pantomime was an agreed upon signal between the Berry children and Watt as a post-sack celebration.

Justin J. Watt Foundation, a charity organization that provides after-school opportunities for children in various communities, in order for them to get involved in athletics in a safe environment. This foundation’s motto, “Dream Big, Work Hard” is sold on wrist bands and T-shirts. Since this foundation was launched in 2010, Watt has raised over $1 million.

Remember Hurricane Harvey that hit Houston last August?  JJ Watt started a fund-raiser to help the victims of Harvey and kicked it off with $100,000 of his own money.  He said he was hoping to get the fund up to $200,000 with donations from others.  But guess what?  Mr. Watt has some selling-power, for the fund blew past the $200,000 mark in a matter of hours and finally ended up at $37 million from more than 200,000 donors!  And he took a personal interest in seeing that the funds were distributed where they were most needed, often working into the night with relief groups and organizers.

In addition to Watt’s mega contributions to humanity, he does a lot of little things, too.  For example, there was the time he popped in to surprise his favorite teacher on the day of her retirement, thanking her profusely for all she’d done not only to inspire him, but all of the kids she’d taught during her 41 years as an educator.Watt-teacherThere is much negativity about sports super-heroes these days, their exorbitant salaries, arrogance and hedonistic lifestyles.  It is heartwarming to come upon one like Mr. JJ Watt, who is truly a humanitarian, who is using both his money and his voice to do things to help people.  Thank you, Mr. JJ Watt, for all the good you do and have done.Watt-tweet

He doesn’t just talk the talk, he walks the walk.  Two thumbs up to Mr. Justin James Watt!  two-thumbs

Good People Doing Good Things — Big ‘n Little

Today, believe it or not, I found some good people to write about!  You’re shocked, I can tell.  These stories have no particular thread, no theme, they just … are.  These are the people who make this world a good place to be, who make our lives fuller and richer, and who restore our faith in humanity.  The first one is short, but heartwarming …


A woman in Jackson, Tennessee posted a photo of her grandmother and the kindhearted 7-year-old boy who visits her every day.kid-visits-grandmaThe boy’s named is Caleb and he’s been visiting her for a couple of years, according to Darrien Middleton, who posted the heartwarming story on her Facebook page.

What a kid, eh?


Alvin Randlett was a janitor for 32 years at the Sixth District Elementary School in Covington, Kentucky.  Mr. Randlett’s passion was protecting children.  Randlett believed he could lift a child’s spirits with a smile, a kind word or a joke and upon realizing the unfortunate circumstance of many of the children he served.

Alvin RandlettAlvin retired in 2001 with more than 300 days’ worth of sick leave accrued.  When he did take time off, it was often to chaperone the kids on field trips.  Mr. Randlett walked everywhere he went and had never driven a single mile in his life! At the time he retired, he was making all of $13.43 per hour.

When Mr. Randlett died in 2015, he left his entire estate – just over $175,000 – to the Kentucky Child Victims’ Trust Fund.  Now, in this age of millionaires and billionaires, $175,000 may not seem like much, but it was the whole sum of Mr. Randlett’s life savings and he wanted it to go to protecting children.

“Mr. Randlett was a wonderful man who not only looked out for the students at school, but he also lived in our neighborhood and would do anything to help us out. I remember seeing him walking home from work on a daily basis and he would always say ‘hi’ and ask if everything was okay.” – a former student

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear recently honored Randlett with a posthumous award …

“The generous bequest from Mr. Randlett deserves never-ending remembrance and appreciation. Mr. Randlett’s act allows the Child Victims’ Trust Fund to protect more Kentucky children from abuse and make a positive difference in the lives of thousands of Kentuckians for years to come.”

What an incredibly generous gift from a man with a good heart!


James Harrison is an 81-year-old Australian man who has, since 1957 when he was but a young whippersnapper, saved the lives of more than 2 million babies, most of whom he has never seen and will never meet.  So how, you ask, did he save their lives?  Mr. Harrison has donated his special blood 1,173 times.  And why is his blood special?

When he was 20, it was discovered that James had a rare antibody in his bloodstream that is used to make a lifesaving medication called Anti-D, which infants need if they have an opposite blood type to their mother. If they don’t have it the newborn could die.

Last Friday, James gave his last pint of blood, for the doctors say he is simply too old.  But think about it, friends … James has donated 19 pints of blood per year … that’s one-and-a-half times every month for 61 straight years.  To save the lives of babies he doesn’t even know.  And if it were left up to James, he wouldn’t stop now, but the docs insisted.

Mr. Harrison has been widely praised and has received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his longtime support of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and the Anti-D program.  The New York Times referred to him as ‘the man with the golden arm’.  Mr. Harrison has a great sense of humour, saying, “Blame me for the increase in population.”


I apologize for the brevity of today’s Good People post, my friends.  I’m bordering on exhaustion tonight, for I have not been sleeping well the last few nights, and I just cannot do more.  But I leave you with a short video that I came across a few nights ago.  This woman is certainly deserving of a spot on the good people post, and I promise you a super ‘awwwwwwwwwww’ moment!!!  Gronda – get your box of tissues ready!

Good People Doing Good Things — Youth

Yesterday, I was literally in a fit of rage, even my fingertips were spitting and sputtering, as the man-who-would-be-king did his best to send me to my ash bottle in a fit of apoplexy.  And then … I remembered that today is Wednesday and that I needed to start work on my weekly ‘good people’ post.  At first, I thought “No way!!!” … but then I remembered the words of several of my friends and fellow bloggers who, just last week, told me that this feature may be among the most important things I do – reminding us all that there are, indeed, good people out there who care about others.  And so, I picked myself up, dusted my knees, took a deep breath, and went in search of.  And today, I find my inspiration to be better, to do better, comes from young people, as it so often does …


jordan-jenningsRemember when you were ten years old?  Nah, me neither.  But I do know this much … at age ten, I likely did not know what an architect was. Ten-year-old Jordan Jennings, of Huntsville, Alabama, has two passions and architecture is one of them.  The other one is helping people.  And Jordan has combined his two passions into something that will blow your mind!

Jordan designs emergency shelter and mobile furniture for homeless people.  He has designed a four-season tent that can fit inside a backpack and be used as emergency shelter when an individual does not have a home or space in a shelter. In addition to creating the four-season tent, Jordan has designed light weight modular furniture that can be used in emergency housing and shelters. Jordan designs with one goal in mind: to make architecture designs that serve those with the greatest need.  Remember, this kid is only ten!!!

Jordan’s work recognizes that homeless individuals cannot always access supplies. Often there are not enough beds in shelters, so his four-season tent fulfills a great need for easily portable shelter. When an individual does have a bed in a shelter, many shelters have limited resources and can only provide just a bed to sleep in, not any other furniture that may make a space feel more like a home. This lack of furniture leaves children that live in shelters without a space to do homework or play. Jordan’s modular furniture provides an alternative solution.

Jordan’s inventions have been such a success that Jordan is teaching others how to make modular furniture to be donated to shelters and group homes. Jordan has led building workshops for other kids and for adults that are interested in design.  What an amazing and selfless young man, yes?


This ‘good people’ is actually an adult, but the story is about a young person, and it warmed my heart so I just had to include it.  Her name is Lindsey Preston, she lives in Moulton, Alabama, and she has Down Syndrome.  This year, Lindsey attended her prom, a Special Needs Prom, and by her side was her date … Don Jones, a defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers!  The pictures are worth more than anything I can write …

“Anything I can do to make some kids smile, I would be more than willing to do. I think the most fun was all of the guys, I showed the guys about 5 or 6 new dance moves.”

“I had a great time with my beautiful prom date Lindsey at the Lawrence County LCDC prom,” Jones wrote on Instagram. “It was really an honor being around so many loving faces. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”

That, folks, is class.


girl scouts-1Girl Scout troop #6000 in New York City is special.  It is comprised of about 300 children living in homeless shelters.  The troop is new, an idea developed to help these girls learn, try new things, and have fun, but also to give them a sense of community.    Although the troop was formed in 2016, this was their first year for selling cookies, and they initially set a goal of 6,000 boxes of cookies, to match their troop number.

Guess how many boxes of cookies they sold?  No, I’m not telling you … guess!gs cookies-232,500 boxes!!!  They were given special permission to set up shop at Kellogg’s NYC Café in Union Square, where some customers waited in line as long as an hour.  Many customers dropped in an extra donation, and at the end of the six-day event the troop had raised more than $15,000 to help pay for trips and activities. girl scouts-2


Joey Gouthiere is 12-years-old now, but he was only seven when he began his work to inspire his community, Shreveport, Louisiana, to treat our planet better.  Joey started Geaux Green, pronounced “Go Green” five years ago.

“Whenever I would see litter on the ground, I felt like I needed to make a change and help the Earth. It made me feel like I needed to make a difference and encourage people to stop littering, pick up litter and recycle.”

Since founding Geaux Green, Joey has educated numerous individuals, ranging from students to the Louisiana House of Representatives.Joey-G-1While he’s a naturally soft-spoken individual, Joey uses his passion for improving his community to captivate audiences. Joey has been featured on the news and has presented to large crowds including the Caddo Parish School Board, past and current Shreveport City Council members, Louisiana State representatives and senators, and community groups, such as the Rotary Club of Shreveport, Lions Club, and others.Joey-G-2.jpgIn addition to educational presentations, Joey’s actions have had tangible outcomes. Joey has recruited hundreds of volunteers to join him in cleanup events, including event opportunities geared towards having families volunteer together. After speaking to city and state leaders, Joey was invited to meet the Governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, to witness the signing of House Bill 111, Litter Education, into law. Joey is now working with the school system and his neighboring city to implement recycling programs.

Joey-G-3Joey has won the Prudential Spirit of Community Award and the Youth Leadership Award at the Keep Louisiana Beautiful Conference — both well-deserved.

I wish he could go give a talk to the U.S. Congress in Washington!!!


Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these ‘good people’ … we all need to remember that, though our country is going through a dark period at the moment, there are many, many good people out there making a difference … and starting at an early age, too!!!  These kids, friends, are our future … treat them well.make a difference quote

Good People Doing Good Things — James Shaw Jr.

Every Wednesday, I try to use my voice to shine the spotlight on people who are doing good in this world, to offset all the bad that we are confronted with on a daily basis.  Sometimes I feature a number of people doing small, simple things for friends, neighbors, or their community. Other times I find people or organizations that are making huge differences in the lives of many.  I try to mix it up from week to week, but I typically try to keep politics out of the mix.  Todays “good people” is a single person, and while there may be some underlying political issues here, my only focus is to shine the light on this one man, a man of great courage, compassion, and humility, Mr. James Shaw Jr.Waffle House ShootingThough you may not remember him by name, you will surely remember him by deed.  Mr. Shaw was the man who stopped a mass shooter at a Tennessee Waffle House last month, and most amazingly, he did so without a weapon.

The Story:Shaw-1On the morning of Sunday April 22nd, 3:25 a.m. to be exact, Travis Reinking, 29 years of age drove his pickup truck to a Waffle House restaurant in Antioch, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville.  Reinking, clad in naught but a bomber jacket, exited his truck and immediately fired shots at a group of people conversing in the parking lot.  He then entered the restaurant and again opened fire with an AR-15 assault rifle.

The shooting momentarily stopped as Reinking re-loaded his gun, and it was then that Mr. Shaw saw an opportunity and took it, first hitting Reinking with the swinging bathroom door in front of which Reinking was standing, then wresting the gun from his hands and tossing it behind the counter, at which point the gunman fled, with a bit of a shove from Shaw.  Reinking, who had been arrested and later released by the U.S. Secret Service for being on White House grounds unauthorized in July 2017, was caught and arrested the next afternoon.

The Hero:Shaw-daughterI often think we use the term ‘hero’ far too loosely these days.  Sports figures are referred to as ‘heroes’ for scoring the winning run or touchdown.  A man who rescues a cat from a tree is hailed as a hero.  (Mind you, if it were my cat, he would be a hero to me, but …) It tends to make the word somewhat ‘watered down’, diluted, somehow not as meaningful.  But in my book, Mr. Shaw qualifies as a hero.  He, however, sees it differently, which is one of the things I love about this man …

“I did that completely out of a selfish act. I was completely doing it just to save myself. Now, me doing that, I did save other people. But I don’t want people to think that I was the Terminator, or Superman or anybody like that. It was just, I figured if I was going to die, he was going to have to work for it.”

When asked if he had prior military training, Shaw responded, “I haven’t had any specific combat training. I just fight my daughter every night, so I can put her to bed.”

Four people died that day, several others were injured, and Mr. Shaw himself received a graze from a passing bullet and burns to his palm from grabbing the hot rifle by its barrel.  We will never know how much worse it might have been, had not Mr. James Shaw been in the right place at the right time, and determined to act.  He may not consider himself a hero, but I do.

The Next Day:James Shaw-5James Shaw’s heroism doesn’t stop there, though.  The next day he created a GoFundMe campaign to help the families of the victims.   He set an initial goal to raise $15,000, but that goal was quickly surpassed when the fund reached $20,000 in the first 16 hours!  As of this writing, the fund contains $216,993, donated by some 6,056 people!

Last week, New Yorker Yashar Ali started a GoFundMe campaign for Shaw’s 4-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.

“James Shaw Jr. put his life on the line when he took on the gunman who killed four people at a Nashville area Waffle House. Since that horrific shooting, he has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the victims and shown a level of humility that has inspired many of us. 

I normally don’t get involved directly in these matters, but James’ grace has inspired me to start this page to give him the support I feel he deserves. 

According to news reports, James has a four-year-old daughter. Perhaps this money can be used for her college fund or some other education related expense. But I’d be just as happy if James used some of this money to take his family on a nice vacation.

Funds will be transferred directly to James Shaw Jr. through GoFundMe.”

James Shaw-4

Mr. Shaw also made a special trip to Vanderbilt Hospital to visit briefly with some of the people who were injured in the shooting.  But he is uncomfortable with being called a hero …

“I’d rather you regard me as James, you know, just a regular person, because I feel like everybody can do pretty much what I did.”

Brave.  Courageous.  Humble.  What’s not to like?  Today,  I hope you will all join me in paying tribute to this man who did what most of us hope we would do, but few actually could.  Thank you, Mr. James Shaw.

Good People Doing Good Things — More Than Me

They say that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  Today, I bring to you the story of a good person, Katie Meyler, and that first step she made back in 2006 when she left behind an unhappy childhood in New Jersey, joined an international relief organization, and headed to West Africa.  When she first arrived in Liberia, she set out to teach adult literacy classes, and she intended to stay for only six months. Fate had other plans.  One day, Katie met an 11-year-old girl named Abigail.  Abigail, as it turned out, was selling herself on the streets of West Point, Liberia,  in order to get clean drinking water for herself and her family.  Can you imagine?  Abigail told Katie that all she really wanted was to go to school.  More than 40% of girls in Liberia had never been to school, and many were in the same situation as Abigail, exposed to violence on a daily basis.

I will let Katie tell you about More Than Me …

“I founded More Than Me when I was living in Liberia. Kids were asking me to help them get off the street and into school, and I paid their school fees. I told their stories on Myspace, and people donated money to the cause. A New York City tax attorney said to me, “You know, you really should start an organization and make this all legitimate.” I went to my best friend Josh, and I said to him, “I’ve been thinking about forming an organization. I think I want to do it, but I’m afraid. I’m not sure I’m qualified.” He looked at me and said, “Katie, get over yourself. It’s not about you.” Those words played in my head over and over again. It’s not about you. It’s not about you. And that’s where the name More Than Me originated. So the name More Than Me comes from living for something bigger than yourself and getting over your own insecurities. I started it as a means to provide education for vulnerable children in Liberia.”

More Than Me (MTM) works in partnership with the Liberian Ministry of Education to rebuild the education system, and ensure girls like Abigail have access to basic human rights. The objective is that every child will attend and graduate primary school prepared to take their next step in life, which in turn, will bring stability to the country and grow the economy.

“From the beginning, More Than Me provided educational opportunities for vulnerable children. We identified girls who were sexually exploited, and I really wanted to focus on helping them first. Many of these girls were located in a slum called West Point, and that’s where we decided to target our mission.

Through our work, we wanted to make sure we took care of the whole girl. So we started providing after-school activities. We also offered health care, sexual and reproductive health classes, food programs and deworming programs. We opened up our own school, and the president of Liberia gave us a building. Now, we’re looking to rebuild education in Liberia so that when children graduate they feel like they have options and security.”

Through the MTM Academy, K-8 girls attend a tuition-free school that provides high quality education and holistic services like healthcare, family planning, psychosocial support, and a feeding program for the most vulnerable girls in Monrovia. More Than Me Academy continues to pay the girls school fees onward through high school.

In its first year, MTM was able to send only 5 girls to school, but that quickly grew and by 2017 they were schooling 1,500 children. Their goal is to be educating nearly 250,000 kids by the year 2020.

In 2014, the deadly Ebola virus struck at the heart of Liberia.  More than 11,000 people in Liberia would die from the disease.  Monrovia was among the hardest hit, and specifically the West Point area where the MTM Academy was located.  Faced with the decision to leave or stay, Katie stayed.  All schools were closed for an entire year after Ebola struck. Residents were quarantined inside, and most Westerners left. Meyler admits she was fearful.

“What defines you the most is what you do despite your fear, and so I was extremely afraid. I signed my power of attorney away before I left, just in case something happened. There was a real, legitimate concern that I might not return home.

Our plan was do everything you can to keep everybody alive, and then when you can’t do anything else, bring dignity in death, so we did a lot of that, too—singing to people, praying with people while they died. Children that were dying outside, some of them were just laying outside the overflow center. The ones inside were actually worse off, because they were the dead mixed with the living. They could barely move, barely could speak.”

A brief snippet from the More Than Me website:

Why Liberia?

Liberia, West Africa has a population of about 4 million people. The official language is English – the name Liberia derives from “Liberty” meaning freedom. Liberia’s current president (and Nobel Laureate) Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first female head of state in Africa! A 14-year brutal civil war left the country in shambles, including destroying over 80% of its schools. The recent Ebola epidemic further weakened Liberia’s infrastructure.

Liberia’s education system is in a state of emergency.

  • Each one of the 25,000 applicants to the University of Liberia in 2013 failed the entrance exam.
  • 65% of primary school age children are out of school.
  • More than half (51%) of young people aged 15-24 are illiterate and approximately 73% of all women and girls in Liberia are illiterate.
  • Only 17% of teachers have a tertiary degree-level qualification.
  • Only 20% of students enrolled in Grade 1, enroll in Grade 12.

If Liberia is going to build a more stable and resilient future, we cannot stand still.

Why Girls?

According to GirlUp, more than 40% of Liberian girls ages 10-14 have never gone to school. Unfortunately, young girls fall victim to the most frequently reported crime in Liberia, rape. But investing in girls has huge rewards:Why Girls?

  • When a girl in the developing world receives 7 or more years of education, she marries 4 years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  • An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10-20%. An extra year of secondary school: 15-25%.
  • When women and girls earn income, they reinvest 90% of it into their families, as compared to only 30-40% for a man.

For girls to get to a place where they feel secure, there needs to be education for all.

Meyler believes one of the main contributors to the Ebola crisis was the lack of education, so she approached the minister of education, George Werner, and asked him to consider partnering with private groups to overhaul the public schools. A pilot project began this fall using seven different organizations to revamp 94 schools. More Than Me was put in charge of six of those schools.

Meyler and her staff have helped oversee school repairs and development of new curricula and installation of teacher trainers at each of the six schools. The attention she earned during the Ebola crisis, including being named a TIME magazine Person of the Year, has opened the doors to philanthropists. Meyler hopes to raise $25 million over the next five years to expand to 500 schools. But, ultimately, she hopes the partnership project is so successful that the private partners can relinquish their roles.

“Our goal here is to go out of business. I mean I can tell you for us we’re successful when we’re not needed anymore. We’re successful when Liberia’s government can run these schools, and the teachers are at capacity, and Liberia doesn’t need to have the external support. And that’s what we working toward.”

I hope someday she and More Than Me are able to achieve that goal, don’t you?

Good People Doing Good Things — Chad Houser

Welcome to Wednesday morning and our weekly Good People feature.  For those who have only recently begun following Filosofa’s Word, every Wednesday morning I shine a light on people who are giving back, giving of themselves to help others and make the world just a little better place for us all.  We are inundated with so much negativity these days, so many examples of greed and bigotry, that I think it serves us well to step back every now and then, to remind ourselves that there are a lot of good people in this world.  I refer to these as the ‘silent majority’, for they are too busy out there doing good to have time to be loudly tooting their own horn.  So today, I would like to introduce you to Chad Houser of Dallas, Texas …

In 2007, Chad Houser bought into a popular bistro in Dallas, and his dream of being a top chef and restaurant owner was fulfilled.

“I remember the feeling I had was exhilaration. I had done it.”

In his first year of ownership, Houser helped grow the business and was nominated by a local magazine as best up-and-coming chef in Dallas.

Then something happened that changed the way he viewed success.

“I had an opportunity to go teach eight young men inside a Dallas County juvenile detention facility how to make ice cream for a competition.”

In the young men, Houser saw raw talent, drive and enthusiasm. When one of the students won the entire competition, beating out culinary students and young professionals citywide, the young man told Houser he’d found his calling: He wanted to cook for a living.

Houser says that’s when reality set in.

In Texas, more than 40% of juveniles are re-incarcerated within three years of release. It is a never-ending and vicious circle from which few escape. Statistics told Houser that the young man, despite being gifted and passionate in culinary skills, had the odds stacked against him.

“I remember consciously thinking that the system is rigged based on choices that were made for him, not by him — the color of his skin; the part of town that he was born into; the schools that he had access to. I thought, ‘If you’re not willing to do something yourself, then you’re being a hypocrite’ … and that was it for me.”

Rachael Ray, Tom Selleck and Chad Houser are pictured during the production of the “Rachael Ray Show” in New York, NY

Houser began volunteering with the Dallas County Juvenile Department and, in 2011, started a culinary program to train young men caught up in the system. It started as a series of Sunday night pop-up dinners at a top eatery, where participants learned about restaurant management and trained to serve the evening meal.

As the pop-up dinners gained popularity, Houser’s vision grew.

In January 2015, he opened the doors to Café Momentum in downtown Dallas. The upscale restaurant and nonprofit incorporates a 12-month paid internship for young men and women coming out of Dallas County juvenile facilities.

Interns rotate through jobs at the restaurant, from cooking to dishwashing to serving, while also receiving educational support and career counseling.

Working with the local juvenile justice department, the group aims to help young people break the cycle of violence and crime that many of them have faced. Houser frequently accompanies youth to court appointments and offers enrichment opportunities and field trips.

To date, nearly 500 young people have participated in the program. Of the first 197 interns in the program, only 5 have returned to jail.  CNN recently interviewed Houser and I would like to share a portion of that interview with you …

CNN: What inspired you to start your program, and how did you get the word out?

Chad Houser: There were horrific and rampant stereotypes about my kids, and in order to raise awareness and break through the stereotypes, I started to host monthly pop-up dinners. The idea was very simple: Go into one of the top restaurants in Dallas on a Sunday night and sell tickets to a private dinner at that restaurant. We would bus in young men from one of the Dallas County juvenile detention facilities and teach them what it meant to work in a restaurant.

The first dinner, we didn’t think anybody would show up. I had a plan to call my mom and have her guilt the ladies in her Bible study class into buying tickets. But myself and another gentleman posted a link, and within 24 hours, we had sold 68 seats. That first dinner, 68 people, when they left, either shook my hand or gave me a hug. By December of 2011, we doubled the price and the dinner sold out in 15 minutes. And by spring of 2012, the dinners were selling out in 15 seconds.

CNN: You have groups of 20-30 kids coming through the paid internship every year. How do you keep them motivated?

Houser: Over the course of 12 months, they work their way through four tiers. Each tier is designed to increase their accountability — (to create a) solid foundation they can continue to build the rest of their lives on, even after they leave Café Momentum. For example, in tier one, the interns have to re-enroll in school. They also have to go get a physical, a dental exam and a vision exam.

Once an intern completes tier four and graduates our program, we invite them and their family to come in for dinner one night during normal dinner service, and we actually stop down the entire restaurant and acknowledge them so that they’re getting kind of a unique, individual honor. We’re not just celebrating them, but we are celebrating their family as well. Because it’s important that they all take pride in this accomplishment. This young person has completely changed the trajectory of their life.

CNN: You have a team tradition each night before meal service.

Houser: My kids come from households where they’ve witnessed domestic abuse, drug use; in some cases, they’ve witnessed murder.

Every day before dinner service, we sit down together and have dinner as a family. That’s not a concept that’s uncommon amongst all restaurants, but it takes on a very different purpose for us — and that is for most of our kids, that’s the first time that they’ve sat down and shared a meal together with a group that resembles a family. That’s why we call ourselves the Café Momentum Family because we want to sit down around the table and talk like a family does.

CNN: We’ve talked a lot about the nuts and bolts of the program — but what about the food?

Houser: Café Momentum is currently ranked as a third best restaurant in Dallas by Eater Dallas. The ranking of the restaurant is important to us, not because of my chef ego, but because it proves something very important, not just to the young men and the young women, but to our community as well — that these kids can and will rise to whatever level of expectation is set for them, as long as you give them the tools, resources, guidance, love, support and opportunity to get there.

I will do whatever is necessary to help ensure their success, whatever it takes for them to know that I unconditionally love them and will continue to support them and advocate for them, for the rest of their lives.

I don’t know about you, folks, but I am in love with this man!!!  “I will do whatever is necessary to help ensure their success.”  Think about that one, folks … how often have you heard somebody say that? He is making a difference, not just talking about it, not tooting his own horn, just rolling up his sleeves and doing it!  Hats off to Mr. Chad Houser of Dallas, Texas!!!

Good People Doing Good Things — SOS Children’s Villages

I quite literally stumbled upon this week’s Good People.  I was reading a bit about Stephen Hawking. Science not being even remotely a strong suit of mine, I did not know very much about the late Stephen Hawking.  I knew that he was an incredibly brilliant scientist with a lot of letters behind his name who was revered in the scientific community.  Last year when I lost a friend, Brian, to ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, I discovered that was also Hawking’s disability.  Otherwise, I knew very little about Mr. Hawking and wanted to learn a bit more.  When Mr. Hawking died last month, I considered writing a post honouring him, but in the end I felt that was better left to others, given my limited knowledge.As I read, I came to discover that Mr. Hawking was actually quite a philanthropist, having set up his own charity, Total Giving, The Stephen Hawking Foundation, but also contributing to a number of other very worthy causes.  One of those causes caught my eye and, as so often happens with my bouncy mind, I was diverted to it and needed to know more.  After a few minutes, I knew I had my ‘Good People’ for this week.

The organization is worldwide and has been around since 1949.  It is called SOS Children’s Villages, and what these people do is amazing!  Their mission statement:

SOS Children’s Villages provides children in need with a caring, loving, and  secure family environment where basic needs for food, health, shelter, and education are met.

SOS Children’s Villages creates opportunities for children to become responsible, contributing members of society by providing Villages and community support where stable, nurturing homes exist to meet family, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of children.

In a nutshell, SOS Children’s Villages provides children in need with a caring, loving, and secure family environment where all their needs from food, health, shelter, and education are met. But it’s important to note that they do not merely run orphanages, but instead they establish actual villages.

“We have over 571 SOS Villages around the world. These villages are complete with homes and community centers and either onsite or access to medical facilities, school and playgrounds for our children to grow up in a safe and supportive community.”

They even help families who are struggling to stay together.

“We believe that every child deserves a loving home. We strengthen families at risk of falling apart with the support they need to grow stronger and stay together.”

But when families, for one reason or another cannot stay together,  the children are still part of a family.

“When children cannot stay with their family or have no family, we give them a safe home, together with their siblings, where they can grow up in one of our SOS families. Each home is headed by a trained caregiver, an SOS Mother, who raises each child with the individual care and attention they need.

We support our children until they are ready to support themselves. We offer our children the skills and education they need to become fully independent adults. And although they grow up and become self-sufficient, they will always have their SOS family.

We focus on what each individual child needs. Because each child grows up in a family environment, we get to know each child as an individual, and we work with them to create a personalized plan for their development.

Let’s take a look at just a few of their more recent stories:Tulela, age 11, Pius, age 7, and Veila, age 3 were removed from an abusive home in Ondangwa, Namibia.  Their single mother was an alcoholic who frequently left the three children home alone with no food in the house.  Other times, she left them with their blind grandmother.  When she returned home drunk, she often physically abused the children.  To protect the siblings from further abuse and neglect, and with no other relative to look after them, they were placed in a loving SOS family. The SOS Children’s Village does not separate siblings so Tulela and the two boys went to the same house with SOS mother Penny as the caregiver.  It took time, of course, for the children to adjust, but today they are happy kids.

“I also likes going to school. And that our house is always clean. I help my SOS mother with house chores when I am not in school. When I grow up I want to be a teacher. My new mother understood what I was going through and she would encourage me all the time. I felt safe in my new family. My brothers and I are receiving better care here.” – Tulela

 

Marco Paulo Monteiro was four-years-old in 1990 when his biological parents were no longer able to care for him and the SOS Children’s Village Assomada, in Cape Verde became his home. “It was a like a new world for me.  But step by step, I started to integrate and play with the other children. The environment was really loving. I have few memories [of first arriving at the Village], but I can remember my mother, the way she took care of me and my SOS brothers too. She was dedicated to giving us a warm upbringing.”

Today, Marco is 32 and has three children of his own.  But that’s not all, for Marco is giving back and is a national youth leader at SOS Children’s Villages Cape Verde, off the western coast of Africa.  “Working as a national youth leader is a way to repay what SOS has done for me. I don’t think it’s enough, but for me it’s an opportunity to thank SOS for all the things they have done for me.” Today, Marco Paulo still has a strong relationship with his SOS mother, who is now retired, regularly visiting and calling her.

 

SOS Children’s Villages operate in 135 countries and territories around the world.  They are on the job wherever children are endangered and without a family.As many as 800,000 Rohingya refugees arrived in Bangladesh between August 2017 and March 2018, living in makeshift camps with limited resources. SOS Children’s Villages Bangladesh has opened five child care spaces to provide care and protection for refugee children in the Cox’s Bazar district.

The child care spaces serve as a hub for:

  • Providing for an estimated 300 children ages three to twelve every day. These facilities offer a safe place for children to play and have access to informal education.
  • Ensuring that the children are provided a balanced diet, nutritional screening and hygiene.
  • Offering support in trauma healing, primary health care, and referral services for specialised medical care.
  • Working with caregivers to provide training in positive parenting.

According to Ghulam Ishaque, National Director of SOS Children´s Villages Bangladesh. “Some 500,000 of the refugee population are children and about 40,000 are registered as being unaccompanied.”In addition to providing safe, loving homes for children, SOS Children’s Villages also maintain medical centers, schools and emergency relief centers in the countries in which they operate.  There are so many wonderful success stories on their website that I urge you to take a look.

In addition to the aforementioned Stephen Hawking, many other notables have supported this very worthy cause, including Angelina Jolie, Reba McIntyre, June Carter Cash & Johnny Cash, Nelson Mandela, Susan Sarandon and Leonardo DiCaprio, to name only a few.

I typically highlight individuals who are going above and beyond to do good things for humans, wildlife or the environment, but this is one of those times when an entire organization captivated my interest, and while I vaguely remembered hearing about SOS Children’s Villages somewhere in the dim part of my memory, I knew nothing about the organization.  This one is filled with good people doing good things all over the world, wherever there are children in need, and today they deserve this spotlight.  My posthumous thanks to Stephen Hawking for bringing this awesome organization to my attention!

Good People Doing Good Things — More From Youth Service America (YSA)

Last Wednesday,  I highlighted a man (Steven Culbertson) and his organization (Youth Service America – YSA), and I promised to come back this week to highlight just a few of the kids and projects this wonderful organization has helped launch.  I am so encouraged when I see these young people, read about how they see it as their responsibility to help others, help the environment.  The first young man I would like to introduce you to is one that Mr. Culbertson mentioned last week, Jackson Silverman.  Jackson got his start in philanthropy, with the help of YSA, at age 12!  I will let Jackson tell you a bit about it …

“My brothers and I are lucky.  When we get hungry, we know that we will get fed.  But not every kid is so lucky.  A kid doesn’t have a lot of choice about hunger.  A kid can’t make their own money or buy their own food or cook their own dinner. Kids who are thinking about food don’t do as well in school or have the energy to do kid things like run on the playground.  In Charleston County alone, over 16,000 kids go hungry every weekend. That is a horrible number and my goal is to feed every last kid!

In April 2013, my brothers and I launched I Heart Hungry Kids because I believe that kids can change the world!  We started out with 25 kids packing 150 bags of food and three years later we pack 2,500 bags of food with 150 kid volunteers every month during the school year – that’s over 10,000 meals at each Packing Party! 

We have incredible partners like the Lowcountry Food Bank and Sodexo and I am so grateful for their support.  I am also amazed by the thousands of kid volunteers who have come out to pack bags of food to help make better lives for other kids.  Together we have packed over 175,000 bags of food using kid power, and we are just getting started!”

And if that isn’t enough … check out this video from his talk at TedX-Charleston … I fell in love with this kid!

Check out the I 💓 Hungry Kids website for more about what these young people are doing!


Even when I was growing up in the 1950s, there was a disconnect between kids and police in the inner-cities, but over the last half-century, it has become a much bigger problem.  Most cities in the U.S. are using community policing, a type of police work that focuses on police officers consistently working within the same communities so that police officers are able to build individual relationships with community members. Through relationship building, there is a higher level of community trust and respect amongst officers and individuals living within these communities.

Meet Miguel Coppedge, age 12, of Washington, D.C.  Miguel is taking an active role in working with police and emergency workers, and bringing them together with the neighborhood youth. He is working towards finding a solution to the lack of trust between police officers and community members. At the same time, Miguel is trying to increase the number of communities that use community policing methods.

Miguel has written and published three books (remember this kid is only 12!!!), the third titled Friendly Officers that discusses building relationships with police.  In February, Miguel brought together a group of kids from the neighborhood and a group of police officers. Miguel told those gathered for the program, “I wanted children, especially those with my skin color, to know that police officers are here to help you.” The officers Miguel counts as his friends were featured in Friendly Officers.Miguel was featured in the Metro Police Law Enforcement Magazine in February.  He has visited schools and camps to do book readings, speak with peers and the police, and discuss ways to improve trust and relationships between communities, children, and the police. And he has done a PSA (Public Service Announcement).  Take a look …


Brianna Jack has always loved to read.  In fact, she loves it so much that when she was only 7-years-old, she started a weekly ‘story time’ at her public library and read to children in her town of Baileyville, Maine.  Then one day she found out that fully 60% of children in North America do not have books in their homes (this statistic floors me, for I cannot imagine a home without books!), and Brianna set out to do something about that!  At age nine, Brianna started her own nonprofit organization called Maine Books for Maine Kids to encourage children to develop a love of reading and have access to books.  One of the first contributors to her cause was none other than the master of horror, Stephen King, who lived nearby and was impressed enough to donate $5,000.

Three years ago, Brianna moved, along with her family, to Upper Queensbury, Canada, but her work didn’t stop, for she almost immediately began helping youth in Canada by creating a second organization, Brianna’s Bookworms.  Brianna has now donated books in both the United States and Canada. She has held over 150 story time sessions and donated over 8,000 books. She does not plan to stop there; her goal is to donate books to kids all over the world to ensure that all children have access to age-appropriate reading materials in their homes. Regardless of country of origin, Brianna feels inspired to help all children.

Brianna has held several book drives to involve others in her organization’s mission. Instead of throwing out gently used books, people in both the United States and Canada have been able to donate their books to Brianna so she can make sure they get into the hands of the children that need them most. Over the past five years, she has impacted many children’s lives by providing them the opportunity to read at home every day. Her passion and drive has given so many kids access to one of life’s most important skills: reading.


More and more we are seeing young people getting involved with helping others, cleaning up the environment, marching and protesting for just causes … in short, just working toward a goal of making the world a little better place.  These kids are an inspiration to us all.  Their contributions today may seem small, but their hearts are huge, and they are starting life out on the right foot.  My hat is off to all of them, as well as the many others out there making a difference.  Great job, kids!

Good People Doing Good Things – Steven A. Culbertson & YSA

In the wake of last Saturday’s successful and inspiring March For Our Lives across the nation and beyond, I thought it appropriate to highlight some of the things that are being done by the nation’s young people to make the world a little bit better place for us all.  Rather than highlight specific members of our youth, I am shining a big, bright light on a man who has done more than perhaps any other to assist kids in finding their path to being a powerful force.  You may remember that one of my Good People posts last November highlighted an organization called Youth Service America.

Steven A. Culbertson is President & CEO of YSA (Youth Service America), a global nonprofit activating youth, 5–25, to find their voice, take action, and acquire powerful skills as they solve problems facing their communities. The Nonprofit Times twice named him to its list of “The 50 most powerful and influential leaders” in the sector, saying, “Steve Culbertson has helped to position volunteering and young people as an issue and a national priority.”

Mr. Culbertson began his work with YSA in 1996, and I will let him tell you a little about his experiences in his own words, for his words are powerful and wise..

“When I took over the helm of Youth Service America from its founders 20 years ago this spring, I thought my job was going to be all about motivating apathetic youth, more interested in video games than saving the world.

I could not have been more wrong. Young people are volunteering at record rates, more than any generation in history.

Instead, my biggest challenge has been skeptical adults.

I’ve spent a good deal of the last two decades encouraging adults to remember their own childhoods, reminding them how powerful they felt when they were trusted, heard, respected, counted on, and asked to contribute.

Countless times, I’ve made the case with doubtful elected officials that young people need to be at the decision-making table, especially when issues that affect youth are on the public-policy agenda. As they say, if you are not at the table, you’re on the menu.

The history of the world is the history of power, and there is no question that young people become powerful when they bring their energy, commitment, idealism, and creativity to bear on the world’s problems. As the history of people who are African-American, women, immigrants, disabled, or LGBT reminds us, those in power do not share it easily.

The United Nation’s has publicly stated that the Global Goals will not be achieved without the significant contributions of young people around the world, so we have a lot of hearts and minds to change. A 16-year-old African girl in Lesotho told me that I was the first adult to give her permission to change the world. Less than a month later, I heard the identical complaint from a 16-year-old American girl from New York. When commencement speakers tell graduates that they are tomorrow’s leaders and the hope of the future, we put young people “on hold” at their most creative time in life. For too many youth, the promise of leadership never surfaces.

As adults, we must raise our expectations for what youth can accomplish in the present — as players, not spectators; as actors, not recipients. We simply cannot afford to wait for young people to grow up before they start tackling the biggest problems facing the planet — we need them to be the leaders and the hope of today.

When teenagers across the country took the reins of the gun safety debate after the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, they reminded us that young people have always played a pivotal role in America’s common life, starting with the birth of our Nation. The average age of Founding Fathers like James Monroe and Alexander Hamilton was only 19 when they rebelled against the 38-year-old king of the most powerful empire in the world. The #NeverAgain students also honor other youth-led movements ranging from Women’s Suffrage, Voting Rights for 18-Year-Olds, Campus Free Speech, Ending the Vietnam War, and the Civil Rights Movement. In each case, youth leadership moved America forward, with some measure of kicking and screaming.

One question I’m constantly asked, often with skepticism, is “What do they actually do?”.

Well, if you’re pre-teens like Jackson Silverman, Katie Stagliano, and Will Lourcey, and you cared about hunger, you and your friends started nonprofits like I Heart Hungry Kids, Katies Krops, and Friends Reaching Our Goals. You then spend your adolescence feeding hundreds of thousands of people. Literally.

YSA also supports children and youth volunteering to end homelessness, climate change, illiteracy, gender inequality, middle school bullying, water scarcity, and just about every health, education, human service, human rights, and environmental issue on the planet. To measure our global impact in more than 100 countries, YSA aligns our outputs and outcomes with the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, to build a better future for everyone.

When young people decide to tackle a problem, YSA suggests they do it ASAP. Yes, we want them contributing to the greater good today, long before they become adults. But we also recommend they change the world using one (or more) of the four ASAP strategies: Awareness, Service, Advocacy, Philanthropy.

Youth are powerful forces in raising awareness about big community problems. Consider their roles in successful public education campaigns to stop littering, start recycling, wear seat belts, and limit exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke. Today, YSA supports students raising awareness in their communities about everything from water conservation and clean energy, to the humane treatment of animals, childhood obesity, and the opioid addiction crisis.

The “S” in ASAP describes the traditional community service route many kids take. They clean beaches and parks, tutor younger students in English and math, teach seniors how to use technology, ladle soup in shelters, include their peers with disabilities in extra-curricular activities, deliver groceries to people The second “A” in ASAP is about advocacy and the common good. It may be the most difficult, but also the most sustainable contribution youth make, since it focuses on changing the rules of the game. It’s about inclusivity, fairness, and equality in policies and laws. Since it may buck tradition and age-old power structures, youth advocacy requires intense working sessions with public officials, as well as compromise and patience. One project YSA supported with a grant was the Texas Hunger Warriors. After studying the official hunger statistics, these third-grade students decided it was unfair that 1 in 5 of kids like them lived in food insecurity. So they donned orange t-shirts, rallied in front of the State Capitol in Austin, and worked with the Legislature to pass the Texas Breakfast Bill. Don’t tell them that 9-year-olds can’t change the world!

The “P” in ASAP is for philanthropy. Bake sales for the hungry, lemonade stands for the Tsunami victims, car washes to help refugee kids, and even 46 hour Danceathons at Penn State that raise more than $10 million for children’s cancer every year. Sometimes it just takes money to solve the problem.

When young people serve their community ASAP they gain experience and agency, but they also learn critical workplace skills valued by every employer on the planet — empathy, critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication. They become more likely to vote, give money to charity, and participate in the civic life of their community for a lifetime.

Congressman John Lewis, who was handcuffed and bashed on the head as a teenager trying to make “A More Perfect Union” describes student activism like the #NeverAgain movement as youth getting into “good trouble.” Oprah went so far as to compare the Parkland students to the white and black students who banded together as Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

The history of the world is the history of power, so it’s high praise to be compared to another generation of young people who succeeded in changing the world. It’s also a high bar. But armed with the courage to turn their unfathomable grief into something positive, plus their cell phones, social media accounts, lots of adult champions, and a natural dose of energy, commitment, idealism, and creativity, we must be optimistic they will succeed.”

This man has dedicated the last 22 years of his life to helping our youth to be all that they can be, and I think he deserves a huge round of applause.  Next week, I will shine the spotlight on some of the young people he mentioned who have done great things.  Thank you, Mr. Culbertson, for showing us just how much our kids are capable of, if we just give them the guidance and a little bit of encouragement.

Good People Doing Good Things – The People of Puerto Rico!

Yesterday marked the six-month anniversary of the day Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, leaving behind devastation and death. Hurricane Maria made landfall at 6:15am on September 20 in Yabucoa, in southeastern Puerto Rico, as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155mph. The island suffered significant structural damage and widespread loss of power and communications. Power and communications are only beginning to be restored.

Though the residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens, our government has provided only minimal assistance and the leader of the U.S. has bent over backward to be critical of the people and local governments of Puerto Rico.  But that is not my story today.  My story today is how the good people of Puerto Rico are pulling together and rebuilding their island and their lives, one day at a time.  Yesterday, I accidentally happened upon an OpEd by Mariangelie Ortiz Ortiz in the New York Times   I begin this post with Mariangelie’s story …

COMERIO, Puerto Rico — I live with my parents and older brother in this rural mountain town in the center of this island. Hurricane Maria made landfall here six months ago this week. The strong winds began to lash our area by 2 a.m. on Sept. 20. Our power and water had already been shut off for a day by then.

My family, along with about 200 other people, sought refuge at a high school in our town. Whenever the doors were opened to let others in, the wind would whip through the hallways. I was scared. A few of us gathered in a circle, joined hands and prayed, hoping it would bring us some sense of peace. Then chaos broke out.

The Plata River, which cuts through Comerio, had swelled by more than 60 feet and was creeping ever closer to the school’s front door. Fearing the worst, those of us sheltered on the first floor quickly scrambled up the stairs to the second floor, carrying the bedridden elderly with us.

In the end we were spared. Once the eye of the storm settled over us, things calmed down. Soon from the second floor we saw whole families walking toward the school. In all, about 100 more people arrived; wet, muddy, hugging one another and crying. A mother whose house had flooded told us how she and her kids narrowly avoided drowning. She had lifted her three children — all under the age of 5 — on to her shoulders and waded through the water until she reached higher ground. A woman fainted when she recounted how floodwaters had swept her house away.

On the second night we were finally able to go home. It was pitch black and raining. Our terrace roof was gone; a tree that had fallen on the back of the house caused some structural damage, and water had come in through the windows. But our home, built of concrete, still stood.

We were among the lucky ones.

Three days after Maria hit, the streets were still largely impassable. We set out on foot to the very river that was our source of terror during the storm, checking in on neighbors along the way. There was no electricity and no running water, so the river was now our sole source of water. We bathed in it, washed our clothes and dishes on its banks and carried back home as much of it as we could manage to boil for drinking and cooking.

It would be two weeks before the town supermarket reopened, and two more months before we could use our credit cards to shop there. We ran out of cash. The local bank remained closed until the end of November. Gas was scarce. Before the hurricane, I was working toward a master’s degree in management and leadership at the University of Turabo. My studies were put on hold. When the university reopened in October, I had to go to neighboring towns that had power to contact my professors and my classmates, or to work on my assignments. Everything became complicated.

For about two weeks we didn’t know if my older sister, Maran — who lives in Fajardo, a city in the eastern region of the island — had survived. She finally heard that the street to Comerio was clear and made her way to us. My dad screamed when he saw her. We all gathered around her, crying and hugging.

Since then, little has improved much. There’s so much left to do. We’re still fighting to get our lights back on. The local government hasn’t come to meet with our neighborhood or give us updates. We’re getting by with a generator my uncle on the mainland sent us. Other family members and friends have brought us much-needed water filters, batteries, food and tarps.

In total, some 1,500 homes in Comerio were destroyed and 2,400 others sustained significant damage. I began to volunteer with the recovery effort. We’re in this together and we’re all pitching in to help one another rebuild.

With $10,000 raised through crowdfunding and $5,000 from the Defend Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund, we rebuilt one house and repaired two others with damaged roofs. With the help of Coco de Oro and La Maraña, the organizations I volunteer with, we have raised money to begin work on the next eight houses. But there are 25 more houses in my neighborhood alone needing work and thousands more in all of Puerto Rico.

We’re working collectively to lift ourselves out of this nightmare, but we can’t do it on our own. I struggle to understand why the United States government continues to withhold the aid we were promised. We’re tired of being treated like second-class citizens. The Trump administration must honor its commitment to Puerto Rico. Our hurricane-ravaged island may no longer be in the headlines, but we’re still suffering, and we need help.

Mariangelie’s is not the only such story, and she is far from the only one volunteering, helping get the island and its people back to normal.

  • Father and son, Billy Joe Perez and Juan Perez Ramos painted a beautiful mural at the entrance of their neighborhood depicting the community the way it was before Maria, and inscribed it “Salimos de Aquí” (We Came from Here). The mural has not only brought beauty, but also inspired others …

  • When Aguadilla artisan and painter Jenny Cruz heard of the efforts to bring art to the neighborhood, she pledged to help provide paint for the murals. Cruz, 46, was also busy trying to find a home for a friend who she learned was sleeping under the bleachers of a basketball court in the nearby town of Rincon.
  • Orlando “San” Gonzalez, a boxing coach with a reputation for taking in the toughest kids in the Cerro Calero neighborhood, decided to form a fighters brigade to help the elderly clean and rebuild their homes. Gonzalez, 48, and his friend, businessman Gabo Sola, 31, and other professionals and volunteers help people in need, especially those who are most frail, through a nonprofit group called “We Are One.” Gonzalez’ 22-year-old son, boxer Orlando “Capu” Gonzalez, recently returned from a fight in Kissimmee, Fla., with supplies of water and food, which were distributed in the community with help from other boxers.
  • When the boxers heard that Aguadilla resident Irene Mendez had lost her husband, Leonardo Enchautegui Flores, in an accident days after the hurricane, they vowed to help clean debris off her yard and home. Mendez said Flores, 75, died after falling from the roof of their house while trying to fix damage by the hurricane.
  • Medina Carrero, 59, called in to radio newscaster Victor Vazquez and told the broadcaster he and his parents were hungry. He said the roof on his parents’ home had blown off during the hurricane. He said he helps take care of his father, Maximino Medina, who is 84, and his mother, Iris Carrero, who is 79. Vazquez, 42, contacted Sola and Cruz and together they secured a week’s supply of food for the family. Vazquez also called a friend who volunteered to fix the roof and someone from the neighborhood anonymously fixed the family’s 1991 Oldsmobile, which needed a new radiator hose. The Medinas never found out who fixed the car, but it was a gesture of solidarity that brought Medina Carrero to tears.

See how one thing leads to another, which leads to another?  This, my friends, is how it should always work.Jorge Sanders, 32, a communications consultant and several of his compadres have banded together to provide relief to as many friends, neighbors and strangers in need as they can.  They call their initiative Jóvenes x Puerto Rico (Young People for Puerto Rico) and they have mobilized restaurants to come together to deliver food to those in need, rented trucks filled with water and ice from distribution centers in San Juan and delivered them to other municipalities.  Sanders says, “There is no doubt that the reason the crisis hasn’t been worse is because Puerto Ricans have been helping out their brothers and sisters and not waiting for aid that has never come.”There are many individuals, businesses and non-profits doing what they can to help their communities get back on their feet again – far too many for me to list here.  The people of Puerto Rico are good, kind people who care about their neighbors, and with or without the help of their government, they will rebuild their homes, their businesses, their towns and their island to be even stronger than before.

My hat is off to the good people of Puerto Rico for your perseverance and your love of neighbors and homeland!

Note to readers:  If anybody would like to donate to the efforts of our fellow-Americans, I strongly recommend you contact our good friend Dr. Horty Rex (@hrexach on Twitter), for she is far more knowledgeable in this area than I.