Good People Doing Good Things — Today’s Youth

I’ve been doing ‘good people’ posts for nearly four years now!  My first one was in February 2017, and I try my best to consistently find new and interesting ‘good people’ every Wednesday.  For the fourth time in as many years, and due largely to circumstances beyond my control (a mega cat fight that lasted intermittently for hours and resulted in injuries to both humans and cats!), I am unable to write a fresh one tonight, so I am re-playing one from July 2018 … one of the more popular ones I’ve done thus far. 


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 — Humanity

Last week, I took a hiatus from my usual Wednesday ‘good people’ posts, but I’m back this week with an all-new batch of really good people doing more than their share to make life a little better for someone.


The doctor’s Christmas gift …

I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Omar T. Atiq.  Originally from Pakistan, after completing his fellowship at New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Atiq accepted a job offer in Arkansas.

Dr-Omar-AtiqIn 1991, Dr. Atiq founded the Arkansas Cancer Clinic in the community of Pine Bluff to make comprehensive cancer care available for the economically disadvantaged. Prior to its opening, Pine Bluff cancer patients traveled at least 50 miles for treatment. Dr. Atiq is clear that his patients’ needs were always his top concern—not their ability to pay.

“One principle I have always followed is, I am here to see patients. For somebody to trust their lives in my hands is the highest privilege and honor I can get. We never refused any patient for any reason.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Atiq and his wife were preparing to close the clinic, as he transitions to his new role as full-time professor of Head and Neck Surgery at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. They were closely reviewing the clinic’s financial state, and what they found was astounding … some of the patients had bills in the tens of thousands, and were making monthly payments of only $5 or $10.  He realized that many of the folks he’d treated didn’t have the means to pay—especially with so much added financial hardship brought on by the coronavirus pandemic

“They wanted to pay but they couldn’t.”

The total owed to Dr. Atiq by his patients was more than $650,000, and he and his wife decided to forgive his patients’ debts in time for the Christmas Holiday.  Each of his patients who owed him money received this card …

Dr-Omar-Atiq-card

“We are blessed that we didn’t need the money, so we decided to just cancel and forgo the debt—and we did.”

Dr. Atiq is, in my book, a very good people!


Anonymous Santa

The year 2020 will live forever in the history books, due to the pandemic that has killed nearly two million people around the world, and thus far has seen over 92 million cases.  Needless to say, the pandemic has caused financial hardship for many in every nation on the planet.  In the city of Edmonton, Canada, people woke on Christmas morning to a nice surprise …

secret-santa

A Santa who chooses to remain nameless left envelopes containing an inspirational rhyme along with $250 gift-cards on approximately 400 doorsteps, for a total of $100,000!  I do hope this Santa doesn’t have his heart set on a Poet Laureate award, however!

The only clue to the selfless Santa’s identity was an email address at the bottom of the notes. CBC News did reach out, but the cagey old elf preferred not reveal his or her identity. The anonymous do-gooder did, however, email the network to share his/her reason for the generous act:

“I decided to do it because I know that lots of people have had a really tough year and I had the means to help out. I hope the gifts gave people a sense that the world is good and there is a brighter future not far ahead.”


One good deed leads to another

Evelyn Topper and her granddaughter, Mikayla Gounard, had been to a local coffee shop in their hometown of San Rafael, California, and it wasn’t until they returned to Evelyn’s house that she realized she no longer had her wallet.  Needless to say, with credit cards and medical cards in the wallet, Ms. Topper was upset!  But …

The next day, a homeless man named Sean Curry phoned Evelyn and told her that he had found her wallet in a dumpster behind the coffee shop.  He made arrangements to bring her wallet to her, and Evelyn thanked him profusely.  Sean, however, didn’t think it was a big deal, saying he did it because he “has a heart”, and because “that’s the way I was brought up”.

Now, Evelyn’s granddaughter Mikayla had a birthday coming up, and she had planned a “socially distanced drive-by party”, whatever the heck that is!  She had asked invitees to donate to a charity in her name, rather than bring presents, though she had not yet decided on which charity.

On the day of her party, the newly-minted 12-year-old placed a photo of Curry and a collection basket next to balloons and party favors on an outdoor table in her driveway. By the end of her “Happy Birthday!” processional, she’d raised several hundred dollars.  The next day, Mikayla and her mom met Mr. Curry and gave him the money, explaining what Mikayla had done.  This was the result …

homeless-man

Says Mikayla …

“I think it’s really important that people who think that because you got pushed down you can never get back up again.”


An exec with a big heart

Ramu Dosapati lives in the Hyderabad region of India where in 2020, hardships brought on by heavy flooding and compounded by the added limitations of the pandemic lockdown left many migrant workers stranded without means of support.  Now, Mr. Dosapati is a corporate Human Resources executive, but that doesn’t stop him from doing what he can to to ensure the area’s struggling workers won’t go without food and other essential items.

Mr. Dosapati has spent ₹50 lakh of his own funds (close to $61,000) to establish and run a ‘Rice ATM’, doling out rice and other necessities 24 hours a day, seven days a week to those in need.

His first step along the road to altruism began simply enough, but he had no way of knowing then just how far his journey would take him, and the amount of good he would do along the way.  Dosapati had gone to the store to pick up the makings for his son’s birthday dinner. While at the shop, he noticed a woman buying an enormous quantity of chicken—close to $2,500 dollars’ worth, in fact. Intrigued, he couldn’t help but ask her purpose in buying so much poultry. As it turned out, the woman, a security guard who works at a camp for migrant workers, was buying it as a special treat for residents there who’d run out of food.

“When I asked her about her salary, she said it was ₹6,000. That made me think that if a lady with ₹6,000 salary can spend ₹2,000 on the needy, why can’t I do the same?”

Dosapati accompanied the security guard to the camp, where he made a list of close to 200 people in need of assistance. He quickly realized, however, the initial investment he’d allotted would only last a few days.  Undaunted, Dosapati cashed in his retirement fund, and working with a local merchant, opened the Rice ATM food pantry. But Dospati wasn’t finished.

Dospati-rice-atmWhile he’d been working toward moving his family into a larger home and had already sold a parcel of ancestral land to secure funding, when Dosapati learned yet another new group of workers had arrived seeking aid, with the blessings of his family, he put those dreams on hold.

“That’s when my wife supported me and asked me to go ahead and carry on with the initiative.”

Since the Rice ATM launched last April, word of Dosapati’s generosity has made the rounds. With support from a number of outside sources now pouring in, the man who has truly put the “human” in human resources says he hopes to keep resources flowing for those in need for a long time to come.

Dospati-rice-atm-2


Well, there you have it folks … lots of good people, young and old, from all walks of life, doing their bit for humanity.  We can all do just a bit to help someone else, if we only open our eyes and our hearts.

Winding The Year Down With Good People

Well, it’s the last ‘good people’ post of 2020, and I’ve got a great bunch for you to wrap up this otherwise chaotic year!

Kleenex tissues


One homeless man … a ton of courage

Keith Walker is a 53-year-old homeless man in Atlanta, Georgia.  On December 18th, he was near the W-Underdogs animal shelter when he realized that the building was engulfed in flames.  Walker is an animal lover, his own dog Bravo being the only constant in his life.  He did what many of us would not have done … he rushed into that building and saved every single animal there!

“I was nervous as hell, I’m not going to lie. I was really scared to go in there with all that smoke. But God put me there to save those animals. If you love a dog, you can love anyone in the world. My dog is my best friend, and I wouldn’t be here without him, so I knew I had to save all those other dogs.”

Says the shelter’s founder, Gracie Hamlin …

“He is my guardian angel. Even the firefighters didn’t want to handle the dogs. They called animal control, but Keith was already in the building pulling out the cats and dogs until they were all safe.”

Great job, Mr. Walker … a two-thumbs-up for him!  But the story doesn’t quite end there.

keith-walkerAs word of Walker’s bravery spread, a GoFundMe campaign was launched to make life a little more certain for “The Atlanta Animal Shelter Hero” and his sidekick, Bravo.  So far, more than $52,000 has been raised.  Mr. Walker has been homeless for many years, and the campaign’s founder has vowed that all monies taken in will be put toward making a better future for the man who risked his own life to save the lives of helpless animals.  In the words of one donor …

“…Mr. Walker, you’re an extraordinary gentleman, risking life and limb to save not only dogs, but the cats in the shelter as well, which would have been far more difficult. I can’t wait to see you on the news in a fresh apartment with a new start. You’ve earned it, man.”

I second that.


Retired and busier than ever

John Hobson is a 93-year-old retired Air Force Colonel who likes to stay busy.  This year, Hobson occupied himself by handcrafting close to 100 walking sticks, the proceeds of which he donated to a local Ohio charity outreach group, the Xenia Area Fish Food Pantry.

john-hobsonTo sell his wares, Hobson set up a roadside stand in his front yard. The price was beyond reasonable: $3.00 each, or a food pantry donation.  Not surprisingly, the senior whittling-wonder was sold out in just a few days, having earned about $600.  Wanting to do more, Hobson and his family set up a GoFundMe page which has since raised $9,565 in cash for the Xenia Area Fish Food Pantry. All told, donations from the sale of the walking sticks, the GoFundMe campaign, and additional donations made in Hobson’s name total close to $16,000.

“We have been told by the pantry that a $1 donation generates five pounds of food. That means that we have helped the pantry be able to distribute about 40 tons of food to the Xenia community! What a massive blessing to those in need during this very difficult time.” – Mr. Hobson’s granddaughter, Jenny Denen.

Hobson says knowing that he’s still able to help others in need in a meaningful way just makes him feel good.  Oh, if only everyone in the world felt that way, what a wonderful world we could live in!


Jumping right in there … again … and again

You may remember a few days before Christmas when I told you about the trials and tribulations in the UK   , and how France was not allowing trucks to enter from the UK and trucks were backed up for miles. Some 1,500 truckers were stranded just a few days before Christmas.

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Britain

Well, a group of Sikh volunteers put their heads and hands together and handed out thousands of meals to stranded truckers in Kent.  Members of Khalsa Aid International dished out 1,000 pizzas and 1,500 bowls of curry and pasta to truck drivers in the days running up to Christmas.

But within hours of leaving the location on the M20 on Christmas night they got a call from flood-ravaged Bedfordshire—and set off the very next day. They sourced four tons of sand and set about filling and distributing 1,000 sandbags by the end of the day.

Sikh-volunteers

Says Indy Narwal, a senior volunteer at the Slough-based aid group …

“Sikhs are very giving people, and after such a bad year, we want to do all we can to help. If they need more help in the future, we’ll be back.”


No big deal … it’s only a kidney

skully-whiteSkully White owns a gourmet hotdog stand, Lullys Food Experience, in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.  Tim Hiscock has been a regular customer at Lullys for several years now, but until last year, Skully did not even know Tim’s name.  That all changed late last year when Tim’s wife called Skully …

“He was a customer for almost three years before I knew his name.  One day his wife called me up and said he had some medical issues and I wasn’t supposed to feed him without her permission.”

Hiscock’s issues became a crisis in May 2019 when his diabetes led to advanced kidney failure.  Late last year, it was determined that Tim would need a new kidney, and when Skully heard the news, he immediately volunteered to donate one of his.

These things, of course, take time.  Turned out that White was a match and could donate a kidney to Mr. Hiscock, but complications arose, and then came the pandemic.  Long story short, the transplant took place on December 14th and both gentlemen are doing well, though White is chafing at the restriction on lifting anything over 10 pounds for three months!

skully-and-timWhen asked why he would donate a body part to a near stranger, Skully replies …

“It’s such an easy thing.  It shouldn’t scare anyone … You have two kidneys and by the time you die, you won’t even have used half of one. People live all the time with one kidney.”

On Lullys’ Facebook page, the hotdog stand says it now offering free foot-longs for life to anyone who follows in White’s footsteps. White hopes the campaign will convince others to give a kidney to save a life.


Toys, toys, toys!

mike-judy-sullivanMike and Judy Sullivan, both retired, recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary!  When Mike, a 72-year-old, 26-year army vet retired, he and Judy signed up for a woodworking club. It started as a hobby, but after witnessing the yuletide happiness their handmade playthings brought local families, it became their new vocation. Seven years on, the pair continues to churn out toys at a pace that would give Santa’s elves a run for their money.

This year, the pandemic meant many families didn’t have funds to cover non-essentials, which made the Sullivans’ mission more important than ever. Mike and Judy embraced the challenge, creating and distributing close to 1,400 toys that included animal figures, puzzles, and trucks, to name just a few.

sullivan-toysThe Sullivans’ toys made their way to a local kindergarten class, Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, a food pantry, and other charitable organizations—all of them free of charge (including postage for items sent out of state as far as Indiana and Texas).

Mike and Judy say they plan to continue making toys as long as they’re able.

“We’re both in good health and are able to be out here six to seven days a week for eight to 10 hours. It’s so much fun, it feels like home here in the shop working things out.”


Yes, my friends, there really are good people out there doing things to help others every single day.  You don’t have to even look very far … in fact, some of you I know could just walk into the bathroom and look in the mirror to see a ‘good people’.

good people

Good People Doing Good Things — Just In Time For Christmas

I was going to take a pass on today’s ‘good people’ post, for I find myself with more to do than there are hours in a day.  But, I just couldn’t let you guys down, for I know how much we all rely on the reminders that there are good people out there, quietly going about the business of helping others.


Anthony Gaskins is a UPS driver in Chesterfield County, Virginia.  Now, you can imagine that in this year of pandemic, UPS and FedEx and other delivery service drivers have been overwhelmed.  My friend Herb drives for FedEx and has been working 11-12 hour shifts, 6 days a week, in order to get all those Christmas packages delivered.  Mr. Gaskin has been delivering nearly 200 packages a day!

I am told he is always cheerful, waves and smiles as he passes people on the street, and last Tuesday literally hundreds of people along his route got together and surprised him with a gesture of appreciation.  As he rounded the corner of one street, there were more than 75 cars lining the streets, people holding up signs and cheering for him!

Gaskins-1

A resident of the community named Patty Friedman wrote in a Facebook post how terribly lonely it was when she moved in during the height of the pandemic, and seeing Gaskins was always the highlight of her day.  Friedman said she wanted to thank him personally, and when she mentioned it to some of her neighbors, she got an overwhelming response that she wasn’t alone.

Gaskins-3

So, members of her community arrived on bikes, on foot, and in more than 75 cars that lined the main road of the community, waiting for Gaskins to appear.  As he turned the corner, children and adults reportedly help up signs, screamed his name, honked their horns, and rang bells. One of his supervisors was even there to present him with a gift.

Gaskins was visibly moved, thanked everyone, and spoke briefly before getting back to work.

Gaskins-2


Christine Wheeler of Ottawa, Kansas, walked a total of 12 miles per day to work and back at the Love’s Truck Stop.  She had no vehicle, and really needed the job, for she has two small children to feed.  One day, someone saw her walking to work in the morning and called the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.  It wasn’t the first time they had received calls about this woman walking along a busy highway … in the cold.

That day, December 9th, Deputy Evan Macklin got the assignment to go check on her and make sure she was okay.  Says Macklin …

“It wasn’t warm out.  We got called out there just to check welfare, to make sure she was OK. I came back to the office and talked to my shift about if there was anything we could do for her.”

Well, a small group of deputies put their heads together and quickly realized that they needed some help, so they put the word out in the community.  Pretty soon generous citizens and businesses stepped up to the plate, and in addition to individual donations, the Sheriff’s office contributed its ‘No Shave November’ funds, and just six days later, on December 15th, they were able to surprise Ms. Wheeler with a van filled with winter coats, food, holiday gifts, two new car seats for her twin boys, a price chopper gift card, the registration for the van and the first year of car insurance along with $200 in cash.

Wheeler-1

Christine Wheeler was understandably overwhelmed …

“I can finally like take my kids to the park. I can go shopping, get food. I want to say, ‘Thank you guys so much.’ This means the world to me.”

Wheeler-2


The mayor of Fishers, Indiana, Scott Fadness, has launched the “2,000 Acts of Kindness Challenge”, encouraging residents to complete 2,000 acts of kindness by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 18.

Mayor-Fishers

Fishers is giving out $100,000 in gift cards at local restaurants to residents to keep the economy moving during the pandemic. But the $50 rewards are conditional: the recipients must conduct an act of kindness to receive them.  Says Mayor Fadness …

“2020 has been a year that has challenged us as a community, but it has also given us new opportunities to come together.  I’ve seen neighbors helping neighbors, offering to pick up groceries or deliver meals. I have seen our residents step up to support strangers, participating in food drives and creating holiday care packages for those in need.”

Just imagine if every town had a mayor like Scott Fadness!  Why, this nation might actually be a hundred times kinder, gentler.

Residents have been asked to share their kind act, or nominate someone who has performed a kind act, through an online form and on social media. The acts can include gestures like picking up groceries for an elderly neighbor, sending notes of gratitude to co-workers or cleaning snow off a stranger’s car.

It will be interesting to see how this comes out, to read about some of the acts of kindness next month.

Good People Doing Good Things — Big Things, Little Things

Good Wednesday morning, friends!  You know what I love most about Wednesdays?  I get to go in search of good people to write about.  Well, technically I do this post on Tuesday night, but still … it’s such a relief after writing about the … er … not-so-good people that I mostly write about during the week.  This week’s batch of good people is exceptional, I think.


Pay it forward … or backward

I absolutely love the ‘pay it forward’ concept that has played out in big and small ways over the past decade or so.  A couple of weeks ago in Brainerd, Minnesota, one man started a pay-it-forward movement that lasted nearly three days!

It was at the Dairy Queen on December 3rd, that a man at the drive-thru told the cashier he would like to pay for the order of the car behind him.  The store manager, Tina Jensen, was so excited that she personally delivered the good news to the woman in the second car.  The woman was stunned, and when Ms. Jensen asked if she would like to keep the chain going and pay for the car behind her, she readily agreed.

And so it went, throughout the day.  Jensen says, “One lady, she was so excited, she threw us a 20 dollar bill almost in tears. ‘Are you serious. This is really going on?’ I said, yep, you are about 125 cars into it. She said, ‘For real, can you believe this?’”

The longest chain this drive-through ever experienced was 15 to 20 cars, but I think this year, with the pandemic raging, people confined to their homes, and the Christmas season upon us in a fashion different from any we’ve ever known, people’s hearts are maybe just a little bit bigger right now.

Tina posted about it on Facebook, and people started driving to the restaurant just so they could participate—all day Friday, and most of Saturday, they kept coming, and paying the tab for the person next in line.  The record ended up at over 900 cars, with $10,000 in sales from selfless customers who passed up the opportunity to take a free meal for themselves.  Folks … THIS is what humanity is about … a small thing, sure.  But dammit … it’s a big thing, too!  Here … have a tissue

box of tissues


A few good cops

The police get a bad rap sometimes, and over the past several years, some police have certainly earned that bad rap.  But we mustn’t paint all police officers with a broad brush, for some have hearts of gold.  Such was the case in Orlando, Florida last week, when police officers surprised over 200 children in need with Christmas presents on Saturday.

Orlando-copsThe Orlando Police Department collected the names of children in need from local churches, counselors and community centers to bring smiles to kids’ faces this Christmas. The department’s officers and staff donated the money to buy the toys and personally delivered the gifts to the children at their homes. Officer Marcus Hyatt said the gift-giving helps to build trust with the community and “close the gap because so often law enforcement is portrayed a certain way.”

“When I opened up gifts on Christmas day, it just brought so much excitement for me. I waited all year for it, so to see another kid have that expression, it just means the world to me. People need to know us, they need to trust us. Part of bridging that gap is being more visible in the community. Showing people we’re human, showing people we care.  People don’t get a chance to see us handing out gifts, us having positive conversations with people. People don’t get a chance to see that we are human just like them.”

Orlando-cops-2Thumbs up to the officers who participated in this toy drive … thank you, Officers!


A return ‘good people’

Nearly a year ago, my good people post of January 1st, included a piece about a man named Michael Esmond.   You probably don’t remember, but last year around this time, Michael, a 73-year-old veteran and owner of a pool installation company in Gulf Breeze, Florida, paid the past due utility bills for 36 families in Gulf Breeze, spending a total of $4,558.  Some of those families would have lost their electricity had it not been for Michael Esmond, so although $4,558 may not seem like a lot, it may have been a lifesaver to some.

michael-esmondThis year, Michael is back on my radar.  With the pandemic and related restrictions, many have lost their jobs and are struggling to pay their bills, and in September, Hurricane Sally hit the area, causing damage to homes and businesses.  Once again, Michael Esmond stepped up to the plate … it cost him a bit more this year, but because of him, 114 families can rest a bit easier, knowing their gas and electricity bills are paid.

Last year, Esmond paid the utility bills of 36 households in his community, this year it was 114, to the tune of $7,615.40.

“This year to me probably is more meaningful than last year with the pandemic and all the people out of work having to stay home. Hurricane Sally slammed us pretty good and hurt a lot of people. We still have a lot of the blue roofs here, where they’re just covered with tarps. I have been down on my luck like people are today, where I had trouble paying bills and raising three daughters. The gas company shut the gas off and we didn’t have any heat. That’s probably one of the biggest motivators for me, because I’ve been there.”

Thumbs up to Michael Esmond … a good people working hard and sharing the fruits of his labour.


Good Critters — These three lions

Every now and then, I add a piece about animals doing good deeds, whether toward their fellow critters or humans.  This story from 2005 is not new, but it just came to my attention this week and I thought this was maybe the best animal story I’ve heard all year, so I’m sharing it.

In 2005, in Ethiopia, a group of men kidnapped a 12-year-old girl in order to marry her forcibly to a member of their community. A week later, the girl was found in the jungle under the protection of three lions. It turned out that when the lions saw the men beating the girl, they kicked away the intruders and guarded her. When the police found the little girl, the lions retreated. However, they went back to the jungle only when the girl safely returned home.

3-lionsIn her testimony, she said that lions protected her until the police came.  Take a lesson from these three lions, hoomans!

Good People Doing Good Things — They’ll Warm Your Heart

We’ve seen enough nasty people in the past week or two to last a lifetime, so now it’s time for us to look at some GOOD people!  And guess what?  I didn’t have any trouble finding some!


More than just a pair of shoes

Trey Payne teaches middle school in Bellevue, Nebraska and one day earlier this year, Trey discovered that somebody in the school had stolen his favourite pair of tennis shoes … and not cheap ones, either!  Days went by and Trey stopped thinking about it until one morning when he came to class and his students had a surprise for him …

Yep, you guessed it … they had pooled their money and bought him a new pair of shoes, just like his old ones!  Trey almost immediately burst into tears, beyond belief that these young people, ages 13-15, had done this for him!  Take a look …

Says Mr. Payne …

“It’s more than a pair of shoes, it’s about doing things to build everyone up around you. I try to show my kids this and I think the lesson has sunk in for many, in turn, reaffirming my purpose and my ideals.”


A man, a boy, and a bear

Karmalee and her 4-year-old son Quinn were shopping for Christmas lights at the Canadian Tire in North Saanich when Quinn noticed the giant teddy bear on display.

“Wow! Look at that! I need that bear!” said Quinn to his mom.  But alas, Karmalee could not afford the bear and when she explained that to him, he simply said, “Okay. I understand, mom.”

How many 4-year-old kids are that gracious under these circumstances?  Wow.  Well, it just so happened that the store’s manager, Dave, overheard this exchange and it stayed with him throughout the rest of his workday.  That evening, he started thinking about his own life.  Though his son was now grown, Dave had been a single dad, raising his son from the time he was six days old.

“I raised my son from the time he was six days old. I know what I went through and people gave me help.”

The next day, Dave managed to track down Karmalee and asked if he could make a gift of the bear to young Quinn.

Dave-Quinn-bear

Says Karmalee …

“I started tearing up.  Christmas is going to look a lot different this year and you just try to make it as magical as you can for your kids. And this guy did that. It’s pure magic.”

Dave-Quinn-bearDave’s co-workers say that’s just the way he is and has always been.  Now, Dave’s response to this whole thing is something I think we should all print and put on our refrigerators to remind us of these words of wisdom …

“You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow to any of us. If you can do something good for somebody, do it. You’d be surprised how it makes you feel.”

Words to live by my friends.


There are teachers … and then there are Teachers

The Global Teacher Prize is awarded to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. This year’s top 10 were selected from over 12,000 applications and nominations from over 140 countries around the world.

Ranjitsinh Disale is a teacher at the Zilla Parishad Primary School in the small village of Paritewadi, Maharashtra in India.

Disale

Disale was selected to receive this year’s Global Teacher Prize for his work to promote girls’ education and for encouraging a quick-response (QR) coded textbook revolution in India.  (Note that I don’t even pretend to understand that last part!)  You can read more of Disale’s contributions and why he earned this prize here   , but for now I have something else that also makes him a good people.

When he was giving his acceptance speech for the award, he announced that he was giving half of the prize money to be divided among the other nine of the top 10 candidates!  Each will receive over $55,000, courtesy of Ranjitsinh Disale.  This is the first time in the Global Teacher Prize’s six year history that the winner has shared the prize money with other finalists.  Take a look at this clip — you’re gonna LOVE this guy!

Thumbs up to Mr. Disale for his humanitarian efforts!


We could take a lesson from the lifers

Palma School is a prep school for boys located in Salinas, California.  Jim Micheletti, Palma’s Director of Campus Ministry, created a program called “Exercises in Empathy” with a focus on compassion, empathy and restorative justice. The program teams men who have been given life sentences with students to discuss themes found in literature — which has led to more than a few surprises.  Periodically the students travel to the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) at Soledad State Prison, bringing the two groups together to learn and develop greater understanding of one another.

Keep in mind, these are men serving life sentences … they are not in prison for selling an ounce of pot or defaulting on their alimony payments, but are there for having committed violent crimes.  And yet …

When one Palma student was struggling to pay the $1,200 monthly tuition after both his parents suffered medical emergencies, the inmates already had a plan to help.  Says Michelleti …

“I didn’t believe it at first. They said, ‘We value you guys coming in. We’d like to do something for your school … can you find us a student on campus who needs some money to attend Palma?’”

The “brothers in blue” raised more than $30,000 from inside the prison to create a scholarship for student Sy Green — helping him graduate this year and attend college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco.  One inmate donated his entire monthly paycheck of $100 to the cause, saying …

“I get paid to do what I do, so, why not pay it forward and give it to someone else for a change?”

Hmmmm … I know of a lot of people who have never been to jail or prison who could take a lesson from these inmates.

students-prisonRecipient Sy Green said that knowing hundreds of men made sacrifices for his education inspires him to try his best and work hard every day. He plans to continue visiting the prison on his breaks from college.

“That’s only the right thing to do. Beyond the scholarship, the knowledge that they pour into you, that’s, that’s the best thing. They definitely take my future serious and they genuinely do care about me as a person.”

The inmates also plan to continue the scholarship program for another student in need.


And that’s a wrap for this week’s ‘good people’.  Remember, my friends … we all have something we can give to help others … let’s try to remember those words of Dave from the second story … “If you can do something good for somebody, do it. You’d be surprised how it makes you feel.”

Good People Doing Good Things —

Every week, I go in search of good people, people who care enough about others to spend their valuable time or hard-earned money to help people who need it.  You’d think I would run out of those good people eventually, but so far … knock on wood … I haven’t, and in fact some weeks I don’t even have to look, but they just fall into my lap.  That was the way of it this week.  One of today’s stories was sent to me in an email, and another caught my eye when I was looking on the local news for a story about a shooting.  It helps to restore some balance in our lives when we realize that there still are … and I think always will be … good people in this world.


This first one is sad, but still shows how a community comes together in times of need.  It takes place in Vestavia Hills, Alabama where 7-year-old Ally Cheek lives with her family.  Ally and her twin sister Bailey Grace were born with a rare genetic condition called HECW2, a progressive illness that took Bailey’s life last year, and will almost certainly take Ally’s before Christmas this year.

The girls’ mother, Morgan Cheek, happened to mention to a neighbor one day last month that they would be decorating early for Christmas this year, because Ally so loved the twinkling Christmas lights and that she was not expected to live until Christmas.  Well, word spread, as sometimes happens, and before long every house in the neighborhood had put up outdoor Christmas lights … for Ally.

lights-1

Said Morgan …

“For me, in seven and a half years of twins with medically fragile needs, and burying my first child, and then starting hospice with my second daughter shortly after … I think having that reminder from so many people that the light does always shine in the darkness has just been such a beautiful reminder for us as a family.”

But, the story doesn’t end there …

lights-2After photos of the twinkling neighborhood and the hashtag #lightingtheloopforally went viral, other neighborhoods across the globe chimed in with their own early Christmas cheer in honor of the Cheek family.

“The next thing I know, I’ve got Christmas wreaths coming in from Italy and Spain and Peru and Switzerland!”

The Christmas spirit also made it to actress Kristen Bell (she portrayed Princess Anna in “Frozen,” one of Ally’s favorite musical movies) who lit up her tree with a heart for Ally.

“I am thinking of you, and hoping that you are cozy and happy and in your parents’ arms,” Bell said in a video message to the 7-year-old girl. Ally’s mom said she recognized Bell’s voice from the songs in the film.

lights-3One neighbor lent the Cheek family their golf cart, so they can ride around her street to see all the lights even as her condition weakens.

“For some reason, music and lights are two things that she continues to be able to enjoy. We have been able to wrap Ally up in like a billion blankets, and just ride around and listen to Christmas music while Ally gets to see the lights.”

ally-bailey-2015

Ally & Bailey — 2015

It will be a sad Christmas for the Cheek family, but they have good neighbors who I’m betting will be there by their side to offer them comfort, food, hugs, and anything else they can.


Imagine you’re in the checkout line at your local grocery store a day or two before Thanksgiving, your cart piled high with the usual … celery, onions, potatoes, a fresh turkey, milk, butter … well, you get the picture.  And when you finally reach the cashier, your order is rung up, totaling say $90 and change, and a young man tells you it’s paid for.  And you hear shouts from the next aisle, turn to look, and a woman has broken down into tears as her Thanksgiving groceries were also paid for.

That was the scene at a Kroger store in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, Georgia, last week when a young entrepreneur, Jason Lobdell and his friends Alix Burton, Marcus Barney, Neo Davis and Jonathan Gooch, took over the store on November 23rd, paying for everyone’s groceries for about two hours!

At first, the group was planning to just hand out gift cards, but … in the end, they decided this way was better.  According to Lobdell …

“We literally took up every register at the grocery store and family after family would go through. We took over all 12 aisles for two hours.  We were roughly around $40,000.  I’m still floating on cloud nine after seeing those faces and getting all those hugs from the grannies and whipping those tears. It was just a good feeling. A lot of us come from those situations and that type of background. So, we understand the true meaning of giving back and pouring back into our community.”

Speaking of whipping those tears … here, have one

Kleenex tissues

In addition to the grocery giveaway, they said they’ve also paid for gas for dozen of people at QuikTrip locations, and on Wednesday, the day before the holiday, Lobdell gave out 600 boxes of food that included turkeys in a poor neighborhood in Atlanta.


And this local story out of Cincinnati, Ohio …

While many high school students are relaxing over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a group of students spent last weekend working to feed hungry families.

“With the holidays and everything, there’s a lot more people that are trying to pick up (food) boxes and our need is actually expanding,” said Hunter Cornelius, a senior at Ross High School.  He spent the Saturday after Thanksgiving working with Jee Foods, a student-operated, anti-hunger nonprofit that grew out of a single class at Butler Tech. About 13 students and 200 volunteers are part of the organization, which reclaims and repurposes food that restaurants might otherwise throw away.

According to Levi Grimm, assistant director at Jee Foods …

“When the pandemic hit, all of the clients came all at one time. So, we had a lot more restaurants and schools, when they were closing, that were donating this food.”

Grimm said initially the group’s goal was to extend the shelf-life of food to give time for it to get to families. He said there’s little need for a longer shelf-life now.

“Instead of transforming it, we were able to get it directly to people in need.”

Every Saturday, students and volunteers unload semitrailers filled with food boxes. The boxes get loaded into vehicles representing 30 local partners, which then distribute the food. About 2,500 food boxes are headed to communities across the Tri-State within a few hours.

“It started at 30,000 pounds. Now we’re up to 60,000 pounds of fresh food. And each combo box that we give out to a family is about 30 pounds and it includes meat, dairy, produce. They distribute all the food out that day, or they have refrigeration space where they get it within the week.  I don’t think we really expected this scale to happen within the pandemic.”

Imagine … high school students who care enough for their community to spend every Saturday working hard to ensure the people in their community have enough food to eat.  My hat is off to these young people and the volunteers who are helping them.


See, folks … they ARE out there and they ARE real … more real than the people I write about the rest of the week!  With 23 days remaining ’til Christmas, I bet we can all find a way to be a ‘good people’ in that time … what do you think?

Good People Doing Good Things — Liem & Aubrey

Some days we look around and we wonder what has happened to our world … where are the good people???  But, if we just shut out the noise for a while and go looking for them, those good people are not all that hard to find.  The thing is, you won’t see them on the nightly news tooting their own horn, for they are too busy going about their lives, helping others … and most of all … caring.  I never have trouble finding the good people for these Wednesday posts … it’s almost as if they drop into my lap once I clear my mind of the daily detritus.  I apologize that this morning’s ‘good people’ post is somewhat shorter than usual, but I am a bit under the weather tonight and need to get to bed.  Still, I think you’ll find these two good people to be heartwarming …


Liem Kaplan is on a mission to help the homeless people in and around his community in the area of Seattle, Washington.  Thus far, Liem has collected some 12,000 masks and donated the masks along with hand sanitizer, clothing, hygiene products, and food to the homeless.  What’s so remarkable about this is that Liem is only 13 years old!

liem-3Born in Vietnam with physical challenges, Liem, one of seven siblings, was adopted when he was 11 months old.  According to his mother, Nancy, he began worrying about the homeless back in April and came to her one day saying he wanted to collect masks for people.  With mom’s help, he began acquiring product-and-cash donations from individuals, businesses, the city and community groups to distribute to shelter programs and organizations that serve vulnerable populations.

Liem-homeless

To date, Liem has distributed more than 12,000 masks, 2,000 lunches, 6,000 peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, 4,000 pairs of socks and 2,500 bottles of hand sanitizer to help keep people safe.

Liem is modest about what he does …

“If you see a problem, find a solution and do it. What I do isn’t that hard. You ask someone what they need and if you don’t have it, ask someone else to help you. Everyone can do that. You just have to care enough to stop and ask.”

You just have to care enough.  Exactly!  That is the thing that all the good people I have ever written about have in common … they care.  This isn’t Liem’s first foray into philanthropy, nor will it be his last.  At the age of six, he started coat drives and other campaigns for kids.

Liem-coat-driveWhen asked how long he could keep up his good works, Liem replied …

“Probably the rest of my life… because that’s what I like to do.”


And two thumbs up to Aubrey, the Ohio FedEx driver.  For some time, as Aubrey made her rounds, she noticed that at one house, the two sons were always outside shooting hoops on a broken basketball hoop.  Elijah and Zachary Wheeler enjoy basketball so much it didn’t bother them that their hoop was broken — they played despite it, due to their love of the game.

The brothers had no idea that Aubrey saw them playing all the time and decided to surprise the family with a brand-new hoop, leaving the gift, along with a basketball, on their front porch.  The boys’ mother, Coledo Wheeler, said when she got back from work one day, she noticed a new basketball sitting on her porch with a note attached.

“I realized it was instructions to a basketball hoop. That’s when I looked up and I saw the new one in the yard.  This was just such a blessing for her to do this, and I never ever expected it. It really was a total shock.”

hoopA small act of kindness, but really … that’s what the world is made up of … small things.  And I can almost hear those boys telling their own sons about the generosity and kindness of the FedEx driver one day in the future.

What a real hero looks like

I promised you a ‘good people’ post, but I found myself struggling to put my dark mood aside long enough to produce one this week. Instead, I am sharing an uplifting post about a woman who is truly a credit to the human race, and whose generosity knows no bounds. Thank you, Keith, for this post, and for helping me find a ‘good people’.

musingsofanoldfart

I have written before about this hero primarily for her book gifting program for young kids, which is now an international program called “Imagination Library” (see second link below). Her name is Dolly Parton. I heard she could write songs and sing, as well. Yet, Parton just received some new acclaim for helping fight COVID-19.

In an article in The Hill by Judy Kurtz (see first link below) called “Dolly Parton among donors behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine,” her efforts are revealed. Here are a few paragraphs from the article.

“Dolly Parton can add another achievement to her résumé: helping to fund research for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.

The ‘9 to 5’ singer was one of several donors listed Monday as part ofthe announcement that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidatewas 94.5 percent effective in an interim analysis. The ‘Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund’ was named as a supporter in the footnotes…

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Good People Doing Good Things —

This week’s ‘good people’ post is shorter than usual, and for that I apologize.  I was working on a good people, but realized around midnight that it was more in-depth than I had first thought and I was running out of energy, having been awakened after only 3 hours of sleep by the roofers for the last two mornings.  Funny how hard it is to go back to sleep when you awaken at 7:30 a.m. to the sound of men walking directly over your head, pounding and scraping!  Anyway … I had bookmarked the first story last week for use in a future good people post, and the second I stumbled on tonight, so … long story short … I have only two short stories for today’s post.  But, I think you’ll enjoy them.


A shared love of all things baseball … especially cards!

Reese Osterberg is 9-years-old, lives in Fresno, California, loves baseball and collects baseball cards. 

“I like baseball cards because they are pictures of people doing happy stuff. Doing what they love. And what I love.”

Reese’s collection contained about 100 baseball cards in all, and she loved those cards.  And then, on September 5th, Reese and her family were forced to evacuate their home because of the Creek Fire, the biggest fire in California’s history of wildfires … which, by the way, is still burning.  The card collection was left behind, and Reese had high hopes of returning to it within a few days.  But, tragically the Osterberg home was ravished by the fire and nothing was left of Reese’s baseball cards.

Enter Kevin Ashford, our ‘good people’ this morning.  Kevin just happened to be listening to the radio when he heard the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) telling Reese’s story and asking for donations to replace her lost cards.

Call it fate, call it kismet, call it whatever, but it just so happened that Kevin Ashford himself is a collector of baseball cards.  Kevin began collecting cards in the 1960s and over the 60-year course of his collecting he had amassed quite a collection.  In fact, he had recently contemplated selling his collection on Ebay, and it was estimated at a value of somewhere between $35,000 and $50,00 … a nice little chunk of change!

But, when Kevin heard Reese’s story, he did not hesitate.  He picked up the phone, called the number on his screen, and told the operator at Cal Fire that he had a collection he wanted to donate to Reese. 

“I had initially planned on selling my cards on eBay, but when I thought about the smile I could put on that little girl’s face, it was an easy decision. I felt compelled to donate the cards to her.”

Cal Fire quickly put Reese and Kevin in contact and even offered to help deliver the many boxes to Reese’s home in Fresno, which they did Friday.

Cal-fire

“When she told me that she used to sit with her binder of baseball cards in front of the TV watching baseball, I knew I had made the right decision, because that’s exactly what I used to do as a kid.”

ReeseBut there is another ‘good people’ in this story, and that is Reese herself.  She is sharing some of the cards with her friends who are also baseball enthusiasts, and according to her mother, Amy, they are planning to send cards and notes of encouragement to children at the nearby Children’s Hospital of Central California.  Now, this might seem a small thing, but think about it for just a minute.  This is a family who just lost their home to a horrific fire, lost all their worldly possessions, and yet … and yet they are thinking about kids in the hospital, taking time out of their efforts to re-build their lives to do something nice for sick children.

I think both Kevin Ashford and Reese Osterberg deserve a thumbs-up this week, don’t you?


They DO exist!

Now, I keep politics out of my good people posts, for these posts are about compassion and kindness, not words we typically associate with politics.  And this story isn’t really about politics, but about showing that we can set aside our differences and care about others, regardless of political views and affiliations.

It happened in Washington County, Wisconsin, a republican stronghold, where Tim Place is one of only about two democrats with a Biden/Harris sign in his yard.  Well, he did have one, until somebody stole it.  A few days after the sign was stolen, Place received a gift — a new Biden campaign sign from a neighbor … a neighbor who supports Donald Trump!

The benefactor was Washington County Executive Josh Schoemann, who lives a few doors down from Tim, and who has a Trump/Pence sign in his own yard.  Says Schoemann …

“l thought, ‘that’s just not right. Although we are Trump supporters, we love our neighbors and want them to be able to exercise their freedom of speech just like everybody else.  I decided to take my son and go and replace their sign.”

The gesture brought the neighbors together for the first time, sharing a moment as they met.  The two found unity through an unlikely item — a sign, they say, that stands for more than politics.

Tim-Josh

Tim Place (left) and Josh Schoemann

Y’know … as I read this, I asked myself a question:  If I had a neighbor who had a Trump sign in his yard and it got stolen, would I be so kind as to buy him a new one?  And the answer … well, let’s just say it disqualifies me from ever being featured in one of my ‘good people’ posts.