Good People Doing Good Things — Ms. Shirley Raines

Well, well, well … we made it to another Wednesday, and I don’t know about you guys, but I’m more than ready to hear about some good people for a change!  First, though, I think it is worth noting that the pandemic brought out the goodness in at least some people, and charitable donations were up in 2020 by 5% over and above those of 2019!  Last year, an estimated $471.44 billion was donated to charities around the nation, making 2020 the highest year of charitable giving on record!  Just goes to show what I’ve been saying for a few years now – there are lots ‘n lots of good people out there.


I am focusing on just one very good person today, for her story is worth telling and hearing.  She is Ms. Shirley Raines, who is giving her all to helping the homeless in a 50-block section of Los Angeles, California, referred to as Skid Row.  Even before the pandemic hit last year, causing both health and economic crises, the nation’s homeless population was already on the rise.  Now, more than a year after the last official population count, many of those working with homeless communities believe numbers are much higher.  Says Ms. Raines …

“I would estimate we’ve got about 8,000 people who are sleeping out on the streets or in some of the shelters. There are more women on the street than before. The resources had dried up.”

Ms. Raines has known hardship and her early adult life was not a happy one.  In 1990, when she was only 20 years old, her 2-year-old son, Demetrius, was living with Shirley’s grandmother, for she was struggling and finding it difficult to take care of him.  Sadly, he found some of the grandmother’s medication, tried it out, and later died in the hospital on September 6th, 1990.  Shortly thereafter, Raines lost both her grandmother and Demetrius’ biological father and felt all alone in the world.

“I blamed myself for not having stability. If only I’d had my own backyard. If only I’d had my stuff together.  I just fell apart. I lived a very unhappy life. I couldn’t keep anything together. I’m telling you, anything that I could do to get myself out of this planet, this world, I tried it. And I’m still here, you know? And I’m like, ‘What is this about?'”

After struggling with anxiety and panic disorder for decades, it was Raines’ twin sister who stepped in, urging Raines to find a purpose for her pain.  That purpose came in 2017 when Raines joined a church group on a feeding mission.

“I went to Skid Row, I’m like, ‘Oh, this is where all the broken people are? Oh, I’ve been looking for y’all all my life. I never wanted to leave. It’s a place where people have amazing hearts, but nobody can see it because they can’t see the forest for the trees.”

At first, Raines, who sports brightly colored hair and makeup, passed out clothing, food, and water. But when several Skid Row residents complimented her appearance, she offered to do their hair and makeup.

“I started with the Trans community. They were telling me that no one would give them women’s clothes because they were men. I’m like, ‘Girl, I’ll bring you some women’s clothes. I’ll bring wigs, I’ll bring you eyelashes.'”

Early on, Raines teamed up with a community group of motorcycle enthusiasts called ‘Fighters for The World MC’ who accompany her on Skid Row to provide safety and structure.

“They’re like big brothers. A lot of the homeless would get lost. They couldn’t find us, but they learned to follow the sounds of the bikes.”

As Raines’ efforts evolved into a full-scale operation, with music playing and lines forming around the block, she began providing more supplies and essentials: rape whistles, tents, sleeping bags, hygiene items — and she teamed up with local health officials to offer more services.

Heidi Behforouz, medical director for Housing for Health, a program of the L.A. County Department of Health Services, has worked with Raines on the streets and says, “she is giving people hope, a break, dignity, some fun … just reminding us that we’re all human.”

Before the pandemic, Raines was making 400 meals a week in her one-bedroom apartment kitchen in Long Beach and driving three times a week to Downtown Los Angeles to feed and bring supplies to people.  Then, as Covid-19 affected many organizations’ efforts, services dried up. But Raines pivoted, opting for bagged lunches and a tweaked schedule — and she kept going.

“When I went out there, it was like a scene from The Walking Dead. All the resources had stopped. People stopped coming to feed. People were starving. Some people had socks tied around their face, around their nose.”

Raines struggled to find enough drinking water and food to purchase, so she appealed to her followers over social media who stepped up with donations and supplies.  Raines struggled to find enough drinking water and food to purchase, so she appealed to her followers over social media who stepped up with donations and supplies.

In tandem with the health department, which provided masks, sanitizer and PPE, Raines said her group and other L.A. County non-profits and community projects worked tirelessly to serve the unseen community.

“We just had to use our best judgment and figure out some ways to still keep them fed, while keeping them safe, and while keeping us safe.”

Today, as vaccination rates are on the rise and a sense of normality is returning, Raines is offering help by way of food and supplies twice a week and expanding partnerships with local groups to let this often-overlooked population know there is hope.  Ms. Raines group now consists of about 20 volunteers and the motorcycle group are still with them, helping to organize supplies and meals.


I took my information from CNN Heroes, for Ms. Raines has been nominated a 2021 Hero, but if you would like to learn more about her and her organization, here is an excellent article in People that I wish I had seen sooner.

Good People (And A Critter) Doing Good Things

Here we are back at Wednesday and guess what?  I found some good people to tell you about!  Surprised, aren’t you?


One heck of a gift …

17-year-old Verda Tetteh is a very smart young woman!  She graduated from Fitchburg High School in Massachusetts with a near-perfect 4.9 GPA and has earned a full scholarship to Harvard University!  Even so, her guidance counselor urged her to apply for a $40,000 merit scholarship her school would be awarding to one male and one female graduating student, saying it would help with expenses.  Verda says she had qualms about applying, but figured she wasn’t likely to win anyway, and her counselor seemed set on it.

So, imagine her surprise when on June 4th, during the graduation ceremony, the school’s assistant principal announced that she was the winner of the $40,000 award!  Stunned, she accepted the award, but then ten minutes later walked back onto the stage, apologized for disrupting the ceremony, and said …

“I am so very grateful for this, but I also know that I am not the one who needs this the most. I would be so very grateful if administration would consider giving the General Excellence scholarship to someone who is going into community college.”

Immediately after her speech, her fellow classmates and the crowd at the ceremony cheered and rose in a standing ovation.

Ms. Tetteh was 8 years old when she moved from Ghana to Fitchburg, a city of about 40,000 people, 50 miles west of Boston, a city where more than 60% of the students in the high school are identified by the State Department of Education as “economically disadvantaged,” and 67% are described as “high needs.”  Some 75% of the roughly 1,300 students are students of color, said Jeremy Roche, the school principal. At least 40% percent of those students go to community college when they graduate.

Ms. Tetteh was chosen by her fellow classmates to be the speaker at their graduation.

“Some of us were born with the odds stacked against us, that we may not make it to today. I have gotten to know so many of you these past four years and there is so much potential in our class. To every immigrant child, you can make it. To every dreamer, you can make it.”

What a remarkably compassionate, generous young woman, don’t you think?  She serves as an inspiration to us all.  I think Verda Tetteh will go far in this world, no doubt helping many people along the way.


One heck of a good deed for veterans

Marty Weber and Jeff Poissant met in the late 1980s while both were in the U.S. Army stationed in Germany.  They became business and life partners for three decades before Poissant died four years ago of cancer at age 56.

“I didn’t even know I was attracted to men. I met him, and we fell in instant love. We did. He knew, but I didn’t. We were two peas in a pod. He was a helicopter crew chief, and I was a truck driver. So, we had land and air.”

Together, they owned a successful landscaping business, a home and an adjacent 36 acres of land that is currently unused, though they had always envisioned somehow using their Ocean County Ponderosa to help fellow veterans.

After Jeff’s death, Marty was offered $3 million for the property, but he held out, still wanting to put it to good use, to use it to help fellow veterans.  And that’s when a fellow veteran Keith Petterson, suggested that Weber get in touch with the head of a local homeless outreach organization looking to create a home for homeless veterans. That person was Paul Hulse, director of Just Believe, a group he founded in 2019 that operates Toms River’s Code Blue warming shelter at Riverwood Park.

Well, Marty made that phone call and that set the ball in motion for development of an 8,000-square-foot building along Route 72, which would be divided between a treatment facility operated by a Marlton-based healthcare provider, New Life Addiction Services and a thrift store run by Just Believe.  Its name? Jeff’s Camp.

Marty Weber turned down $3 million to instead help fellow veterans.

“We thought about a cemetery for the vets. But this is going to keep them alive.”

What a marvelous tribute to his life’s partner and such a great thing for veterans who served their country and now need a bit of help.  Thank you, Marty Weber!


What a way to spend a vacation!

Stefani Shamrowicz is a 24-year-old woman from Fort Collins, Colorado, who had the great fortune of a month off from her job at a campus recreation center.  So what did she do with her time off … a trip to Disneyland?  Hiking the Rockies?  Getting a tan at a beach?  Nope, Stefani spent the entire month … wait for it … picking up trash!

She has now driven over 70 hours through Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York—cleaning up everything from pee-filled bottles to lawn ornaments.  Says Ms. Shamrowicz …

“About 80 per cent is drinking bottles and face masks have been pretty common. I’ve found a few fast-food toys and a tire with a pair of cowboy boots in it.”

Stefani said her aim isn’t to shame, but rather encourage people to do what they can.

“When I post it’s never ‘this is disgusting or we’re awful,’ it’s ‘hey I’m cleaning up this city’ and keeping a positive light on it. I’m not going to be able to pick up everything, but if everyone starts picking up some on walks or runs, that’s where the magic is. My monumental day was bag 100 in Ohio on day 16. I dedicated that to my parents because they raised me to be this independent person and have been very supportive on the trip.”

What an awesome young woman!  I haven’t been walking at our local park this year, but in years past I saw water bottles, soda cans, discarded shoes & clothing, food wrappers, and other assorted junk just thrown down on the ground, despite the fact that there are 4 large trashcans in this very small park!  A few times I came home, got a trash bag, and went back to clean up as much as I could.  I don’t know why people are too lazy to carry their trash to a bin or some other appropriate place … to me, it is ignorant and cruel to the environment.  I doubt any of us are going to spend a month picking up other people’s trash, but when you see something thrown down in a parking lot or on a sidewalk … bend down and pick it up!  And a huge thanks from Planet Earth to Ms. Shamrowicz for doing her part to clean up!!!


Give that dog a bone!

Every now and then, I have a story about a good critter doing good things, and this week look what I found!

You know how it is when there’s a toddler in the house, just learning his way around, needing to explore every nook and cranny … and stairs!  Well, Lisa is a Great Dane puppy living in a house with one of those pesky always-on-the-move toddlers, but Lisa has made it her job to keep that little tyke from climbing the stairs!  Watch …

Good job, Lisa!  Make them give you an extra bone for your hard work!

Good People Doing Good Things — Today’s Youth

We hear a lot about “young people today”, much of it negative.  But today’s good people are all youths who have started their own charities doing a variety of different things to help others.  If these are indicative of most young people today, I’d say the future is in pretty good hands!

I can only give a brief snippet about each of these young people and their endeavors, but I will provide a link to each one’s charity so you can find out more about them if you wish.


EVERY CHILD NOW

Every Child Now is a youth-run organization focusing on holistic development aid and empowerment projects worldwide. This nonprofit was spearheaded by two brothers, Vishal and Ishan Villay, and a small group of their peers at just 13 years old, after an inspiring trip to India.

Vishal is now 18 years old and has been recognized nationally and internationally for his work. Since the conception of Every Child Now, the charity has raised $100 000, and distributed over 35, 000 units of “basic supplies,” which are a range of resources across education, food, healthcare, shelter, and water sectors. Every Child Now has grown into a national organization and also works domestically to promote and protect children’s rights in the Villay’s home country of Canada.


HALIFAX TO BEIRUT WITH LOVE

After the recent explosion in Beirut, Halifax local Jaden Lawen decided to launch Halifax to Beirut With Love, at just 17 years old. This Canadian-Lebanse citizen spent every summer in Beirut as he was growing up. Unfortunately, he received multiple notices and photographs of his close friends in the hospital following the explosion. Upon hearing the stories of their injuries and their trauma, Jaden hoped to travel to Beirut to provide on-the-ground assistance in whatever way possible. Unfortunately, due to the current global climate amidst a pandemic, this was not an option, and so Halifax to Beirut with Love was born.

In just a few short months, the Jaden raised over $17,000 dollars for the Red Cross relief efforts.


VANILLA FEEDS TOMORROW

14-year-old William Cabaniss states that he has always been troubled thinking about how people can go hungry and that citizens of his community may be starving. Especially in the height of the pandemic, William became increasingly concerned about the unmet demand for food security resources and food hampers from the local food bank. When he thought about something that he could do to raise money to help support the food banks and shelters in the area, he thought about his talents and love of baking. “I love the added taste that comes from vanilla extract. When I bake, I like to add a touch of vanilla extract even if it is not called for”, he states on his website. And so, Vanilla Feeds Tomorrow was founded. William did some research and learned how to make premium vanilla extract at home using Madagascar vanilla beans. In his first few days of selling his homemade extract, he raised thousands of dollars and has continued to grow his operation since the beginning of the pandemic.


BALL4GOOD

After spending 20% of a 7th-grade history class on a service project, Adom Appiah decided to launch and continue his work through the charity Ball4good officially. This nonprofit aims to support various community charities and organizations through organized, charitable sports events. Adom and his team would host large sports events, and admissions fees are donated to various charities chosen by the Adom, and the community. After receiving national recognition for his work, Adom had attracted major celebrities’ attention. And now, many famous coaches and players have partnered with the charity to draw extra guests and funds to all of his events!

Adom is also the author of Kids Can Change the World, a book inspiring youth to follow their passions.


CONAN FUND

After losing his father to suicide in 2018, 16-year-old Jacob Grosberg decided to start The Conan Fund. The charity is a mental health advocacy agency that aims to raise awareness and raise funds for mental health organizations that provide resources to adults and children in urgent need of support. Since Grosberg started The Conan Fund in honor of his late father, he has raised over $12 000 and funded the help of over 60,000 people in need of mental health resources. Many national and international organizations have recognized Jacob for his work.


BE THE CHANGE COLORING CO.

Lauryn Hong, Ella Matlock, Sofia Migliazza, and Erin Rogers.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started to take over the world, four high school students, Lauryn Hong, Ella Matlock, Sofia Migliazza, and Erin Rogers, from Long Beach, decided they were going to use their creative talents to serve their community. Together, they drew and developed coloring books for kids that explained best practices for staying safe during the pandemic and being kind to one another. Each customer is given a chance to choose the charity they would like the proceeds from each book sale to go to. However, each book is focused on a different issue and has another suggested organization beneficiary.


CHELSEA’S CHARITY

While not technically yet a teenager, 10-year-old Chelsea deserved a feature, without question. A firm believer in the benefits of art therapy, Chelsea decided that instead of presents for her 10th birthday, she would ask guests to donate art supplies to build art therapy boxes, which she would distribute to children going through difficult times. Chelsea knows that creative expression is an excellent way to assist in healing from grief and promote self-expression. So even after her birthday was over, Chelsea knew that she needed to keep making these kits to make art therapy accessible for everyone. After Chelsea’s Charity became an official nonprofit, Chelsea has fundraised, assembled, and distributed thousands of art therapy kits to children in the El Paso area and taught free art classes herself.

*Note:  I featured Chelsea last year in another good people post, but I am including her here, for I felt a re-visit was in order.


NOAHS ARK PROJECT

14-year-old Noah enlisted his father, Mark, to found Noah’s Ark Project after being distressed by the prevalence of homelessness on vacation. Together, they set out to acquire sleeping bags out of an emergency fabric designed by NASA for first responders to provide instant warmth. It was imperative to Noah that the sleeping bags were easily portable and lightweight and would provide adequate protection from inclement weather for those without a permanent shelter. Noah’s Ark has continued to grow exponentially and has garnered plenty of media attention. Thousands of sleeping bags have been distributed to homeless US citizens, including a large population of homeless veterans since the project began.

Good People Doing Good Things — Bringing Joy From Sadness

I almost forgot to write a ‘good people’ post … since Monday was a holiday, Tuesday felt like Monday and I began working on a different post until looking at the calendar to plan the week’s meals and I realized that the week was further gone than I thought!  But no worries, for I’ve got plenty of good people just waiting to be recognized!


For lack of the right shoes …

Daverius Peters graduated from Hahnville High School in Boutte, Louisiana last month.  But he was almost kept from  getting to walk across the stage and collect his diploma.  Why?  His shoes.  Yes, you heard me right … somebody decided that no athletic shoes of any sort would be allowed, that young men graduating must wear ‘dark dress shoes’.  Trouble was, Daverius didn’t own any dark dress shoes, so he donned what he thought would be an acceptable substitute, clean black leather sneakers with a white sole.

Peters, 18, was wearing the mandatory purple cap and gown, but a school representative standing at the front door told him his shoe selection was wrong.

“She said my shoes violated the dress code and I couldn’t attend the ceremony unless I changed them.  I thought I could wear them because they’re black.  I was in shock. I felt humiliated. I just wanted to walk across the stage and get my diploma.”

Daverius spotted one of his teachers, John Butler who was attending the ceremony as a parent, for his own daughter was also graduating.  After Daverius explained the shoe situation, Butler attempted to talk some common sense to the lady guarding the door, but to no avail, so John Butler simply took off his own shoes and handed them to Daverius.  They weren’t black, but since they weren’t athletic shoes, they passed muster and Daverius Peters walked across that stage and got his diploma!  A simple thing that didn’t cost any money, but you know it meant the world to Daverius Peters!

Last minute before they close the doors to graduation. The young brother comes walking towards me in a panic. He’s like, Mr. John they won’t let me graduate because I don’t have the proper shoes for the dress code🤷🏾‍♂️ he says the lady down there said I can’t walk to get my diploma because of the shoes I’m wearing. In total disbelief I go down to confirm. And sure enough she tells me the same thing. So then it becomes a no brainer to me, a no more questions asked scenario. I gave him the shoes on my feet. Here’s the funny part tho… my shoes were 2 sizes bigger than his, so when his name was called, he had to slide his feet like Sleestak across the stage to receive his diploma😂😂😂 we had a good laugh.


Give this woman a hug!

Helen Jusic is 84-years-old and lives in Calgary, Canada.  Helen has always been a hands-on volunteer, volunteering at a local rehabilitation facility, but at the start of the pandemic in early 2020, her volunteer duties came to a screeching halt when the facility stopped allowing outside visitors. Now Helen is a people person and she felt lonely and isolated at home.

“I felt like a bird in a cage, and I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’”

One day when she was walking past a busy intersection, she waved at a bus driver who waved back at her. She then waved at people in a passing vehicle who waved back too.  And an idea was born.

Each afternoon around 3:30, she walks down the block from her Bridgeland home to the four-way stop at the corner of 12th Street and 1st Avenue N.E. to give a welcoming wave to drivers making their way home or navigating through the neighbourhood.  For about 90 minutes, Helen stands on the corner waving, smiling and giving virtual hugs to all those who pass by.  Here, see for yourself …

Regular passersby have gotten to know Jusic over the past year. Children shout out a personal hello to her, as they ride by in their parents’ vehicles. Motorists toot a greeting with their horns. And some have showered her with thank-you cards, chocolates, treats and flowers, for making their days a bit cheerier.

Like the first story, this act of kindness costs no money, but Helen Juvic is a good people in my book for she is bringing joy to so many people.  Thank you, Helen Juvic, for being a wonderful people!


Into the wild blue yonder

Malcolm Hanson’s wife had just been moved into a care home due to Alzheimer’s and Malcolm was so lonely, depressed, sad.  Enter the ‘good people’ in this story, Malcolm’s 12-year-old grandson, Harrison Gurney.

Harrison knew that his grandfather had loved Spitfires ever since he witnessed a ‘dog fight’ over his head involving one of the vintage aircrafts as a boy living in 1945 London during World War II, and Harrison knew that he had long dreamed of flying in one.  Harrison loves his grandpa so much, so he began writing letters to airfields and private Spitfire owners across the UK asking for help.

“It breaks my heart to see him so sad. I want him to smile again.”

Bosses at Goodwood Aerodrome in West Sussex were so touched that they offered to fly the two of them in the classic aircraft for only the cost of fuel.  Young Harrison managed to raise enough money to fuel his granddad’s surprise by doing chores around the house and offering to do garden work for other family members.

And finally, the big day came.  Last Friday, Mr. Hanson finally got to live out his fantasy of taking to the skies—and even got to take control of the aircraft.  Said Hanson …

“It was absolutely fantastic — it was the most amazing experience I have ever had. To have been allowed to take control on the Spitfire. The pilot did barrel rolls and some dives, it was great fun—a brilliant day out, all thanks to Harri.  While I was up there, I was thinking, ‘When am I going to do a barrel roll?’ and then I got to do one and even take control, turning left and right and up and down. It was a great feeling.”


Teaching him to be a good people early!

George, last name unknown, and his 3-year-old grandson Miles live in Northern Virginia.  George and Miles are two awesome dudes!  George came into an unexpected inheritance that he said he really didn’t need.

So, he decided to share it with people who are struggling and people who can help those who are struggling.

“I had this idea. I figured that some of us in this world are doing better than others. And that those of us who were needed to share some of that good fortune with the ones who aren’t doing so well.”

For one month, George and his sidekick, Miles, handed out $100 a day with a note that read: “please accept this random act of kindness. If you don’t need it feel free to share it with others.”

Take a look …

How many of us, if we received unexpected money that we really didn’t need, would do the same?  And isn’t that a beautiful lesson that George has just taught young Miles?  I have to admit, this one had me reaching for the tissues!


Remember what I always say, my friends … we can all be good people, regardless of the state of our finances or our bank balance … all it takes is a bit of caring about others.

Good People Doing Good Things — A Hodgepodge

The first two stories about good people today should never have happened.  Anywhere but the United States, they wouldn’t have happened.  That said, I’m so glad these two good people were in the right place at the right time and kept their cool, likely saving many children’s lives.


A busjacking

Kenneth Corbin just took a routine training class to keep his school bus driving skills current. One of the topics they covered was what to do if your vehicle gets hijacked.  Days later, that lesson came in handy when an armed gunman boarded his bus and ordered him to drive.

A surveillance video shows the South Carolina driver holding out his hands as the man, an Army trainee who was later identified as Jovan Collazo, pushed his way onto the bus and brandished a rifle. Kenneth calmly put the vehicle in gear and began to drive as Jovan kept the gun aimed straight at him.

When the gunman moved all the children inside to the front of the bus, it was their inquisitive nature that finally wore him down. The kids began peppering Jovan with questions.

“Are you an Army man? Are you going to hurt us? Are you going to hurt our driver?”

Kenneth believes it was their questions that eventually made Jovan demand that Kenneth pull over and unload his young passengers. He had only driven about 4 miles when the hijacker “got frustrated with the questions” and aborted his terrifying mission.

“At the very end, the kids were the ones who got the gentleman off the bus. They pretty much had my back as much as my concern was for them.”

The hijacking only lasted about six minutes, but it was more than enough to leave a lasting impression on their entire community. Kenneth was instantly hailed as a hero for the calm, deliberate way he handled the crisis.

South Carolina officials presented Kenneth with an award for his heroism, and school board member Dr. Teresa Holmes celebrated Kenneth’s calm under pressure.

“Our School Board and Richland Two School District paid honor to this wonderful man and his wife.  His bravery and his kids’ bravery in the face of danger means so much to everyone in the community. Please thank him.”

Kenneth, however, refuses to take all the credit for the positive outcome of this scary situation. He insists that his kids “had his back” as much as he had theirs. Sounds like something a true hero would say, doesn’t it?


Courage + Compassion

Earlier this month at Rigby Middle School in the small town of Rigby, Idaho, a 12-year-old girl took a loaded gun to school, opened fire, and hit three people.  Krista Gneiting, a math teacher at the school, was preparing her students for their final exams on the morning of May 6th when she said she heard a gunshot from down the hall. She said she looked outside her classroom and saw the school’s janitor lying on the floor at the end of the hallway. She shut the door as she heard two more gunshots.

“So I just told my students, ‘We are going to leave, we’re going to run to the high school, you’re going to run hard, you’re not going to look back, and now is the time to get up and go.'”

Gneiting said she was trying to help one of the students who had been shot when she saw the girl holding the gun. She told the wounded student to stay still and approached the sixth-grader.

“It was a little girl, and my brain couldn’t quite grasp that. I just knew when I saw that gun, I had to get the gun.”

She asked the girl, “Are you the shooter?” and then walked closer, putting her hand on the child’s arm and sliding it down to the gun.

“I just slowly pulled the gun out of her hand, and she allowed me to. She didn’t give it to me, but she didn’t fight. And then after I got the gun, I just pulled her into a hug because I thought, this little girl has a mom somewhere that doesn’t realize she’s having a breakdown and she’s hurting people.”

Gneiting held the girl, consoling her until police arrived.  How many lives might have been lost if Ms. Gneiting had not reacted with such calm and compassion?  We will never know.  Ms. Gneiting’s brother-in-law had this to say in a Facebook post …

What a courageous and compassionate teacher!


Little things mean a lot

Dr. Troy Littleton is a professor of neuroscience at MIT.  Littleton runs a research lab at the college, and one of his graduate students has a 10-month-old baby that sometimes makes it difficult for her to be at work in the lab for 6-8 hours a day.  Dr. Littleton solved the problem … he bought a small crib to put in the lab for baby Katie!

In a tweet, Dr. Littleton said …

“My favorite new equipment purchase for the lab – a travel crib to go in my office so my graduate student can bring her 9-month old little girl to work when necessary and I get to play with her while her mom gets some work done. Win-win!!”

A small thing, sure, but to me it shows the heart inside of the man.

Good People Doing Good Things — A Trio Of ‘Em

Well, folks, it’s Wednesday morning again, time for more good people doing good things!


A bank with a heart – no joke!

Typically, if you pondered a business that was least likely to win an award for altruism, it might be the banking industry.  Banks and bankers are not known for giving or being compassionate.  There is at least one exception, though … Ulster Savings Bank (USB) in upstate New York’s Hudson Valley.  Ulster started doing business in 1871 and this spring is celebrating its 170th anniversary!  But to celebrate, they aren’t giving raises or huge bonuses to CEOs, they are giving back to the community!

The bank’s CEO and President Bill Calderara explained …

“As a mutual savings bank, we were created for the benefit of our customers and the community, we have no shareholders. That enables us to keep all profits local and reinvest into the community in a number of ways.  Celebrating our 170th anniversary with just as many random acts of kindness is our way of spreading kindness and supporting our community following a challenging year.”

Since the effort began, the community outreach team at Ulster Savings has donated toys and puzzles to a local homeless shelter, as well as stuffed animals to an area child abuse prevention facility.

They’ve also picked up the tab for everything from garbage collection, haircuts, pizza, groceries, restaurant meals, flowers, and coffee—to the fees for New York State auto inspections at local garages—all to ease the worries of local citizens who’ve been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Beginning in March 2020, USB “proactively dispersed $64,500 to immediately support local efforts in providing much-needed food and other essential services during the COVID-19 crisis.”

But the community-centric bank had a well-earned reputation for its philanthropy long before the pandemic. Twenty years ago, in honor of the bank’s 150th anniversary, Ulster Savings created its in-house charitable foundation, the Ulster Savings Charitable Foundation, to “assist the community in the areas of education, housing, and health/human services.”

Last year in response to the pandemic, USB gave out close to $600,000 in grants. While the money is certainly a much-needed boost, Calderara says everyone who works for USB is committed to sharing time as well. “Our goal is that 100% of employees volunteer every year.” (That works out to roughly 10,000 man-hours of community service annually.)

This is the first bank I have ever heard of or run across that I can honestly say qualifies as ‘good people’.


A HUGE small act of kindness …

I don’t know this good person’s name, know him only as Ian from Southend Sea Front, but I know he is a good people with a heart of gold.  Last month, Natalie Fernando was taking her 5-year-old autistic son Rudy (affectionately known as “Roo”) for a seaside walk when the little boy spiraled into a meltdown.  Says Natalie …

“My son loves to walk, but he hates to turn around and walk back, we usually try to walk in a circuit to avoid this but on his favourite walk with the boats we have no choice but to turn back. This will often lead to a meltdown, one which I can normally handle but on the back of two weeks out of school today was too much for him and me.”

As people are wont to do, some walked past giving Natalie and Roo dirty looks, others simply tried to ignore the situation.  And then along came Ian.  He asked Natalie if she was okay, and as soon as she explained the problem, Ian walked over to Roo, lay down on the ground near him, and began talking to him.

Soon, Roo was back on his feet, happy once again.

Ian then walked Roo and his mum back to their car.  What a small, but ever-so-kind gesture Ian performed that day.  This, my friends, is what I mean when I say that we all have the opportunity to be a ‘good people’.  You don’t have to be rich or famous, don’t have to have super powers … you just have to care.


And the winner is …

Ivan Fernandez Anaya showed his character on a racetrack in Navarra, Spain, and in the process he wound up showing the world what true sportsmanship looks like! Ivan is a long-distance runner from Spain who competes in cross country and marathon races.

Ivan was just about to finish a cross country race when he noticed Abel Mutai, a Kenyan athlete who’d been in the lead, began to slow down as he approached the finish line. Abel did not speak Spanish so he got confused by the signs and thought he had already won. Ivan saw what was happening in an instant and could have easily darted past his opponent to win the race himself. Instead, he slowed his own pace and pointed Abel towards the real finish line so he could win.

Everyone who witnessed the race was rightfully impressed with Ivan’s actions! He didn’t hesitate to do the right thing, proving that being a good sport is still one of the most important aspects of sports. Later, a journalist asked Ivan why he didn’t take the opportunity to win the race and he laid out his reason for doing the right thing …

“My dream is that someday we can have a kind of community life. But what would be the merit of my victory? What would be the honor of that medal? What would my Mom think of that?”

What, indeed.  Another man with a heart of gold.  See, folks … they are out there and you don’t have to look very hard, though sometimes it may seem they’ve all gone into hiding.

💥 Saturday And Wednesday Collided 💥

I have to confess, last night I completely lost track of the day of the week, and thus did not realize that today would be Wednesday, hence I did not prepare a ‘good people’ post!  Now, another feature such as ‘Jolly Monday’ or ‘Saturday Surprise’, I would just move on, not worry about it, and try to do better next week, but I know how you all count on Good People on Wednesday.  As it is late at night and I am not quite up to par tonight, I dug back through the archives and found this post that was actually posted on a Saturday back in 2018, but I always thought it qualified as a ‘good people’ post, too.  And so, without further ado …


Is it Saturday?  Or is it Wednesday?  There seems to have been a collision on this blog of Saturday and Wednesday … what shall we call it?  Satnesday?  Wedurday?  Friday evening, I was pondering whether to even do a Saturday Surprise post, as my heart truly wasn’t into it.  The blue light began flashing on my phone, indicating a private message from a Facebook friend who sent me a link that he ‘thought I might find interesting’.  I did, and my initial reaction was to flag it for Wednesday’s ‘Good People’ post, but as I was trolling news and pondering deep things like whether to have another cup of coffee or not, the article kept popping back into my head.  And then a thought hit me … this is such a heartwarming story about such a beautiful person … and we are all in need of something happy after this past week … so … who says I can’t feature a ‘good person’ for Saturday Surprise?  After all, it’s my blog and I can do what I want with it, yes?  The only rule about Saturday Surprise is no politics!  And so … without rambling any longer, please allow me to introduce you to a great man, Mr. Todd Kirnan!

Todd was born in 1972, and shortly thereafter was diagnosed with autism.  His mother was abusive, frequently tying him to his crib for hours at a time. Eventually the law intervened and Todd spent time in foster care before his father, then separated from his mother, assumed custody.  Now Todd lives in the town of Gresham, Oregon, population 111,523, where he is known to all as Mr. Gresham.  For twenty-plus years, Todd has dedicated his life to doing little things in the town to help out small business owners and others.  He delivers coffee and food, makes trips to the post office, empties trash cans, and other odd jobs, but most of all what he gives is smiles and hugs.  He spends some twelve hours a day meandering the downtown streets of Gresham, seeing if there is anything he can do to help merchants.

Todd now lives with his younger sister, Suzette Rackley, who says of her brother, “Todd is really miraculous. He is the love of everyone’s life.”todd-with-sister-e1538196166915.pngTodd attended special education classes at Gresham High School, where he became best friends with Shane Bemis, who was serving as a student-aide to the special ed classes. Bemis became a mentor for Todd, who says, “Shane would always stick up for me against bullies.” Today, Shane Bemis is the mayor of Gresham and he and Todd remain friends.todd-with-mayor.pngThe reason this story is in the news today is that last week, the town of Gresham threw a parade in Todd’s honour, culminating in the unveiling of a Todd Kirnan statue!  Right on main street!  Hundreds of people turned out …

the-crowd-e1538196643459.png

Just look at the crowd that turned out to honour Todd!!!

Well, y’know what?  I am going to let you see for yourself … this is a short clip, and it is so very heartwarming … Gronda, get your tissues!

I think that Todd Kirnan is the antidote to the week we’ve just had, and I also think the townspeople of Gresham deserve a round of applause, for they are some pretty special people. This, my friends, is what ‘community’ is all about.  I hope you all enjoyed meeting Todd and the good people of Gresham, Oregon!  Have a wonderful weekend, friends!

Good People Doing Good Things — Donnel Baird

Today’s good people is a bit different than the ones I usually write about on Wednesday mornings.  He didn’t pull a child from in front of an oncoming train, nor renovate an elderly person’s home for free, but what he has done will have a lasting positive impact on the lives of potentially thousands of people and … at the same time, he is helping the environment.  I am posting today’s ‘Good People’ directly from The Washington Post, for I could not possibly have done any better job in writing about this good person, Donnel Baird.


Donnel Baird kept his coat on while he toured the aging sanctuary. His breath froze on his face mask as he took in the peeling plaster, the dusty basement, the failing boiler that never seemed able to make Bright Light Baptist Church warm.

But when he peered into the kitchen, the shiver he felt was one of recognition. Every burner on the stove was lit. The oven door was open, its temperature set on high.

It was exactly how Baird’s family tried to heat his childhood home more than three decades earlier, in another Brooklyn building with a dysfunctional HVAC system. The landlord wouldn’t address the problem, and the family couldn’t afford to move. So they stayed, the need to keep their children warm outweighing the danger of toxic fumes and open flames.

Baird, 40, has made it his life’s work to ensure other people don’t have to make that choice.

That’s why he launched BlocPower. Since its inception in 2012, his Brooklyn-based start-up has brought clean energy to more than 1,100 low-income buildings across the New York area. Baird’s business plan is simple: the company replaces heating and cooling systems that run on fossil fuels with greener, more efficient alternatives such as electric heat pumps and solar panels. That reduces the pollution driving climate change while also making indoor air healthier. The gains in efficiency generate enough savings to lower costs for property owners and deliver a profit to BlocPower investors. And the renovations create jobs and increase property values, building wealth in neighborhoods that have long been marginalized.

After collecting more than $60 million in his latest round of fundraising, Baird is eyeing an expansion to dozens more cities, including Philadelphia; Milwaukee; Oakland, Calif. He is not shy about his ambitions. Working building by building, block by block, he aims to address injustice and help save the planet.

An activist grows in Brooklyn

The foundations for BlocPower were laid during Baird’s childhood in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a Brooklyn neighborhood just a few miles from Bright Light. It was a community with a spirit of civil rights activism — the center of school integration protests; the home district of Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first woman and African American to seek a major party’s presidential nomination in 1972. But the area had also been depleted by predatory real estate practices and ravaged by the crack epidemic.

By the 1980s, when Baird’s parents emigrated from Guyana, the neighborhood was at a nadir. Buildings were in disrepair, jobs were hard to come by, tensions with police were high. As an elementary-schooler, Baird witnessed a fistfight escalate into a deadly shooting. That taught him about desperation, he says; when someone pulls the trigger, it’s because their back is already against the wall.

Baird’s family eventually moved to Atlanta, where Baird got scholarships to attend a private high school and then Duke University. Surrounded by Whiteness, wealth and privilege, “I really started to see the structural elements of racism in America,” Baird said.

Then police in the Bronx killed an unarmed Black man named Amadou Diallo, firing 41 shots at him. The immigrant from Guinea was only a few years older than Baird and had been standing in front of his apartment building when he was killed.

Baird sank into a deep depression. He might have stayed there if he hadn’t wound up in a course at Duke about social movements taught by historian Larry Goodwyn. He became close with the professor, who called the struggling sophomore into his office one day and told him, Baird recalled, to “get my s— together.”

“He said, ‘You’re so smart, there’s no excuse for you not to figure out how to plug in and get active on the issue of race,” Baird said.

In a classmate, Mariana Arcaya, Baird found the connection he needed. A fellow New Yorker and also a child of immigrants, she bonded with Baird over their shared outrage about the world’s injustices. She talked him into driving nine hours to protest at a 2002 meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York. And when former vice president Al Gore’s climate-change documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” came out in 2006, Arcaya forced Baird to watch it with her — twice.

“She sat me down and was like, ‘This is incredibly important,’ ” Baird said. “None of the other stuff you care about will matter unless you figure out how to solve it.”

After graduation, Baird moved back to New York to work as a community organizer, then got a job partnering with the Department of Energy to retrofit low-income houses so that they used less energy and cost less to heat.

Roughly a third of U.S. households have trouble paying energy bills, according to the Energy Information Administration. Wealth disparities and decades of racist housing policies mean that Black and Latino Americans are disproportionately likely to live in homes with broken or inefficient HVAC equipment that is more expensive to operate.

This energy inequality is a public health crisis: aging gas and oil furnaces — as well as the stoves and ovens used to supplement them — can fill homes with dangerous pollutants. A recent MIT study found that ozone and lung-irritating particles from buildings are the nation’s biggest cause of premature death from air pollution. In the neighborhood around Bright Light, where 67 percent of rented homes suffer from maintenance defects, children are hospitalized for severe asthma at twice the citywide rate.

It’s also an environmental crisis. The energy needed to heat, cool and operate buildings produces almost a third of the United States’ planet-warming emissions.

Working on buildings “brought all the themes of my life together,” Baird said. “The racial justice stuff, the economic justice, the climate stuff.”

Yet he kept running into logistical problems. The federal retrofitting process felt too small and too slow. Renovations would uncover additional complications the policy wasn’t designed to fix.

If working for the government wasn’t the solution, he would just have to find another way.

Building a business

When in 2011 Baird announced he was enrolling at the business school at Columbia University, Arcaya was stunned. Where was the man who’d driven through the night to protest billionaires meeting at the World Economic Forum? What had happened to fighting inequality and changing systems and saving the world?

Don’t worry, Baird told his best friend. He was still going to do all that. He had a plan.

He knew the tools existed to make buildings green, healthy and efficient. Replacing oil and gas furnaces with electric appliances such as heat pumps — which pull air from the outdoors and warm it over an evaporator coil — dramatically lowered heating bills and reduced carbon emissions. Rooftop solar panels provided cheap, clean energy to buildings, and whatever wasn’t used could be sold back into the grid. Smart thermostats, light sensors and other forms of artificial intelligence made the new equipment even more cost-effective.

But high upfront costs meant those tools were out of reach for people in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy, even though they saved money in the long run.

This was an investment opportunity waiting to be seized.

Baird began to envision a company that could raise huge amounts of capital and use it to finance green retrofits in low-income buildings. Investors would be paid back out of a portion of the utility bill savings. Baird would make the venture profitable by embracing technology and seeking out partnerships every step of the way.

He would audit families’ energy use to determine the most efficient way to meet their needs and build software that could calculate the best way to engineer and finance the project. He would partner with the high-tech architecture firms that small homeowners usually couldn’t afford, using tools such as 3-D scans and digital models to bring down construction costs. He would forge agreements with utilities and cities that would enable him to earn even more money by helping those institutions meet their emissions reduction goals. And he would provide job training to residents in the communities he served, to ensure that the benefits of each project lasted long after the work was complete.

BlocPower launched while Baird was still a student at Columbia. He skipped one of his final business school exams to give a presentation at the White House. It turned out to be the right decision; he walked away with a $2 million contract from the Energy Department.

Yet when Baird went to fundraise, he felt “like a fish out of water” in the mostly White, wealthy worlds of Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Prospective funders told him that low-income buildings were seen as bad investments. The unspoken message seemed to be that he was seen as a bad investment.

But Baird is nothing if not tenacious; a Black man in America has to be, he said. So he studied the systems that had excluded people like him and figured out how to work within them. He went to the banks that had denied loans to Black people and the corporations that profited from fossil fuels and used their wealth to create change.

It was hard. But in 2015, when his son Nash was born, he got a powerful new motivation to keep trying.

“I have to find a way in the real world to come up with a plan that is going to preserve the life chances for myself and my children and my grandchildren,” Baird said.

So Baird learned to call community centers “small and medium enterprise buildings” and not to wear a suit to meetings in California. He found many of the skills he learned as a community organizer translated into the business world. He also had a “secret weapon” — an understanding of what it takes to create change.

Ultimately, Baird garnered millions from investment funds and venture capitalists. A crowdfunding campaign launched this month has already raised $200,000.

“It’s not often you find someone with the skills, the ambition and just the fortitude to take all these things on,” said Margaret Anadu, chair of the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs and one of Baird’s early backers. “The fact that he can wrap all of that up into an investment opportunity that is also commercial and profitable and scalable — it’s just a level of innovation that is pretty unique.”

“People talk about a win-win,” she added. “And with Donnel, it’s a win-win-win-win-win.”

The foundations for change

Not long after his initial visit to Bright Light, Baird got a frantic call from Eddie Karim, the church’s pastor. The boiler had finally broken — right in the middle of the snowiest month New York had seen in years.

Baird authorized an emergency heat pump installation for the church, and a few days later, Karim watched as a work crew fanned out across the building.

Luke Ericson and Devin Conroy, who use high-tech construction tools, descended into the boiler room.

“Whoa,” Ericson said.

An ancient 1,300-gallon oil tank filled the first room. Beyond it, a rusty boiler that looked to be 50 years old — far exceeding the state-recommended lifetime of about 15 years.

“Yeah,” said Conroy. “It’s not very ideal.”

But he’d seen it before. More than 70 percent of buildings in the city still run on oil- and gas-powered boilers, many of them in equally bad condition.

And compared with the rest of the work that needed to be done on the century-old structure, this was an easy fix. The oil tank could be scrapped and the boiler retrofitted with electric heat pumps, which would slash the amount of energy needed to heat the three-story building. If New York switched its grid to renewable energy sources, Bright Light’s heat would be completely green — no carbon emissions at all.

Upstairs, Karim watched Ericson take a 3-D scan of the sanctuary, resplendent even in disrepair. Intricate mosaics decorate the floors; LED lightbulbs — Karim’s first step toward sustainability — gleam in the chandeliers.

“It’s special, isn’t it?” Karim asked. Once a synagogue serving the neighborhood’s Jewish immigrant community, it became a Baptist church when the area’s demographics shifted. Residents have worshiped in the space for exactly 100 years.

Bright Light is a beloved institution in Brownsville, one of Brooklyn’s poorest neighborhoods: It operates a day care and a senior citizens program and runs food drives and vaccine information sessions during the covid-19 pandemic.

But the congregation has dwindled, and the church suffers from the same lack of resources that has constrained the rest of the community. “The main problem now is decay,” Karim said. “It sounds bad, but it’s what happens when people feel defeated.”

That’s why he rebuffs suggestions that he sell the building and relocate somewhere easier to maintain. He wants to show that the problems are fixable, that an old and struggling structure can have a sustainable future. The boiler replacement alone is expected to save Bright Light about 20 percent on its utility bills and reduce emissions 70 percent.

“My heart’s desire is to get rid of fossil fuels,” he said. “To be able to be an example to the community.”

He’s come to embrace Baird’s vision of what Bright Light could be, after the heat pumps are humming and the thermostats are set and the solar panels are soaking up sunshine. An antenna atop the building will measure weather conditions and send signals to the heating system to optimize its energy use. Batteries in the basement will store energy and sell excess back to the grid. Schoolkids and community groups will gather in the church for its cool air and WiFi. The church that has long served as an anchor for Brownsville will also become a springboard for change.

“It’s such a concrete example of what it would look like to bring about climate justice,” said Arcaya, who is now a professor of urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A Bronx family is now saving 15 percent on their energy bill. A White Plains church has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent and is earning new income hosting summer weddings now that it has an effective air-conditioning system.

If he closes his eyes, Baird can envision Brooklyn in 2030. Every building is electric, and asthma rates are low. Rooftop solar panels connect homes to a neighborhood microgrid, which is run by a local energy cooperative, which is owned by residents. People earn extra income by selling their carbon savings as credits to big industries struggling to reduce their own emissions.

“We can create and build a new industry in these neighborhoods,” Baird said. “And they can own it and control it and build wealth by saving the planet.”

Good People Doing Good Things — Saving Lives

Mayur Shelke is a superhero.  Nope, not Batman nor Superman nor even Pikachu, but a real flesh & blood hero.  Mayur is a railway worker in India, and on April 17th, he was working at Vangani station about 60 miles out of Mumbai.  Meanwhile, a partially blind mother and her 6-year-old son were walking next to the tracks.

Suddenly, somehow the child broke loose from his mother and tumbled over the edge of the platform and into the path of an oncoming train … a train that would never have been able to stop in time to keep from running over the child.  Mayur Shelke saw the boy fall and jumped into action, seemingly without a second thought …

“I ran towards the child but also thought that I might be in danger too. Still, I thought I should save him. The woman was visually impaired. She could do nothing. The child who is someone’s precious child, too.  My child is the apple of my eye, so must that boy in peril have been to his parents. I just felt something stir within me and I rushed without thinking twice.”

The entire remarkable incident might have gone unremarked—except that the whole thing was caught on CCTV cameras. Shelke says he hadn’t even mentioned it at home fearing he’d be scolded for putting himself in harm’s way. In a matter of days, the viral video took the Internet by storm.

The railway held a small ceremony to honour Mr. Shelke for his bravery, and they also presented him with ₹50,000 (about $660 USD).  And you might think that this is the end of this story, yes?  No, it isn’t.  When Mr. Shelke received the reward, he gave half of it to the family of the little boy whose life he had saved …

“I’ll give half of the amount, given to me as token of appreciation, for that child’s welfare & education. I came to know that his family isn’t financially strong. So I decided this.”

Damn … I want to shake this man’s hand!  This, my friends, is a hero … no, not the comic book kind, not the sort you might see in movies, but a real life hero.  Thank you, Mayur Shelke, for saving a young child’s life.


One week ago today, Edward Bomba was flagging traffic as the town crews patched the asphalt street in Seymour, Connecticut, when all of a sudden he dropped to the ground, convulsing, in the throes of, it was later determined, ventricular fibrillation.

It just so happened that Robert Dillon, a USPS employee, was on the street delivering the mail … he had finished up, then realized he had forgotten to deliver one package, and it was that which put him within feet of Mr. Bomba as he convulsed on the ground.  Mr. Dillon immediately began CPR, keeping the blood flowing until paramedics arrived and took over, transporting Mr. Bomba to the hospital.

Mr. Bomba is recovering, and according to his wife …

“He’s home and except for being tired, he’s fine.”

Now, granted Mr. Dillon didn’t throw himself in front of a moving train, but he still saved a life by being in the right place at the right time, and most importantly, knowing CPR, knowing what to do.  How many of us would?  I certainly wouldn’t.  My hat is off to Mr. Robert Dillon, another hero of the day!


Now, this ‘good people’ post is about saving lives, but I didn’t necessarily say that it was about saving human lives, did I?  Dogs are people too, and I think your heart will melt a little when you see this video of one dog, Jessie, rescuing her dog friend, a 15-year-old Toy Pom named Chucky, from their family’s pool in Johannesburg …

All that time, and Jessie never gave up!  What a hero!


See, my friends … heroes come in all shapes ‘n sizes, all species.

Good People Doing Good Things — Everyday People

One doesn’t need to be rich or powerful to be a good people … one only needs to care about others and be willing to make a few sacrifices to help people.  Today, I bring you a bunch of good people, and a good critter too!


A journey of a thousand miles …

It’s funny how sometimes one simple act of kindness can have a domino effect and completely change a person’s life.  Just a few short months ago, Kenneth Smith of Fort Worth, Texas, was homeless and didn’t even have money to buy a meal.  He was resting, with nowhere to go, in a chair outside a Fort Worth Outback Steakhouse hungry and half asleep.  Today, he has a job, a place to live, and plenty to eat, and it all started with a woman who, seeing him slouched in the chair as she was leaving the restaurant, asked him if he was alright.

“She asked me was I alright, so I told her, ‘No, I’m not okay at this time.”

She gave him a $100 gift card to buy dinner.  During the course of his meal he began talking to the restaurant’s managing partner, Laura Hodges, who said to Mr. Smith …

“Hey, I don’t ever want you to want for food or go hungry. I want you to always have somewhere that you can get a warm meal. So, here’s my business card. Bring it anytime.”

For a few months, Mr. Smith dropped in for a meal from time to time until he finally decided to ask Ms. Hodges for a job, and just last month he was hired to bus tables.  Since Smith had no home, Ms. Hodges posted on the Fort Worth Foodies Facebook page asking if anyone knew of a motel with affordable rates.

Instead, generous commenters have now paid for six weeks at a nearby Extended Stay hotel and have donated more than $2,200 along with a bike, clothing, kitchen items and groceries.  Says an incredibly grateful Kenneth Smith …

“I think it’s so much of a good blessing, and it’s wonderful just to have people these days that’ll do things for you.  This is a whole new beginning that God has blessed me with, so I’m trying to get on this right good track that he wants me to stay on.”

Smith is saving up his money for a car, then a home and one day hopes to have his own food service business.  Sometimes all it takes is a leg up, a helping hand, or a $100 gift card.  The woman who started the ball rolling is unknown.  Ms. Hodges says …

“We wish we could find her and know who she was because she blessed both of our lives. This has been a great thing for both of us.  I’m blown away by the generosity of people. It’s absolutely amazing.”

As Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu once said, a journey of a thousand miles starts begins with a single step.


Forgiveness

Carl Wallace is the owner of Diablo’s Southwest Grill in Augusta, Georgia. Just over two weeks ago, someone smashed the restaurant’s front door with a brick in an attempt to steal cash from the register — but there wasn’t anything in the drawer.

“You know my initial response was, you know, anger, frustration. I realized that we’re gonna have to kind of put up a Facebook post about our door looking really, really bad because here we are going to put up two sheets of plywood over the front door to just get through the day.”

But a funny thing happened as he was writing the post to explain the restaurant’s door …

“It really kind of occurred to me … Easter weekend and to just extend an olive branch. You know, extend the layer of forgiveness and kindness and give the … would-be robber some redemption and a different path.”

Wow.  How many of us would have been so forgiving?  The Facebook post reads …

“Our burritos are such a smash hit we’ve got people breaking in at 4am for their fix. So if ya see our door looking hurricane fabulous at Wheeler Rd this is why.

To the would be robber who is clearly struggling with life decisions or having money issues… please swing by for a job application. There are better opportunities out there than this path you’ve chosen. My personal cell is 706-513-3557.

No police, no questions. Let’s sit down and talk about how we could help you and fix the road you’re on.

Sincerely Carl”

So far, nobody has come forth, but nonetheless, Carl Wallace did what most of us would not likely have done in similar circumstances … he extended the olive branch, and in my book, he is a good people.


A closet filled with kindness

Anderson “Andi” Musser is a fifth grade student at Shreve Elementary School in Ohio.  Recently, a friend confided in her that she wished she had some girls’ clothing to wear to school.

“I went to my closet and got the clothes and shoes that I had outgrown. I gave them to her at school the next day. And she was really happy.”

After gifting her friend clothes, Andi couldn’t stop thinking about how great it felt to help someone in need, and a seed of an idea began to sprout.  The next day, Andi approached her principal with her idea to create a Kindness Closet, a place students can visit during the school day to “shop” for a new or gently worn garments.

Says Principal Adam Stein …

“She came to me, and I said, ‘Yup, let’s do it.'”

Andi asked local stores for donations. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Everything Rubbermaid, Goodwill, Kohl’s, and Mission: Thrift all pitched in.

“It’s great for Andi to see her vision come true. It’s part of our culture here at Shreve and Triway. … Proud is an understatement, for sure. It’s what every principal and parent would want for their kid to do – to put others first.”

I’m amazed … a young girl has more humanity and compassion than so many adults we see today.  I think this young lady is going to make a difference in people’s lives in this world.


Critters is good people too

It was September 2000 when Kevin Hines, at the age of 19, decided to end his life.

“I jumped off of the Golden Gate Bridge. I was nineteen years old and after leaving the bridge, my first thought was that I had made a terrible mistake.  Upon my resurfacing, I bobbed up and down in the frigid waters surrounding me. Then, something brushed by my legs, I feared it was a shark come to devour me whole. I tried to punch it thinking it might bite me. However, this marine animal, whatever it was, just circled beneath me, bumping me up.”

The sea creature helped keep Hines afloat until he was rescued by the Coast Guard.

Soon after his recovery, Hines became a suicide prevention/motivational speaker. He never knew what the animal was until he was featured on ABC’s “Primetime with John Quinones” to discuss suicide prevention.

Hines said he was flooded with emails after the show and one of them was from a man named Morgan.

He wrote:

“Kevin, I am so glad you are alive as I was standing less than two feet away from you when you jumped…. And by the way it was not a shark (like you mentioned in the TV show) it was a sea lion and I have pictures.”

Hines received a picture from birds-eye view of his near lifeless body laying atop a circling sea lion.  Now Hines tells his story to at-risk groups around the nation, urging people to get treatment for mental illness and helping them realize that suicide is not the answer.  That sea lion may have saved many more than just Kevin’s life on that day more than 20 years ago … we will never know.