Good People Doing Good Things —

I usually focus on every day, average individuals in these ‘Good People’ posts, but on occasion I like to highlight companies, businesses, and organizations that are going above and beyond to make people’s lives a little bit better in one way or another.


In Dubuque, Iowa, there is a school, Alternative Learning Center, that has found a unique way to encourage students to help others.  In lieu of running laps for their physical education credits, students can volunteer to help disabled and senior citizens.

Hitzler-2The learning center is specifically geared towards junior and senior high students who are at risk of dropping out of traditional schools.  Teacher Tim Hitzler is the man behind the program, and he has directly overseen it.  The students volunteer to do yardwork or other chores for those who struggle to do these things themselves.  According to Mr. Hitzler …

“The students and I and other students come out and help them. Could be raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, cleaning gutters, just depends on what they need. The students aren’t typically too excited at the beginning, but once they get involved and start doing the yard work, they become more motivated. What they really like is … helping people. They really like giving back to people and meeting the person.”

Hitzler-1.pngTurns out this is not Tim Hitzler’s first journey into altruism.  He is also the founder of a non-profit, Key City Creative Center, in Dubuque, that lends space, tools and studios to people to work on a variety of projects.  Veterans are given free membership, others pay a small fee.  As Tim says …

“The tools and the space are very valuable. But the collaboration and the knowledge you get from other people here are where the real value is.”

Take a look …

Thumbs up to Tim Hitzler and the Alternative Learning Center for helping people, and especially for teaching young people the value of being good people, of helping others.


Back in March, I wrote in another ‘good people’ post about a large supermarket chain in the UK, Sainsbury’s, and gave them kudos for being a company that took care of their people.  Well, this week Sainsbury’s is back on my radar for another extraordinary move, this time taking care of the environment.SainsburysThe company has already implemented measures that are leading to a reduction of 8,101 tonnes (that’s 17,859,626 pounds) of non-recyclable plastic and “virgin plastic” every year.  But now, in addition, they have committed to cutting a further 1,284 tonnes (2,830,732 pounds) of plastic from their supply chain over the course of the next year, including plastic cutlery, bags, lids, and trays.

Plastic cutlery will be removed from all their over 1,400 stores as well as plastic trays for asparagus and sweetcorn; plastic cream pot lids; plastic tomato and carrot trays; and plastic sleeves from herb pots.plastic-freeThe company has also committed to replacing their black plastic trays; plastic fruit and vegetable film; PVC and polystyrene trays; and plastic egg trays with recyclable alternatives.

According to Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe …

“We are absolutely committed to reducing unnecessary plastic packaging in Sainsbury’s stores. Our customers expect us to be leading the way on major issues like this, so I am determined to remove and replace plastic packaging where we can and offer alternatives to plastic where packaging is still required to protect a product.”

Yo!  Kroger, Giant, Safeway, Food Lion … are you guys listening???  Thumbs up, once again, to Sainsbury’s!


Mike-Than-Tun-Win.jpegMeet Mike Than Tun Win, a businessman and entrepreneur in Myanmar.  Mike is the founder of Flymya.com, a successful travel agency, and is CEO of BOD Tech Co., Myanmar’s first fully tech-based vehicle financing company.  Sounds just like many a rich capitalist, eh?  But what sets Mike apart is his big heart and the fact that he is using some of his success to help others.

Mike Than Tun Win created a non-profit organization called LessWalk which is buying up the bikes and making them suitable for students, then donating them to underprivileged children across the country who walk miles to school.

“It’s a common sight to see lines and lines of students walking long distances from home to school in rural villages. Some students can walk up to one hour from home to school and the families can hardly afford a simple form of transport like bicycle or motorcycle… a school bus is almost unheard of to the students in rural villages.”

Than was able to purchase the bikes at $40 per bike, costing a total of $400,000. Half of the money for the project has been funded through donations to LessWalk. Than himself provided the rest.

“I’m only halfway through the journey. The remaining 50 percent is making sure we have an impact.”


And, while this final story doesn’t exactly qualify as ‘good people doing good things’, it is heartwarming, and isn’t that, after all, what the good people posts are all about?

Harold Nelson started fishing when he was eight-years-old.  He later joined the military and served in the third infantry during World War II under General George S. Patton. Throughout the war, he made six amphibious invasions and was shot four times.

Ten years ago, when he was a spry 94-years-old, he was on a bus on his way to a casino near his Colorado home when a young lady, Jeanne Gold, happened to sit down next to him.  Jeanne was a spring chicken, only 84 years of age at the time!  The two hit it off, and it was a matter of days ‘til Harold introduced Jeanne to his one true love:  fishing.  Well, she took to it like a fish to water, and the two became boyfriend & girlfriend. Harold-JeanneToday, the couple are still boyfriend/girlfriend, Harold is 104 and going strong, and they still fish together most every day!  Though a gust of wind may knock him over, as it has in the past according to his recollection, Nelson has no plans to hang up his fishing pole anytime soon.

“When I’m pushing up daisies, I’m going to quit fishing.”

Just goes to show, you just never know when or where love will strike, and … you’re never too old to fall in love.  Maybe I’ll go buy me some hip-waders and take a bus ride!paragraph divider 2

Good People Doing Good Things — Finn Lanning

His name is Damien, last name unknown, and he is 13 years old.  Let me tell you a bit about Damien.  He was placed in foster care at a very early age, and as so often happens, has been bounced from one foster home to another.  When he was eight years old, Damien’s kidneys both stopped working and he was diagnosed with a serious kidney disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.  The only cure is a kidney transplant, and meanwhile Damien must spend more than 12 hours per day hooked to a dialysis machine.

DamienThere is a rule in the medical community about transplant recipients … they must have a stable home — homeless people are not placed on the list because they tend to have more complications.  Much of the time, Damien’s only home has been a hospital, when foster homes have not worked out, often because of the intensive care and restrictive diet that Damien requires.  As a result, Damien has been on and off the transplant list for the past five years.

Early last year, a relative took Damien in and once again he was back on the transplant list.  His mental and physical health improved, and he was able to enroll in the AXL Academy in Aurora, Colorado.  Enter math teacher, Finn Lanning.  Says Finn …

“Although he has significant health challenges, he is an excellent student and a kind, generous, and motivated human being.”

Sadly, after caring for Damien for several months, last fall the relative decided that Damien’s additional needs were simply too much, and she was no longer able to care for Damien.  The decision was made to return him to the custody of the county.  The county would be sending him back to the hospital where he had spent much of his young life, sometimes for months at a time, once even for a full year.  He would once again be removed from the transplant list.

On what was to be his last day at school, Damien told his math teacher that he wouldn’t be back.  Finn Lanning asked why, and he told him.  Over the next few days, Finn couldn’t get Damien out of his mind.

“Over that time, I started out going in to give him his work and just hang out with him a little bit, keep him caught up in the classroom. And as I learned more about his story and what he was facing and what his needs were and why they weren’t being met, it just became really hard for me to look the other way.”

It wasn’t an immediate decision, Finn recalls …

“’No way! This is not something that I’m going to do.’ But as time went on, I felt a call to engage with it. I couldn’t just not do it. I didn’t see it as an option.”

Damien-Finn-3So, in late December Finn began training to take care of young Damien, and Damien moved in with Finn earlier this year.  When the community heard of the story, they began pitching in with a bed and assorted things Finn would need to provide a home for Damien.  Damien’s dietary requirements are challenging and costly, and like any 13-year-old boy, Damien sometimes rebels and really wants nachos or fried chicken.  Nonetheless, one of the things the two enjoy doing is cooking together!

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Finn has to take time off work twice a week to take Damien to doctor’s appointments, and a number of his fellow-teachers have donated their vacation time so that he wouldn’t lose any pay.  Damien doesn’t have his kidney yet, but they are hoping for soon … very soon.  Meanwhile, the two are bonding, learning to live together, and … perhaps the best part … Finn is planning to adopt Damien!  First things first, he says, and the first priority is getting the kidney, but after that he plans to adopt him.

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Good People Doing Good Things — Curtis Jenkins!

These days more than ever, we need to be reminded of all the good people, people who are giving of themselves to do good for others.  They aren’t hard to find … you sometimes just have to sift through all the noise to find these people quietly going about the business of … being good people.  Today, I would like you to meet a school bus driver for Lake Highlands Elementary school in Dallas, Texas.  His name is Curtis Jenkins and his story is heartwarming … Gronda, get your tissues.Curtis-Jenkins.jpegUp until eight years ago, Curtis owned his own plumbing and electrical company.  Then, his mother became ill and he needed greater flexibility in order to take her to and from appointments, so he sold his business and took a job with the Richardson Independent School District (RISD) driving a school bus.  And it was there he found his passion in life … the kids.

Jenkins makes the trip to and from school fun!  He has created a community inside bus No. 1693. Students apply for their ‘jobs’ and earn “bus bucks” that Jenkins designed himself. Children who don’t work receive a weekly stipend ($5 bus bucks), but they’re taxed $2.  Only recently, he added another wrinkle … each working child contributes one of their bus bucks to help those who aren’t working.  At the end of the week, bus bucks can be redeemed for needed school supplies (purchased by Curtis). Among the ‘jobs’ are sheriff, police officer, banker, administrative assistant, and translator.

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Students are fined when they break Jenkins’ rules, which are centered around respect and compassion.

“I’m teaching love. If you don’t love, it might cost you some things.”

It’s no classroom, but Jenkins plans daily lessons that he worries are otherwise neglected. He shows students how to fly paper airplanes and tie a tie, among other useful life skills.

“I want to put imagination back in children without desensitizing them.”

Students campaigned for bus president in March and were tasked with creating a budget to add more jobs. But multiplication is tricky. So is public speaking, which is why one fifth-grader dropped out of the race.  A second-grader, trying to offer him words of encouragement, said …

“Look, all you need to say is some fancy words, and something that’s going to make everyone excited or something. Then they’re going to choose you. It’s not that hard.” (I can’t imagine where the kid learned that lesson?)

But Curtis Jenkins’ acts of kindness go much further than that.  He makes each child on his bus a special card on their birthdays, and he and his wife, Shaneqia, purchase turkeys for some of the kids’ families at Thanksgiving.  At Easter, he and Shaneqia put together special Easter bags for the kids.  It’s the little things that mean so much.

Every morning when he arrives at school with his young charges, he gives a brief talk from the front of the bus with advice like, “Walk with a purpose until you walk into your purpose. Everybody deserves a chance. No matter the odds, don’t ever count anyone out — including yourself.”  The kids love him.  One parent reported recently that her child is excited to get up and come to school because he knows Jenkins will be there to greet him each morning at the bus stop.  Another child said …

“My mom got divorced when I was only 4. He’s the father that I always wanted. In some ways, I wish my dad could have been like that.”

Until last December, Curtis had gone quietly about the business of being a bus driver, mentor, helper, with few outside the school noticing.  That all changed the week of Christmas, however, when he and Shaneqia decided not to buy Christmas gifts for each other, but instead to spend the money on gifts for the children.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, he got the kids talking about what they hoped to get for Christmas, and Curtis made mental notes.  In the end, he and Shaneqia ended up also spending the money they had put back for a second honeymoon … they felt this was more important. One of his fellow bus drivers and a parent also chipped in once they discovered what he was doing.

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A teacher took a picture of Curtis standing before his gift-laden bus and the school posted it on Facebook as a way to thank Curtis for going above and beyond the call of duty. The photo and accompanying story went viral.  The post was be shared 13,500 times and his story ran across media outlets in 20 countries, all within 48 hours!  HuffPost and even Breitbart picked up the story, as did CBS and NBC.

Jenkins wasn’t prepared for the nonprofits who claimed they donated to him, even though they hadn’t. A company is turning a profit by sending thank you cards to him on behalf of their customers. His daughter wasn’t ready for the 2,000 Instagram followers who flooded her inbox in search of her dad’s contact information. Jenkins didn’t expect to buy a P.O. box or hire a lawyer to establish a nonprofit.

But that is what, after giving it much thought, he did.

“If I have a platform now, why not use it?”

Jenkins’ nonprofit, Magnifying Caring and Change, is still in the development stages, but will be an extension of what he does for the students on his bus. He partnered with Cozy Coats for Kids to buy jackets for students. His hope is that one day he’ll have a community center for them after school.

“Just take the time to look at yourselves and think, if you were in another position than what you are in right now, how do you want somebody to treat you. I’m not rich at all. But I plan to one day be a blessing to people in need. We need these kids to know they have potential — they are like little apprentices. One day they will be the leaders when we aren’t around.”

Wise words from a wise, kind, and compassionate man.  Two thumbs up to Mr. Curtis Jenkins!

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Good People Doing Good Things — Robert F. Smith

It’s graduation season at colleges all across the nation, but one commencement ceremony will stand out in the minds of many for the rest of their lives.  Graduates of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, will be telling their grandchildren about their graduation “way back in 2019”.  Why?  Because of the generosity of one man, Robert Frederick Smith.

Mr. Smith gave the commencement speech at Morehouse last Sunday.  Watch (pay particular attention to the guy in the lower left-hand corner)

Who, you ask, is Robert Frederick Smith?  Never heard of him, have you?  Well, he is a 56-year-old African-American man, originally from Colorado, currently living in Austin, Texas.  He is a businessman, investor, and philanthropist, a former chemical engineer and investment banker. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners.  Not the sort of person I typically feature in my good people posts, and not the sort we usually think of when we think of ‘generosity’.

Smith’s net worth is estimated at $5 billion, but he is not your typical billionaire.  Smith was not born into abject poverty, but neither was he born into wealth.  Both of his parents were schoolteachers and his was very much a middle-class upbringing.  But Smith had drive, he had ambition, and he knew at an early age what he wanted.

As a junior in high school, Smith landed an internship at Bell Labs — by calling the company every week for five months until he got a slot. Smith tinkered with computers during his summer and winter breaks and went on to study chemical engineering at Cornell University. He earned an MBA from Columbia University, followed by an investment banking job at Goldman Sachs. After advising billion-dollar mergers for tech companies such as Microsoft and Apple, he left Goldman to found Vista Equity Partners in 2000.  Today, Robert Smith is the wealthiest African-American in the nation.

Smith’s gift to Morehouse graduates is far from his first act of generosity.  Prior to the 2003 opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., Smith donated $20 million.  In 2016, he gave $50 million to Cornell University for its chemical and biomolecular engineering school, and to support black and female engineering students. He is the founding director and president of the Fund II Foundation. Under his leadership, Fund II Foundation has invested in organizations such as Cornell, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), National Park Foundation, Susan G. Komen, and Global Wildlife Conservation, among many others.

In 2018, Smith was the largest individual donor at the City of Hope Gala, earmarking funds towards prostate cancer treatment for black men and for breast cancer research for black women. Smith also donated $2.5 million to the Prostate Cancer Foundation to advance prostate cancer research among African-American men.

In 2017, Smith signed on for The Giving Pledge, joining such notable philanthropists as Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and currently 190 others.

Robert-Frederick-Smith“I will never forget that my path was paved by my parents, grandparents and generations of African-Americans whose names I will never know. Their struggles, their courage, and their progress allowed me to strive and achieve. My story would only be possible in America, and it is incumbent on all of us to pay this inheritance forward. For these reasons, on behalf of my family, I am privileged to join the Giving Pledge with a commitment to invest half my net worth—during my lifetime—to causes that support equality of opportunity for African Americans, as well as causes that cultivate ecological protection to ensure a livable planet for future generations.”

As you all know, I typically have little or no use for billionaires, as very few use their wealth to help people.  But when a man pledges to pay off the student debt for 396 college graduates, my hat is off to him.

I did a bit of research and found that the average white college graduate leaves school with $28,650 in student loan debt.  But, according to Brookings Institute, the average black student has an additional $7,400 in debt, in part because black parents have less wealth to help pay for their children’s educations.  So, what Mr. Smith has done for these graduates is no small thing, for the total could well end up being around $15 million, according to my calculations.  And what he said toward the end of his speech … he called on those graduates to “pay it forward” … will ensure that his gift is one of those that ‘keeps on giving’.

Good People Doing Good Things — Two Restaurateurs

It is so easy to overlook the people in this world who are quietly going about the business of being humanitarians in small ways.  Oh sure, we notice the ones like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates who are pledging to give 50% or more of their lifetime earnings to charitable causes, and don’t get me wrong … I applaud them for what they do.  But, they are noticed and given kudos, while the ones who do the small things like bring meals to homeless people, or rescue an animal are largely overlooked.  In these Wednesday morning posts, I try to mix it up and present a few of those doing big things, but also those who are flying under the radar, so to speak.  This morning, I would like to introduce you to two restaurant owners who are making a difference in people’s lives.


Juan Carlos Beristain is the owner of JC’s Café in Cary, Illinois.  Although the café serves up desserts, coffee and all the other things you expect to find in such an establishment, his specialty is … soup.  Dozens of different varieties of soup are enjoyed by the café’s patrons.  But Mr. Beristain has another customer … one who cannot come to the Café.

Noah Dionesotes has multiple sclerosis and is undergoing chemotherapy.  Noah had been a regular in Mr. Beristain’s café, loved his soups, but is now unable to visit the café.  So, every week, sometimes several times a week, Juan Carlos Beristain loads up a number of containers of soup and delivers them to Noah Dionesotes’ home, free of charge.

“I really feel when other people are in pain. I felt that I could help him at least by delivering the soup that he likes, with the nutrition that is going to help him.”

For more than seven months, these special soup deliveries have provided more than just the nutrition that Noah needs to regain his strength. They’ve also led to a special bond between the two men. Noah described Juan Carlos as a warm, positive person who has become his best friend.

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Noah and Juan

This, folks, is what it means to be human.  What Juan is doing is a small thing, sure, but how many people go through their entire lives without doing this much to help another?


Her name is Ruth, and she is a mere mortal, but to many she is an angel. Ruth Henricks is the owner of The Huddle restaurant in San Diego, California.  Her story begins back in 1989, during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the U.S.  One of Ruth’s most frequent customers was a lanky young man named Scott, who came in for a meal every day.  As Ruth came to know Scott, he confided in her that he was dying of AIDS and that he had become too weak to cook for himself …

“When I come in, I’m greeted by everyone.  They know my name, and they pat me on the back and ask how it’s going today – no matter how I look.  I’m so grateful for you and the homecooked meals.  I depend on you for my meals, Ruth.  If I’m not at The Huddle, you’ll know I’m not eating.”

And, of course, the day came when Scott no longer came to The Huddle.  It was then that Ruth was talking to another customer, a doctor, about Scott, and the doc had a suggestion.  He said Ruth could put a note on the cash register, offering to deliver meals to people with AIDS.  She did, and the response was overwhelming.  Ultimately, Ruth, the doctor, and a group of supporters started a non-profit called Special Delivery San Diego.  Most of her original volunteers were her customers, and they started out delivering around 75 meals per day to AIDS patients.

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Ruth Henricks (center) and a few of the volunteers of Special Delivery

Eventually, Ruth and Special Delivery expanded their services to provide meals to people with other illnesses, including cancer, kidney disease and other debilitating, chronic diseases.  To-date, Special Delivery has served more than 6,000 people and prepared more than 1 million meals for them.

Clients are referred by social workers or doctors and receive three meals, five days a week. Many recipients are bedbound; some are living below the poverty line.  According to one of their meal recipients, Alden Steffens …

“I can’t cope on my own. I can’t cook. I’m just drained. I probably would be dead if it wasn’t for Special Delivery and the food.  It’s a joy every day when they ring the bell. It’s instant healing, even if you were sick five minutes before. They smile, and they treat you like a wonderful equal.”

In the early years, around 1993, one of the recipients of the Special Delivery meals was a young man named Rob.  Rob had served in the Navy in the early 1980s and when he later found he had AIDS, his family disowned him.  According to Ruth, “When we started feeding him, we became his family.”  When Rob died, Ruth discovered that Rob had left a $25,000 life insurance policy to Special Delivery to help keep the program going.

But Hendricks’ efforts don’t stop with only the food deliveries, for as she became more aware of her community, she began to see other needs.  She opened a food pantry, which now benefits roughly 800 families a month.  While running that pantry, Henricks found that many people had diabetes. So, she started a program tailored to their dietary needs, complete with a weekly nutrition class and free diabetic-friendly groceries.

Whew!  Did I mention that Ruth is 75 years of age?  Says Ruth …

ruth-1.jpg“I have been very fortunate to attract the most loving, caring, hardworking volunteers. We share each other’s joys, sorrows. We feel good about what we’re doing. And it is a family.  I have a few volunteers who are still with me from the day we started Special Delivery. And a lot of times I say, ‘Why do you keep coming back?’ And they say, ‘Well, we really believe in what we’ve created here.’

I’ve promised everyone that the diabetic program will be the last program, but I didn’t know there was going to be anything beyond the pantry, so we’ll see what comes. If we see some type of a food insecurity need in the community, we’re going to try and fix it. I can’t promise that everyone in San Diego will be able to eat tonight. But we’re going to try our best to feed the people in our corner of the world.”

I’ve got to give a two thumbs-up to Ruth and all her volunteers … 👍👍


I hope these stories helped to remind you that there are good people out there, silently operating behind the scenes to help others.  They don’t advertise, they don’t toot their own horns … they simply do.

Apologies

I know that many of you look forward to Wednesday morning’s ‘Good People’ post, and I do know how important it is in these troubled times to remind ourselves that there are a lot of good people out there doing their part for humanity.  But tonight, a good degree of angst over yet another school shooting with at least one fatality, among other news, has my mind bouncing and keeping me from the task at hand.  Fear not, for there are many good people about which to write, and it is not their fault, but only my own.  I have tried for four hours and have produced very few words on the page.  I am simply not able to provide a ‘good people’ post right now.  I hope to have one later this week, however today, I simply cannot, and for that I apologize.  Thank you, my friends, for your patience.

Good People Doing Good Things –Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado

Every Wednesday I write about good people who are doing things to help others.  Sometimes it’s very small things, like helping an elderly person carry their groceries, other times it’s big things, like providing homes for the homeless.  Today, I am focusing on someone who is ultimately helping to preserve the lives of every living, breathing species by helping clean up the environment.  Let’s face it, if we don’t do a lot more than we’re doing and soon, none of the other things will matter before long.


In the early 1990s, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado was stationed in Rwanda to cover the accounts of genocide. The on-ground experience left him traumatized.

It was 1994, and he was returning to his childhood home of Minas Gerais, Brazil, hoping to find solace in the lap of a lush green forest where he had grown up.  Instead, he found this …village-2019Nothing but dusty, barren land for miles and miles. In only a few years, his beautiful hometown had undergone rampant deforestation. The trees were cut down, the wildlife he remembered from his boyhood gone.

“The land was as sick as I was – everything was destroyed. Only about 0.5% of the land was covered in trees. Then my wife had a fabulous idea to replant this forest. And when we began to do that, then all the insects and birds and fish returned and, thanks to this increase of the trees I, too, was reborn – this was the most important moment.”

Salgado and his family set up the Instituto Terra and have now planted more than 2 million trees, transforming the environment. In doing so, he says, he has found one answer to climate change – as well as creative inspiration.

“Perhaps we have a solution. There is a single being which can transform CO2 to oxygen, which is the tree. We need to replant the forest. You need forest with native trees, and you need to gather the seeds in the same region you plant them or the serpents and the termites won’t come. And if you plant forests that don’t belong, the animals don’t come there and the forest is silent.

We need to listen to the words of the people on the land. Nature is the earth and it is other beings and if we don’t have some kind of spiritual return to our planet, I fear that we will be compromised.”

And this is what the village of Minas Gerais looks like today …village-today.jpgIn addition to the trees, 172 species of birds have returned, 33 species of mammals, 15 species of reptiles and 15 species of amphibians.  Indeed, I think Señor Salgado has done way more than his share to help save this planet, don’t you?

In this short video Portuguese is spoken, however the English subtitles are excellent, and the video is well worth the 5 minutes spent watching.

We don’t all have access to enough land to plant 2 million trees.  Some of us don’t have land on which to plant a single tree, but if you do … then plant one!  Lots of people planting a single tree eventually makes a forest!  And if you’re like me, you rent and cannot plant a single tree, plant flowers!  The bees will love you for it, and you will, in your own small way, be helping to save the planet, for the bee population is greatly reduced, and without them, folks, we would not have food to eat.  Period.  Speaking of bees … one last thing here, I was directed to a blog by an artist named Jodi, and her Sunday post did an excellent job of addressing the “bee crisis” as it were, in a concise summation.  Please drop in and check out her Bee Happy post!

Good People Doing Good Things — Vincent Dadzie

Today’s good people post is shorter than usual, not because I couldn’t find any, but because my own heart is lacking today, burdened by a number of things.  I apologize in advance, but it is 2:00 a.m. and I’ve been struggling to write this post for about 4-5 hours, with no success.  However, I know how much we all need to see these ‘good people’ to help restore our faith in humanity, and just as I was about to give it up, a voice in my head said, “You owe it to them.  You have a responsibility.”  And so, I dug around a bit, put my own ill-humour on hold for a while and gave it one more try.

Meet Vincent Dadzie …

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Vincent is 24 years of age and lives in Tamale, Ghana.  He is also the co-founder of an organization, Motivation2Learn, which he established to end school dropouts and help students find their feet in life.

Vincent conducted research and found on USAID – Ghana (U.S. Aid for International Development) that 91% of children in Ghana enroll in primary school. Out of this, only 16% graduate with a University degree. The question he asked was “what happens to the other 75%?”  The school dropout rate is very high among students in targeted areas because many young people do not have regular motivation.  At the same time, learning challenges and poor academic performance expose most students to depression, low self-esteem, and stress. Students in these conditions normally don’t get proper counseling.students-3.jpgMotivation2Learn engages Ghanaian students by changing their mind-sets through motivational talks and exposing them to opportunities. His talks enable students to be able to catch up with everyday challenges from all angles. Students learn how to set and meet their goals, raise their academic standards, seize opportunities, be masters in emotion, relationships, finance, and time management, besides attaining knowledge in their desired profession.

He organizes and delivers motivational talks to an average number of 350 students every week in one of the selected 50 Senior and Junior High schools in their first year of operation in the Northern Region. His team searches for at least five educative programs and opportunities, exposing them to students, and guiding students to take full advantage of them. His team gives professional advice and assistance to students to successfully apply for available opportunities.  As a change agent, Vincent strives to make a change and affect lives in any way possible.

Angela FanseyAngela Fansey is the other co-founder of Motivation2Learn and is providing an administrative and communication support for the organization. She is responsible for the overall development, expansion, integration and implementation of Motivation2Learn’s program strategy.

Vincent holds a degree in Bachelor of Education, Accounting and Economics from the University of Cape Coast, and Angela holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Theatre Arts from the University of Ghana, Legon.  Now, think about it … these two young people could have entered the business world and made quite a bit of money … perhaps even become millionaires.  Instead, they decided to give back to the young people of their nation.students-2.jpgGhana is considered an economically deprived nation, with a GDP per capita of only $2500.  Compare that to the U.S. with $59,532 in the U.S., and you get a sense of just how poor Ghana is.  The answer is educated young people who can make a difference, and Vincent & Angela are doing their best to help make that goal a reality.  For them, the future is more meaningful than their own riches.  We damn sure need more people like them in this world, yes?

Good People Doing Good Things — Samantha & Friends

Samantha Rodriguez found herself in a tough spot after both of her parents passed away within a couple of years, leaving her responsible to raise her five younger siblings.  As their primary caregiver, the young woman has had to make huge sacrifices to be able to continue to look after her brothers and sisters, the youngest of which is five, the oldest seventeen.  The children were in danger of being placed in the foster care system where they would almost certainly have been separated.

“I knew what I had to do. I learned so much from my mom. I was like her sidekick. I learned what it meant to raise a family. It can be tough knowing when to be like a parent and when to be their sister. Sometimes it can feel like I’m alone.”

She moved with her siblings to Orange County, Florida, because their grandmother lived there.  But resources were scarce, and Rodriquez had to grow up fast.  Samantha has been juggling her education with running things in the family home. She has relied on Uber or public transport to get all six family members to school events, doctor appointments, etc.  Quite a lot of responsibility for a 20-year-old, isn’t it?

Well, somehow this family and their situation came to the attention of the Orange Country Sheriff’s Department.  This was in December, so the Sheriff’s Department invited the family to come for a visit.  The kids were treated to a helicopter ride, and then taken into a room where there were stacks of gifts for each of them.

“We focused on clothes but also toys. We wanted to give them a good Christmas.” — Lieutenant Antorrio Wright

But the story doesn’t end there.  The sheriff’s department posted a video of the Christmas surprise online. And people began responding, asking to help.  Lieutenant Wright and his compadres put their heads together and, remembering that the family had hired an Uber car to bring them to the Christmas surprise, they collected the donations from the community, added some of their own, and …

Last week, Lieutenant Wright contacted Ms. Rodriguez and asked her to come to his office.  She was puzzled, but … when the cops call, you go!  When she arrived, he escorted her into a large room where she found all the officers from the Christmas event waiting for her.  There was a board with a covering over it, and …

The lieutenant told her that the community had gotten together and wanted to do something to help her and her family, so … he pulled the cover off the board, and …new-carThe department had bought Samantha and her siblings a new car!!!

“When they told me the car is for us, I remember thinking, ‘They just took away all these worries and stresses.’ It was such a big weight off my shoulder and will help so much.”

new-car-familyFolks … this is what it means, or at least should mean, to be a part of a community.  We look out for one another.  My hat is off to the Orange Country Sheriff’s Department, to the members of the community who stepped up to the plate to help this family, and to this young lady, Samantha Rodriguez, for taking on the responsibility for her five brothers and sisters, putting her own life on hold to keep the family together.


Note:  Pay It Forward Day is on April 28, a week from Sunday.  I’m thinking about doing a post about things people did to “pay it forward” the Wednesday after, so if you see or hear of things that you would like to contribute to that post, please send me a short email.  Thanks!

Good People Doing Good Things — Small, Yet Big!

It’s time for our weekly dose of good people, and I don’t know about you guys, but after this past week, I definitely feel the need to see people helping people instead of the usual, “I got mine, I’ll take yours too” attitude.  I’m focusing on small things today … and some small people with huge hearts.  These kids may be small in stature, but they are big on the things that matter most.  Gronda, get your tissues. box of tissues


Seven years old and already an environmental activist!

Benjamin Ball of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is only 7-years-old, but is more environmentally savvy than most of us.  Not long ago, Benjamin and his family were visiting in New England and they stopped in at the L.L.Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine.  When they decided to get a drink at the store’s café, Benjamin was not pleased to be given a plastic straw, and he asked if they had any paper straws.  (Ellen — this reminds me of your Benjamin!)

LLBeanThey didn’t, and so when Benjamin returned home, he wrote a letter to the president and CEO of L.L.Bean, Steve Smith.

“I’m writing to you because I’m a friend of the Sea Turtles and I want to protect them. Marine animals get killed by plastic in the Ocean. The Sea Turtles are important to the ecosystem and me. I know that L.L. Bean cares about the Earth too. If it is possible, could you use paper straws instead of plastic straws, please?”

Sea turtleWow … what a polite little activist!  Well, his efforts paid off, for within 24 hours, Benjamin received a response from Smith, who assured Benjamin he’d look into the issue.  Says Smith …

“It made me smile. It was a really articulate, well-reasoned, polite, yet passionate and emotional note about saving a species that no one is speaking for. It hit me in a really emotional way.”

And Smith has lived up to his response. L.L. Bean has announced that its retail affiliates and employee cafeterias would be making the switch to 100% corn biodegradable straws.

“This letter hits at the absolutely perfect time with a fantastic idea.”

Benjamin even got to meet Mr. Smith when Smith visited his alma mater, Dickinson College, located in Ben’s hometown.  Take a look …

Hats off to young Benjamin for looking after the environment and especially the sea turtles, but kudos to Mr. Smith and L.L.Bean for listening to a little boy and for being willing to make changes for a good cause.  This is what cooperation looks like, and it is people like Benjamin and Steve who will save our planet, if it is to be saved.Benjamin-Steve


Not homeless anymore!

Anthony Johnson, of Sussex, England, was homeless, living in a tent with no job, no money.  But even so, Anthony wasn’t lazy … he really wanted to earn his own way, but life hadn’t been kind to him and he found himself in this situation.  Anthony posted a note at a local bus stop …

“I will do a trial for free to show how I work. I don’t take drugs or drink. I will also do dog walking/minding, window cleaning, shopping, gardening, car valeting/washing, housework, cooking. Anything to earn a living and make life seem worth living.”

Anthony-Johnson-note

Just so happened that a young lady named Charlotte Howard noticed Anthony’s note as she was waiting for a bus and sprang into action.  First, she photographed the note, and Mr. Johnson’s tent near the bus station, and then she posted the pictures on social media.  Next, she set up a GoFundMe account  that received more than $3,200 (£2,466) in just over 10 days.

Ms. Howard had planned to use the money to buy Anthony a small RV, or caravan as they are called on that side of the pond, but since a local charity was inspired to donate a caravan to Johnson, the money will now be used to provide him with supplies, food, and additional resources to make up for his last nine years of living on the streets.

But the best is yet to come.  A local landscaper, Nelson Smith, contacted Anthony and asked if he would be interested in starting a home repair business with him, so Anthony is now employed, has a place to call ‘home’, and has a job too!  All thanks to a young lady 16 years of age, who decided to step up to the plate and help another human being.  Lots of thumbs-up to go around here, to Nelson Smith, to all the people who donated goods or cash, and most especially to Charlotte Howard!  See, folks, this is what it’s all about … people helping people.

Anthony-Johnson-Nelson-Smith

Anthony Johnson (left) and Nelson Smith.  Anthony’s new home is inset.


And he can’t even drive!

William Rabillo is not yet old enough to drive, but he did manage to buy a car … for his mom.  I’ll let William’s mom, Krystal, tell you about it …

“I have no words right now that can express how I am feeling at this moment. I’m in complete shock … The last couple weeks have literally been hell filled with so many tears, anger, confusion and heart ache. Today I got the shock of my life..

As some of you may know my son William, who is a lawn mowing, yard cleaning , money making machine. Well my son had a job today that he had to go do and so I allowed him to go assuming it was like any other time. Well this time was different. Very different.

William came home and said, ‘Mom I bought you a car.’

I of course laughed and told him ‘ya right!’

He said, ‘No mom I’m so serious I bought you a car. Come on we have to go.’

I’m at this point confused and sceptical and I said, ‘Go where?’

He said, ‘With this lady.’

And much to my surprise I go in my front yard and OMG there is a women standing there and as William said she was giving us a ride. William jumps in the car so I’m like ok?? This is some kind of joke right. No one speaks really….

So….. As I’m still thinking at this point still a joke. We pull up to this house and William says, ‘Mom that’s your car….’

I completely lost it.

I started balling my eyes out. I am speechless my 13 year old son bought me a car. He did some work for this women and that was his payment that he worked out with her. And here I thought it was a joke… Nope I was handed the keys and paperwork to the car and I’m freaking out but so in shock like OMG this is happening right now. So we got into the car it started right up and off we went.

I am so proud of my son. He is such a good kid. He may have his days but OMG what 13 year old kid do you know that buys his mom a car… William I love you son and thank you. You have such a big heart and I love you…”

William says he first got the idea from a couple of YouTube videos …

“I saw on YouTube where people get their mom a car and then surprise her with it. I wanted to do that.”

So, William started searching ads on Facebook and came across a woman selling a  ’99 Chevy Metro for only $300.

William-Rabillo

“It was really cheap so I asked her if I could trade it or earn it, and at first she said no. After she thought about it, then she said yes.”

William actually gave the woman his Xbox video game console, and will be doing some chores for her, which is nothing new, for William already does yard chores for neighbors nearly every day.  This is a kid who decides he wants to do something and there’s no stopping him.  I predict he will go far in this world.


So, we’ve just seen three remarkable young people that show us how it’s done, this humanity thing!  They are an inspiration, and if there is hope for the future of the human race, these kids are the ones that will help make it happen.