Saturday Surprise — Good People Doing Good Things!

I was pondering what to do for a Saturday Surprise post yesterday evening when I read a story from late December in The Washington Post that warmed my heart.  It’s really a good people story, so I pondered saving it for Wednesday, but … who says we can’t have a second dose of heartwarming at the end of another crazy week, eh?  So … grab your box of tissues and read about a disabled man and the young woman who saved his life …

A disabled man was stuck in a Buffalo snowbank. A stranger heard his cry and saved him.

‘This kind woman came out and heard a human being in deep distress and did something about it,’ said Ray Barker.

By Sydney Page

27 December 2022

At 7:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Yvonne White got a call from an unknown number.

“Hi. You don’t know me, but I have your brother,” a shaky voice on the other end of the line said.

It was Sha’Kyra Aughtry, a Buffalo resident, who had rescued White’s brother, Joey, amid the deadly winter storm that began battering Western New York a few days prior.

Joey White, 64, is mentally disabled, his sister said. She called him just before the storm hit, sternly instructing him not to leave the group home where he lives. He promised her he would stay put.

But as Buffalo’s worst blizzard in 50 years pummeled the city, Joey White — who also goes by Joe — ventured outside.

It’s unclear what time Joey White left home or for what purpose, Yvonne White said, but she suspects he walked about nine miles to the North Park Theatre — a single-screen cinema where he has worked as a janitor since 1980. She believes he got scared and spent the night there inside, and eventually decided to walk back home.

Joey White’s employer, Ray Barker — the program director at North Park Theatre — also called him on Dec. 22 before the blizzard began, telling him not to come to work.

“For someone who’s used to being in a pattern, I think it’s hard not to engage that pattern,” said Barker, explaining that during the pandemic, when the theater was closed, Joey White still showed up for work. “Joe is used to his pattern.”

Around 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 24, Joey White ended up in a snowbank, directly outside Aughtry’s home, which is about a seven-minute drive from the theater, in normal conditions. He was wailing and crying out in agony, Aughtry told Yvonne White.

Aughtry — who did not respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post — heard the stranger screaming, and found him outside, completely disoriented. She went into the storm with her boyfriend, and they carried Joey White into their home, Yvonne White said.

Joey White had visible signs of severe frostbite. Aughtry told Yvonne White she used a hairdryer to peel off his clothing, which clung tightly to his shivering body. She also cut off his frozen socks and removed the remnants of a grocery store bag that were cemented to Joey White’s hands. Aughtry sent Yvonne White photos of her brother’s skin, which look severely swollen and covered in multicolored blisters and sores.

After about an hour of trying to warm him up, Aughtry — a mother of three boys, ages 5, 6 and 13 — called Yvonne White. Joey White had memorized his sister’s phone number.

“The simple fact that he remembered my phone number is miracle number one,” said Yvonne White, 60, adding that she and Aughtry stayed in constant communication from then on.

Hearing about her brother’s state was “just heartbreaking,” Yvonne White said, especially because she had no way of getting there to help, as she lived about 20 miles away and roads were glazed in ice and snow.

“Sha’Kyra was telling me that he was literally frozen,” Yvonne White said. “She covered him up, she did everything for this man. She washed his clothes, she bathed him, she fed him.”

Still, despite all Aughtry had done to treat his wounds, he urgently needed medical attention. Getting help, though, was seemingly impossible.

“We called 911 easily 100 times,” Yvonne White said. “We tried everything.”

“With the blizzard, all of the emergency services have been affected,” said Barker, adding that Aughtry also contacted the theater to let staff know about Joey White’s condition. “We’ve been worried sick about him.”

“We were flipping out and crying,” Yvonne White said. “It was just getting worse and worse.”

In a desperate cry for help on Dec. 25 — one full day after Joey White showed up outside her house — Aughtry posted a live video on Facebook, which was widely watched.

“I’ve been very private and sensitive about this situation,” said Aughtry, who explained the crisis, adding that she had exhausted all options for getting medical help. “I have literally called everybody under the sun.”

“I’m asking for help from whoever,” she continued. “This man needs serious help.”

Yvonne White also posted a plea in a local Facebook group, and within half an hour, countless neighbors offered to help, and several showed up to plow around Aughtry’s home. They wrapped Joey White in a warm blanket, and carefully transported him to the Erie County Medical Center. Aughtry accompanied him for the ride.

“I’m so glad that y’all came,” Aughtry said in a video recording.

“I’m right here. You okay?” she reassured Joey White on the way to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with fourth-degree frostbite. “Nothing’s going to happen. Just breathe.”

The story was first shared by Sweet Buffalo, a local news organization, and then took off on social media. North Park Theatre staff set up GoFundMe pages for both Joey White and Aughtry.

He is being treated in the trauma unit, and “the physician who is seeing him won’t know how he’ll come through this until time goes by,” Barker said. “We are very much hoping that they will not have to amputate any of his fingers.”

Above all, though, Barker is grateful that Joey White — who he described as a “gentle soul” with a strong work ethic and a love of sports (especially baseball) — is alive. That is all owed, he said, to Aughtry.

“This kind woman came out and heard a human being in deep distress and did something about it, which most people in this day and age wouldn’t necessarily do,” he said, adding that the theater is planning to do something to honor Aughtry. “She saved his life.”

“Her act was an act of goodness, it was an act of charity, it was an act of empathy, it was an act of care,” Barker continued. “Joe won’t be able to express his gratitude fully, but he will feel it emotionally.”

Yvonne White, too, is overwhelmed with relief and appreciation that her big brother is safe.

“This stranger opened up her heart and opened up her home,” said Yvonne White, who is asking for people to send get-well cards to her brother to comfort him during his hospital stay. “I cannot wait to hug her.”

For more reasons than one, this was far from the holiday she hoped for, but amid the suffering and misfortune, Yvonne White found a silver lining.

“I feel that Joey and I now have a sister and a brother and three nephews,” she said. “This was such a Christmas miracle.”

Good People Doing Good Things: Merry Christmas Jay

Nothing quite like the blizzard of the century right at Christmas time to bring out the good people!  I found story after story of people helping others during the pre-Christmas blizzard … delivering pizzas to warming centers for the homeless, rescuing an elderly disabled man with severe frostbite, a barber turning his shop into a shelter, and much more, but the one I’m about to share with you is the one that stood out most in my mind.

Most of the time, you’d have the police breathing down your neck, maybe even chasing after you with a pair of handcuffs if you broke out a window in a school, then broke into the school.  But the police are calling the man who broke into Edge Academy in Buffalo, New York, on Christmas Eve a hero.  You may remember that Buffalo was probably the single hardest hit city in the U.S. by the blizzard named Elliott, with up to six feet of snow in some places!

On Friday, the day before Christmas Eve, a man named Jay, a mechanic in the town of Cheektowaga near Buffalo, had ventured out to help a friend whose car was trapped in the snow, but instead got caught in the snow himself.  And he wasn’t alone!  The first night, Jay rescued two strangers, Mike and Mary, by letting them sleep in his truck. The next morning, he was close to running out of fuel. One of the strangers was an elderly woman who needed to use a bathroom.

Checking his phone’s GPS he noticed that a school was nearby. Using an extra set of brake pads, Jay smashed through a window of the school so he could open the front door and let Mike and Mary in, with the security alarm blaring.  And on the journey to the school, Jay noticed a number of stranded cars, some occupied by elderly people.  He helped guide everyone inside the school where he scavenged for cereal and apples in the cafeteria, managed to turn off the alarm, and found mats in the gym for everyone to sleep on.  Ultimately, Jay brought 24 stranded people into the school, including two dogs!

On Christmas morning, Jay and the others were able to use snow blowers from the janitor’s closet to free their cars from the mounds of snow. Before he left, he left the note apologizing for the break-in.

Although the alarm sounded at the Cheektowaga Police station when Jay first broke the window, police could not get there until the day after Christmas, by which time everyone had left.  But the group did such a great job of taking very little food and cleaning up after themselves that police initially thought the broken window had been caused by the high winds in the area … until they found Jay’s note.  According to a Facebook post by the Cheektowaga Police …

“When they were finally able to leave safely, you never would have known anyone was there. This group of amazing people cleaned up all the tables… and the building they found shelter in.”

Through sharing the school’s surveillance video on local media, police were ultimately able to identify Jay as Jay Withey and he is now being hailed as a hero.  Watch …

This, my friends, is what a real-life hero is.  I’d like to shake his hand, wouldn’t you?

Another GOP Bottom-Feeder: Carl Paladino

Carl Paladino is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from the state of New York.  Now, there are some I’ve called ‘scum’ and some I’ve called ‘bottom feeders’ and other names, but I don’t have a name vile enough to describe Mr. Paladino, for he is and apparently has always been a real piece of work.  Let’s take a look at some of his most horrendous past issues.

Paladino is the founder of Ellicott Development Co., a company that buys properties, builds stores, and leases them to national retail outlets and government agencies.  His net worth is estimated at a paltry $150 million.  In 2013, Paladino was elected to the school board of Buffalo Public Schools.  But, in 2016 his mouth got him in trouble.  During an interview in December 2016, Paladino was asked what he would like to see happen in 2017.  He responded thusly …

“Obama catches mad cow disease after being caught having relations with a Hereford. He dies before his trial and is buried in a cow pasture next to [then senior White House advisor] Valerie Jarrett, who died weeks prior, after being convicted of sedition and treason, when a Jihady [sic] cell mate mistook her for being a nice person and decapitated her.  Michelle Obama. I’d like her to return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla.”

It took the school board nearly a year to oust him, but in August 2017, after numerous calls by other board members as well as then-Governor Andrew Cuomo, he was finally removed from the school board.

Also in 2016, Paladino used Twitter to say that New York Attorney General Loretta Lynch should be lynched, though he later deleted the tweet.  He is also anti-LGBTQ, having said that …

“I just think my children and your children would be much better off and much more successful getting married and raising a family, and I don’t want them brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option—it isn’t.”

Now, you may think it doesn’t … couldn’t … get much worse than his uber-racist remarks about the Obamas, but hold onto your hats.  Just last year he did a radio interview whereby he praised former German Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, saying …

“I was thinking the other day about somebody had mentioned on the radio Adolf Hitler and how he aroused the crowds. And he would get up there screaming these epithets and these people were just — they were hypnotized by him. That’s, I guess, I guess that’s the kind of leader we need today. We need somebody inspirational. We need somebody that is a doer, has been there and done it, so that it’s not a strange new world to him.”

Elise Stefanik, who replaced Liz Cheney as the GOP’s third in command in the House of Representatives, has supported Paladino and says his remarks are “taken out of context.”  There are numerous other things I could tell you about the person Carl Paladino is, but these are among the worst and I think give you a good enough idea that this is NOT the sort of person we need sitting in our Congress, making the laws under which we will all be forced to live.  This, my friends, is the sort of scum the Republican Party is sending our way.  Are the voters going to be appalled and refuse to vote for creeps like Paladino?  I wish I were more confident of that, but … they haven’t shown us their better angels yet.

Just how low can the GOP go?

One Story, LOTS Of Good People

Antonio Gwynn is an 18-year-old high school senior in Buffalo, New York.  Two years ago, Gwynn’s mother died and he was taken in by a friend, Duane Thomas.  On May 29th, Gwynn participated in a peaceful protest against the brutal murder of George Floyd, marching for hours.  Finally, tired, he went home to get some rest and watch videos of some of the nationwide protests.  But, what he saw when he woke the next morning stunned him.

He saw that his hometown’s peaceful streets had turned violent after he left, with a confrontation between protesters and U.S. marshals in front of the federal courthouse, windows smashed at downtown businesses, and protesters reporting that they had been hit by police rubber bullets.

“I was sad to watch all of that. There was a huge mess downtown. I thought, ‘I should go out there and clean it all up.’”

And so, he did.

Gwynn had rented a small U-Haul truck several days earlier to move some of his belongings into a house he had just rented from his aunt. At 2 a.m. on June 1, he threw a broom, a dustpan and two large boxes of garbage bags into the back of the truck and headed to Bailey Avenue, where much of the damage had happened.

Sweeping up broken glass, discarded protest signs and litter for about 17 blocks, Gwynn worked through the morning until almost noon, filling nearly two dozen trash bags, most of which he took home and set on his curb in time for garbage pickup.antonio-gwynn-1What young Antonio didn’t know was that his good deed was about to go viral, thanks to one person in particular, a nearby resident, Nicole Hopkins, who snapped a few pictures, then put them on her Facebook page along with a call to arms.  Nicole wrote …

“I was driving down Bailey on my way to the store after the riots and I observed a young man sweeping up piles of garbage. I took some pictures, looped around, and asked who he was working for. He informed me he rented a truck and was doing this out of the kindness of his own heart.  After speaking with him more in depth, I learned he is 18, a soon to be graduate of Hutch Tech, with aspirations of attending college. If we can pay for his books, a Mac Book, or at least one semester of college for this brave young man, his generosity and kindness will be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Hopkins’s post was quickly picked up by Kimberly LaRussa, whose Sweet Buffalo Facebook page highlights people who do good in the community. From there, it took off running.

Now, in my book Gwynn was a good people in a couple of ways … for peacefully protesting George Floyd’s murder, and then for cleaning up the detritus left at the end of the day, even though it was not his own trash.  But, there are more than one good people in this story!antonio-gwynn-2Gwynn’s voice mail box and Facebook page were suddenly filled with notes from well-wishers in Buffalo and beyond, commending him for cleaning up downtown before anyone else could get to it. And there were generous offers, too.

When one man learned that Gwynn didn’t have a car, he offered up his 2004 Ford Mustang. Another person offered to insure it, and several others set up a GoFundMe account that brought in more than $5,800 to help Gwynn pay some of his expenses while living on his own for the first time. The fundraiser surpassed its goal of $5,000 and is no longer active.  Lots more good people!!!

Probably the biggest surprise, said Gwynn, was a call from Medaille College in Buffalo. When administrators heard on the local news that he hoped one day to start his own auto repair shop and cleaning company, they presented Gwynn with a four-year scholarship so that he could begin business classes this fall.

Gwynn didn’t do this for any sort of reward or acclaim … he did it, as most good people do, because it was the right thing to do.

“It was unbelievable. I didn’t do this for any attention. I just didn’t want people to have to drive through all that trash on the street.”

But wait … I’m not done, for there is at least one more good people in this story.  Two years ago, when Gwynn’s mother died of a heart attack, his younger sister went to live with his grandmother, but Gwynn had nowhere to go.  It was then that Duane Thomas, 37, a pastor and youth leader at the Change Church offered him a home, on two conditions:  he do the dishes, and keep up with his homework.  Mr. Thomas has three children and eight stepchildren, but nonetheless, he said he considers Antonio to be a member of his family …


Duane Thomas (l) with Antonio

“I call him ‘son,’ and he calls me ‘pop,’ I was so proud when I heard he was out there by himself, cleaning up the city. It’s amazing. He just kept on going until he got the job done.”

Duane Thomas … yet another good people in this story!

Gwynn had recently moved out to rent a place from his aunt and brought his sister, Aaliyah, to live with him, said Thomas. He was planning to find a job and go to a trade school this fall, he said, when the offers came pouring in.

Just one simple story, but so many good people in it!  One young person’s desire to do the right thing opened the hearts of so many.