Good People Doing Good Things — In Times Of Trouble

This week’s ‘good people’ post is just a bit late, but hopefully worth the wait.


The trash man watcheth …

We don’t give much thought to our trash collectors, or binmen … they come once or twice a week, pick up the trash, and that’s that.  They likely don’t give much thought to us, either.  Unless, of course, they are Jake Bland at Hometown Hauling, a refuse collection company in Louisville, Kentucky.Jake-BlandOne day last week, Jake noticed that one house on his route hadn’t put out any trash for the past two weeks, so he asked the company’s dispatcher to call the customer.  The dispatcher, fearing the worst, was relieved when the 90-year-old customer answered the phone, but that relief quickly dissipated when she found out why there had been no trash for two weeks:  the woman had no trash because she had run out of food ten days before!

Said the dispatcher, Bernice Arthur …

“She just didn’t have nothing to eat….and that’s why she had no trash to put out there.  She has no family, nobody.  I said, ‘You do have a family now.’

BerniceAnd indeed, the folks at Hometown Hauling jumped in and became family for the elderly woman, known only as Mrs. W.  They compiled a list, went shopping and brought Mrs. W. enough groceries to last for quite a while.  Money was not Mrs. W’s problem, but logistics were.  She does not drive and was afraid to take a bus in this era of coronavirus.  Nonetheless, the crew at Hometown Hauling paid for the food and it was their gift to Mrs. W.  I’m pretty sure that Jake and Bernice will be keeping check on Mrs. W. for the foreseeable future.

Thumbs up to all those who participated in this venture, for without them, Mrs. W. would likely be dead by now.


Little people doing BIG things …

More than two years ago, I wrote about a young man, Jahkil Jackson, who had come to my attention because of his good works that started when he was about 8 years old and started his non-profit, Project, I Am.  He had begun making “Blessing Bags” — kits full of socks, toiletries and snacks that he could offer to the homeless in his hometown of Chicago.  Jahkil-1Young Jahkil, now 12-years-old, has floated onto my radar again this week when, in the ever-growing dark shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, he expanded his project to include yet another vulnerable population — senior citizens — in his hometown.

“I don’t think it’s safe for anybody to go outside right now.  So, I decided to give them the daily essentials like hand sanitizer, which is very important, wipes, tissue. I feel like those really help them. I’m doing my part and helping. And I feel like it’s everyone’s duty to help out where they can.  Everybody in the world, they’re scared, they’re worried. So, we have to work together to uplift each other.”

I repeat what I said two years ago when I first discovered young Jahkil … what an awesome young man!  But wait … I’m not finished, for young Jahkil has teamed up with a young man in Gaithersburg, Maryland, 7-year-old Cavanaugh Bell.  Age … distance???  Pshaw … just another hurdle to overcome!Cavanaugh-BellWhen the pandemic hit, Cavanaugh and his mom went grocery shopping for his 74-year-old grandmother, who lives in a nearby senior living community. Cavanaugh couldn’t help but also worry about his grandmother’s friends. He wondered whether they were getting all the food and other essentials they needed.

“I just wanted to make sure that they were staying home, and they were staying safe. My grandma is my best friend. We all love our senior citizens and they mean more to us than anything else. I just decided to do something nice for them.”

So, Cavanaugh used his $600 in savings to purchase food and supplies to take to the other seniors. Word spread, and he started receiving donations to help his mission. To date, his GoFundMe page has raised more than $12,000.

Now, Cavanaugh has opened a community pantry for families in need to pick up care packages filled with food and other necessary household items. Recently, Cavanaugh and Jahkil connected about their mutual cause and how they could team up to get their care packages into the hands of even more people.

For starters, Jahkil assembled and sent 50 of his blessing bags to Cavanaugh, who simultaneously sent packages of food items and other supplies to Jahkil.  Jahkil used the donations from Cavanaugh to make more blessing bags — helping him reach more seniors and homeless people. Cavanaugh distributed Jahkil’s blessing bags to those in need through his community pantry.

“I think it’s important for us young kids to work together because kids are very powerful and they can make change, too,” said Jahkil, who plans to coordinate efforts with more young do-gooders throughout the country.

“Anyone can have an impact no matter their age, no matter if they’re older or they’re young. Because whatever you believe you can achieve,” Cavanaugh said. “With love we can get through this together.”

Now, obviously these two young men have a bit of help from their families, but that’s part of the point. Jahkil’s and Cavanaugh’s parents are teaching these guys at a very young age how to be good people, that we all have a responsibility to help others in times of need.  Just as we tend to blame parents when young people get in trouble, I think we must also applaud parents like those of these two youngsters, for they are teaching their children well.  These kids and others like them are the future of our country, a future that may be a bit brighter for having these two and others like them.

 

Good People Doing Good Things — Dr. Kwane Stewart

Imagine for a moment if you will that you are homeless … you’ve lost most everything you had in life … except your dog.  The only one who still loves you, who faithfully stays by your side through thick and thin, doesn’t care if you haven’t had a shower in days, or if you’ve got that same ugly grey sweatshirt on for the third day in a row.  He cuddles by your side at night, gives you a g’night lick on the cheek, and his is the first face you see when you wake in your makeshift tent on the sidewalk, or under the overpass.  Your best friend … maybe your only friend.Kwane-Stewart-2Meet Dr. Kwane Stewart, DVM.  Nine years ago, Stewart, wanting to show his young son the importance of giving back, spent an afternoon at a soup kitchen offering medical care to the pets of homeless people in Modesto, California.  During this experience, he learned that these animals provided more than companionship to their owners — they also offered love, hope, and security.

“I knew then and there I was going to keep doing it. There’s so much need out there. About 25% of our homeless population own a pet, and I knew that if I set up a table at a soup kitchen, I could help a small group of animals. So that’s what I did. I called over anyone who was holding their pet and told them I’d take a look and vaccinate or treat their pet if I could. That first experience was one of the most rewarding moments for me. When you give back, there is something you get in return that feels much larger. I knew I wanted to keep doing it.”

After examining more than a dozen animals on that first day, he realized there was a need for this type of medical care in his community. What started as a few hours of volunteer work slowly became part of his regular routine.Kwane-Stewart-6He has helped heal more than 400 homeless pets and hopes to continue spreading empathy and awareness around homelessness through his work on the street. He also hopes his mission will encourage other veterinarians to volunteer their time and expertise to help those in need.

“I don’t ever want to have to turn anybody away. The look on people’s faces when they get their pets back, especially after a surgery or a life-saving procedure — those are moments I’ll remember forever.  Anyone has the power to help. You can volunteer at a rescue shelter. You can donate money or time. As that generosity spreads, it helps fuel the positive energy in the world.”

About 98% of the pets Stewart encounters on the streets are dogs — though there are a surprising number of cats and the occasional bird or reptile. While he’s heard comments that homeless people shouldn’t have pets, Stewart doesn’t share that opinion because he’s seen the benefits both to people and the animals themselves.

“To a pet, their owner is their universe. But we go to work and leave our pet alone sometimes eight, 10, 12 hours a day and they just sit and pine for us. Homeless people are with their animal every minute of every day.”

And pets can provide homeless women with a sense of protection and security, and offer hope to their companions — a reason not to give in to despair or fall deeper into drug or alcohol addiction, he said. One man told him, “My dog is more beneficial to me than any pill or therapy session.”Kwane-Stewart-4

“I’ve seen homeless people feed their pet before they feed themselves. I’ve seen them give their last dollar to care for their pet. They sustain each other and that is the power of pet companionship.”

Stewart hopes to challenge preconceived notions of what homeless people are like through a TV show, in which he stars, called “The Street Vet.” He describes it as a “passion project” that he created with his brother. So far, it’s shown in smaller markets in Eastern Europe, Canada and China. While people sometimes assume Stewart is rich because he’s in a show and has had high-profile jobs, such as chief veterinary officer of the nonprofit American Humane, he’s still paying off his student loans from veterinary school. Below is a short trailer from his show … grab your box of tissues first.

Out on the streets, the most common afflictions Stewart sees are flea infestations, ear infections and mild arthritis, but sometimes a pet needs surgery to remove a tumor or rotting teeth. In the past, he would pay for it out of his own pocket; he is grateful to have found reduced-price care at Beverly Oaks Animal Hospital in Los Angeles. Dr. Laurie Leach, a veterinarian at the practice, has even performed some surgeries pro bono.

Still, costs add up and Stewart doesn’t want to have to turn anyone away, so he started a GoFundMe last fall. Inspired by his efforts, the fundraising site GoFundMe named him the February GoFundMe Hero.Kwane-Stewart-5You may think it’s a small thing … and sure, relative to saving the world it is.  But … to those homeless people whose only friend is their dog or cat … or bird … it means everything.  I give two thumbs up to Dr. Kwane Stewart!  👍 👍

Good People Doing Good Things — Austin Perine

I have vacillated over today’s ‘good people’ post, and I opted not to do the one I originally wrote. I feared it might stir controversy, and that is not what my good people posts are intended to do.  Right decision?  Wrong decision?  I don’t know, and you may yet see it here later this week, but for today I do have one awesome ‘good people’ to introduce you to!  It is a little good people with a huge heart!

Austin Perine of Birmingham, Alabama, is only four years old, but this little guy has won my heart!  He knows, better than most adults, I think, the value of helping others.  What were you doing when you were four-years old?  The entire focus of my life at 4 was my dog, Shadow.  I slept, played, and sucked my thumb at age 4, and that’s about all I can remember.  Austin, however, leads a much different life than many 4-year-olds, for he is helping feed the homeless!

Here’s how it all started, according to Austin’s father, TJ Perine …

“This whole thing started when we were sitting at home watching Animal Planet and a baby panda was abandoned by its mom. Just to give him an answer, I told Austin that the panda would be homeless. Then he asked, ‘Well, are people homeless?’ and I said yes. That sparked an idea for him to want to come and feed the homeless, so here we are just a few months later.”

A few days later, TJ took Austin to one of the city’s homeless shelters to give him an up-close-and-personal view of what it means to be homeless.  Not quite expecting Austin’s response …

“He said, ‘Can we feed them?’ I didn’t expect to feed homeless people that day. But when a 4-year-old asks you, what can you say?”

Austin-Perine-2So, they headed to Burger King and picked up a batch of chicken sandwiches. Austin agreed to use his allowance to buy food instead of a weekly toy.  And later, Austin told his parents he wanted to use all of his allowance from now on, plus any money they would spend to buy him a toy, to feed the homeless.  As word of his mission spread, Burger King offered to give Austin an ‘allowance’ of $1,000 per month for a year to help him achieve his goal.

Austin wears a superhero cape when he goes on his feeding outings with his father. At Linn Park recently, the little guy handed sandwiches and drinks to the homeless. Every time, he exclaimed, “Don’t forget to show love!”

Birmingham’s mayor, Randall Woodfin, calls him “the city’s ambassador” …

“It’s one of our younger generation that gets it and understands the importance of helping others. And it’s one that we all want to cherish and make of importance which is showing love.”

Austin-Perine-1Now, at age 4, Austin is definitely a ‘good people’, but Austin had some help, I do believe.  I think we should also shine a light on TJ for helping show Austin the way, for himself being possessed of a big heart.  Caught up in Austin’s enthusiasm, TJ started a GoFundMe called Show Love Fight Hunger, and he has plans to expand on Austin’s good works …

“We’ve gotten a lot of support from the country, and what we want to do is expand from more than just giving out sandwiches.”

His vision is to build a facility that addresses the many causes of homelessness.

“Mental illness, drug abuse, addiction, and things like that. Austin and I want to build a facility and get some specialists in there that can actually help these people get back into the workforce.”

I think that the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

A few of the homeless at Linn Park knew little Austin with his superhero cape, and exchanged hugs and fist bumps. Those who did not know him were flabbergasted. One homeless man said he’d never seen anything like this.  Austin explained how doing this makes him feel inside …

“When I feed the homeless it makes me really happy and I think what I do is very special. When I grow up I want to be president. My jobs when I become president would be to feed the homeless and to chase the bad guys out of schools.”

I don’t know about you all, but I really, really want this little guy to grow up to be president!!!

Now, Austin has one last good deed I want to share with you that has nothing to do with feeding the homeless.  Austin’s older brother, Taylor, 16, has severe autism.  Austin … well, check out the tweet for yourself …austin-tweet-e1553055948590.pngNow, isn’t that the pinnacle of brotherly love?  Big kudos to Austin Perine, his dad TJ, and also for Burger King and everyone else who has so generously helped Austin in his quest to be a good people and feed the homeless.  Here’s to the future President of the United States, Austin Perine!

Good People Doing Good Things — Ruby Kate Chitsey

A young lady, eleven-year-old Ruby Kate Chitsey, has popped up on my radar no less than three times in the past week, and with good reason.  Ruby’s mom, Amanda, is a nurse-practitioner who works in various nursing homes in and around their town of Harrison, Arkansas.  Whenever possible, Ruby accompanies her mom on her rounds several days a week.  I’ll let Ruby tell you in her own words what defining moment inspired her to begin her wondrous project …

“One day as my mom and I were leaving the nursing home, a patient named Pearl was glued to the exit doors staring for a long time at something. I figured whatever it was must be pretty exciting because I hadn’t seen anything exciting all day. So I hurried to catch up to her before whatever this was disappeared. I thought maybe it was a baby bird? A wreck in the parking lot? Ambulance? 

I get up there and there is a normal dog being led out on a leash to a car by a normal lady. That was it! Boring. I asked her what was going on and she said that was her dog of 12ish years. The dog had come to visit for the day and she was staring at the door because she didn’t know the next time she would see her dog again.

Pearl’s face was so sad.  I thought of all the things in this world Pearl could have, she would probably just ask for more visits with her dog. I know it costs $12 for a pet sitter/visit. I’m eleven and I have enough money saved in my piggy bank to get Pearl a few visits with her dog.”

Ruby-3Now, Ruby has already proven herself to be possessed of a huge, caring heart.  When she was nine-years-old, she started a project “to promote the kindness of Harrison people and its businesses through a painted rock project, called Harrison Rocks.”  Ruby gives credit for her inspiration to paint rocks to her cat, Bubba. Her first painted rock was a Bubba rock.

“My cat, he’s very inspiring and not everyone has a Bubba. I thought maybe if we put out a painted rock it would be like a little Bubba. It could make someone feel happy.”

But that was a precursor to her current project.  After her encounter with Pearl in the nursing home, Ruby started thinking.  Just $12 didn’t seem like much, but after talking to her mom and some of the nursing home residents, she learned that many of the people in the nursing homes are on Medicaid and while their daily care is covered by Medicaid, they are given only $40 in cash to purchase those extras each month.Ruby-4Ruby started spending more time with the residents, and began asking them a simple question:  “If I could bring you three things in the whole world, what would those be?”  The answers were surprisingly simple … fresh fruit, haircuts, snacks, or a book.  And Ruby began keeping a notebook …Ruby-notebook

And thus, The Three Wishes project was born.  With the help of her mother, she set up a GoFundMe account  that took off like wildfire, earning over $96,000 since its inception two months ago!

One man, when asked by Ruby what he would like, said “I want some pants that fit!”  Ruby’s mom says she has known that patient for over 18 years and never even realized that his pants were all too tight.

“I have been working in this field for 25 years, and you get used to caring for people’s medical needs, but you can forget about the need for joy.”

Ruby-2.jpegA visit to The Three Wishes Facebook page tells of the many special projects Ruby has done, such as the day she handed out over 100 candy bars to residents, some of whom said they had not had a candy bar in years.  And the first week in February, Ruby and her mom delivered McDonald’s Happy Meals that were a hit with all!Ruby-McDonaldsRuby has also begun creating artwork to adorn the residents walls.  Here’s a recent post by Ruby’s mom, Amanda …Amanda-post

Then there was the robotic cat (yes, there really is such a thing … I checked it out and then threatened to replace the Sig Six with them if they don’t behave! 😾) Ruby provided to a patient who absolutely adores cats more than anything in the world. This cat will sit on her lap all day if she likes and interact with her just enough to provide comfort.robotic-catIn addition to local media, Ruby’s project has attracted international attention, being featured on CNN as well as BBC.

Ruby visits the nursing homes (5 in total) a few times a week while Amanda makes her rounds, but to fill in the gaps, she has recruited a helper, one Marilyn Spurlock, who says …

Marilyn-Spurlock“It gives me something to do. It took away a lot of my depression — because I felt worthless and couldn’t do anything to help anybody. I’ve been here so long, I was no longer useful. Every day that goes by, I get a little more excited. I go out into in the hub — the areas where people sit. I look and talk to them and ask if there’s anything they need.”

Ruby Kate Chitsey is only 11 years old, and yet she has discovered something that many people my own age still don’t understand … a simple concept that there is much joy to be gained from helping others.  I hope never to be in a nursing home, but if ever I am, I hope there is someone like Ruby Kate to bring a ray of sunshine into my life! As I often do when writing about the very young who are doing good things, I have to give partial credit to Ruby’s parents, Dr. Blake and Amanda Chitsey, for they have obviously been superior role models.  And I give a huge thumbs-up to this young lady for dedicating her time and energy to helping so many people!

How To Build A Wall …

My friend Valerie posted this on Facebook last night …

“We just got a phone call wanting us to buy a brick in Trumps wall. No, not happening.”

Say WHAT???  Surely just some new phone scam, right?  Well, yes and no.  Turns out that there are a couple of different ‘things’ going around, but at least one is actually a project of Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign!  Yes, folks, but the bricks aren’t real, and they don’t go to build the wall!  They are fake bricks that you can purchase for only $20.20 each and have them sent to either Senator Chuck Schumer or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Campaign manager Brad Parscale issued a statement:

“The Democrats have been stonewalling President Trump for too long, as the President remains fully committed to make a deal to secure our border. Now the American people can send a message directly to Chuck and Nancy on a faux red brick that tells them to build the wall. Because they clearly don’t understand the facts about the critical need for a wall and border security, our bricks will teach them the truth about the crime, drugs, and human trafficking that result from open borders.”

A fake brick. For only $20.20.  Enough to feed a family of four for a day or two, at least.  Instead, some fools will throw away their money on this foolish little game.  By the way … the market price of an actual brick is around $1.96 per square foot.

The campaign also set up a website called Build the Border Wall, where respondents can donate their money and choose if they want their brick to be sent to Pelosi or Schumer. They can send up to seven bricks to each with one donation.

There is also a robocall going about that may or may not be associated with the Trump campaign, where they are asking for $35.  The voicemail says …

“To secure the border and stop criminal gangs, drug smugglers and human traffickers, it’s a tremendous problem. President Trump wants to send bricks to Chuck and Nancy for every donation of at least $35 right now. That’s why we need your help, now more than ever to get these bricks sent, so Chuck, Nancy and the Democrats know you’re serious about helping President Trump secure the border and fund the wall. So please press 1 now to support President Trump by donating and getting your brick sent to Chuck and Nancy. Again press 1 to donate, that’s on your keypad to donate now, press 9 to unsubscribe.”

I came across these stories in several media venues, including The Hill and Newsweek.  I liked what one Newsweek reader, Philip Bergeron, suggested:newsweek


Meanwhile … remember a while back when I reported that a GoFundMe account had been set up by a man named Brian Kolfage for the purpose of financing Trump’s border wall?  Kolfage was asking that every American contribute $80.    Well, as of January 9th, it was reported by MarketWatch that the account had raised $19.7 million.  Now, that’s quite a bit shy of the $5.7 billion that Trump is demanding only to make a start on his blasted wall, but it is still an astounding figure!  I am stunned and appalled that more than 346,000 people had no better sense than to donate an average of $56.94 to a wall that is not needed, is not wanted, and is one of the biggest hoaxes of modern times!!!  Fools!!!  I can actually feed my family for a week on $56.94 if I try!

However … two days later, on January 11th, GoFundMe announced that they would refund all donations after Kolfage made a strange change to the wording of the account.  Whereas in the beginning, he claimed that ‘every single penny’ would go directly toward building the wall, he later added the following verbage …

WE EXPANDED OUR MISSION! We are no longer just funding the wall, we are now BUILDING the wall. 

Eight days before Christmas I started this GoFundMe campaign because I was tired of watching the U.S. government’s inability to secure our southern border. Like most Americans, I see the porous southern border as a national security threat and I refuse to allow our broken political system to leave my family and my country vulnerable to attack.

The plan of action was simple and straightforward to raise money to construct a wall on our southern border. We have raised over $20 Million from 325,000 plus donors and we are only just getting started! I have been literally overwhelmed and inspired by the outpouring of support, calls, and emails from American citizens who support our efforts to Build the Wall. I got some hate as well but that was easy to ignore with all the positive feedback I was getting. I immediately sought out and consulted with some of our country’s leading professionals in law, politics, national security, construction, and finance. This team has spent countless hours over the holidays reviewing all issues pertaining to the construction of a southern border wall. Unanimously, we have all come to the conclusion that:

  • The federal government won’t be able to accept our donations anytime soon.

  • We are better equipped than our own government to use the donated funds to build an actual wall on the southern border.

  • Our highly experienced team is highly confident that we can complete significant segments of the wall in less time, and for far less money, than the federal government, while meeting or exceeding all required regulatory, engineering, and environmental specifications.

  • Our team strongly believes that we can complete our segments of the wall for less than half of the government’s estimated costs on a per mile basis.

It was also discovered that Kolfage has a history of running sites that promoted conspiracy theories and racist content.  A BuzzFeed News investigation published Thursday found that Kolfage allegedly pocketed money donated to a previous GoFundMe account he started for wounded veterans.  Nice guy, huh?  Fits right in with the rest of the Trumpeters.  Although GoFundMe is refunding the money of all who donated prior to January 11th, the campaign is still open and people are still donating, for I saw no less than ten donations that had come in within the two hours before I visited the site.

I would be willing to bet that many, if not all of the people donating to any of these schemes are in the bottom half of the income scale and can ill afford the money they have thrown away.  Surely it is only the under-educated and uninformed that would be so foolish?  Sigh.

Good People Doing Good Things — Liam and Scott Hannon

Last night when I began working on my ‘good people’ post, I intended to write about 3 or 4 people, as I often do, and I picked one with which to begin.  But, before long I was up to nearly 700 words and still had more to say about this remarkable duo … a boy and his dad …

liam-7Today, please allow me to introduce to you 12-year-old Liam Hannon of Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Liam’s dad typically sent him to camp for a portion of each summer, but in 2017, when Liam was just ten, he informed his dad that he didn’t want to go to camp that year.  Dad said okay but insisted that Liam find something productive and positive to keep himself busy through the summer.

That first week of summer vacation, Liam and his dad found an online treasure hunt game called Brain Chase, where Liam chose three topics to focus on, one of which was ‘service’.  The game challenged Liam to find some way, some project to give back to his community.  Liam thought about the homeless people he saw every day right outside his building, and he had an idea.  The idea was to make … sandwiches!  Sandwiches to pass out to the people who needed them most.  And thus was Liam’s Lunches of Love born.liam-6In the first week, Liam loaded up a wagon and handed out 20 sandwiches with his dad’s help. He went from sandwiches to complete bag lunches, upgraded the wagon to a hand-cart, and to date has served up more than 2,000 bag lunches to homeless people in his neighborhood.  He doesn’t just make the lunches (with some help from dad), but on each and every lunch bag, he writes a handwritten message, often accompanied by an encouraging little bit of artwork.liam-3Liam hopes to someday expand his philanthropy to include animal rescue.  A story his dad tells of one incident furthers our faith in Liam’s good heart …

His father remembers Liam’s first animal rescue: a bucket of 15 baitfish. Father and son had gone fishing. Liam watched his dad jab one small fish with a fishing hook. The boy held the bucket against his chest.  “I heard him tell the fish, ‘Don’t worry. It’s OK. I’m going to talk to him,’” Scott said.  Liam persuaded his father to throw every single baitfish back into the water, including the one on the hook so he could ‘be with his friends.’ “He’s just a wise soul for his age,” Scott said.

Now, Liam obviously has a huge heart and is a ‘good people’, but I think his dad, Scott, has to get some of the credit here, too.  Scott doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk, and Liam has grown up seeing the examples set by his dad.

“One time, Liam said, ‘Dad, did you just tell that lady she didn’t have to pay you?’ And I said, ‘Yes, she’s 90 and lives on her own and has no one to help. That $80 means nothing to me.’ He has learned like that, but he’s always been a very empathetic kid.”

Scott is a single parent, working at a mid-level job and lives in a rent-controlled building, so needless to say, there came a point early on in this venture where they needed help to pay for the groceries for the lunches Liam was handing out.

“That first week, we made 20 lunches. That was going to be it, but then Liam said, ‘Dad, can we do this again? I like doing this.’…So we kept doing it, and each week it grew a little bit more.”

So, they started a GoFundMe.   Over the weeks, donations poured in to help Liam’s Lunches of Love, and local grocery stores contributed meals, too. Friends and neighbors also volunteered their time to hand out bags, which freed Liam and Scott up to spend more time with each recipient and get to know them. And that experience has opened their eyes.

“Liam has learned a lot about the difference between what a real homeless person is like versus the idea he had in his head just from seeing people on the street. He realized they’re a lot different than he thought they were, and he’s grown up a little because of it.”

liam-1Liam and his Liam’s Lunches of Love have received national recognition from ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, the Boston Globe and others.  But the real honour came last month when Liam was one of five young people showcased on CNN’s “Young Wonders: A CNN Heroes Special” hosted by Anderson Cooper.  Take a look …

The five were also honoured the next night on “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute”.  As Anderson Cooper said at that event …

“The next generation reminds us of the unwavering foundation that really connects us all — incredible acts of kindness, unconditional love and the promise of a better tomorrow.”

liam-8I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Hats off and two thumbs up to Liam and his dad Scott … these are the people who remind us what humanity is really about, don’t you think?

For more about Liam, his dad and this project, be sure to check out the Liam’s Lunches of Love website.

Good People Doing Good Things — After the Storm

box of tissues.jpgGood people … they are everywhere, but sometimes we fail to notice them because they are too busy to toot their own horn, and they are overshadowed by so much noise on a day-to-day basis.  I recommend you grab your box of tissues, Gronda, for I needed a box just to write these stories.


Luis Ocampo is an Army medic currently serving with the National Guard in North Carolina.  Naturally, his services were much-needed last month in the wake of Hurricane Florence, and Luis was called out to help those in need. He was on duty for several days without returning home, and when he did return home, it was to find that his home had been ransacked and robbed.luis ocampoAn aside here … what kind of a person does it take, in the middle of a disaster when thousands are suffering, to do this?

His girlfriend and one-year-old son were staying with his parents in Luis’ absence, so the house was unattended.  Gone were all their electronics, coins and jewelry, and even the refrigerator!  His girlfriend, Kailey Finch, posted on Facebook, asking if anybody had seen anything that could help them identify the vandal/robber, and a friend, Mary Elise Capron saw the post.  While most of the commenters offered well-wishes and condolences, Mary Elise took an extra step and set up a GoFundMe account with the goal of raising $5,000 for Luis & Kailey to help them replace some of the stolen items.

Within days, the account reached nearly $15,000 as 400 people reached out to the couple and reached into their wallets.  Heartwarming, yes?  But that isn’t the best part.  Luis, overwhelmed by the generosity of so many, despite many having their own troubles in the wake of the hurricane, gave most of the money away!  He donated the funds to the Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund, and also to a fellow guardsman who has been homeless since a tree fell on his home during the hurricane.

“A big part of wanting to give the donations comes from seeing how generous people have been, and I wanted to pay that back to someone else who needed help. We’re very happy none of us are hurt.”

Now folks … doesn’t that warm your heart and restore your faith in humanity?


Jarete Hucks owns a 70-room motel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, called the Midtown Inn and Cottages.  When Hurricane Florence hit, Mr. Hucks opened the doors of his inn to all those in need of shelter.  In the first few days after Florence hit, he already given away some $50,000 worth of goods and services, but it doesn’t end there!  People heard what he was doing and started volunteering everything from diapers and ice to food and new shoes — even haircuts!

Grab another tissue and watch …

It seems that troubles may be the thing that brings out the best in people, yes?


Florence Wisniewski, better known as just “Flo”, lives in Chicago.  Last month, Florence was surprised by hearing her name … her full name, not her nickame … over and over again on television.  Her mom Tricia Wisniewski explained to Flo that everyone was talking about a hurricane named Florence and showed her pictures of the storm — flooded neighborhoods and people in shelters.

“I showed her one picture of a family staying in a high school hallway and told her this is all they have, here in the hallway with their baby. Flo said matter-of-factly that we should send them diapers or toys, like that was just common sense!”

Flo didn’t much like sharing her name with something so evil that hurt so many.  Little Flo’s enthusiasm and generosity motivated not only her own family, but their entire neighborhood. Her dad, Paul, made a donation sign, showing the hurricane’s path but with Flo’s face over the spiraling clouds, and her brother Bud pulled a wagon door-to-door collecting donations to send to the hurricane victims.

flo donation signWhat started with a small girl’s desire to protect her good name … grew and GREW …

“I thought that would be it. We would fill a few boxes and Florence would feel good about her name. But a Facebook post got around and then the local news got involved, and now we are getting donations from around the country.”

The family’s two-car garage was soon filled to overflowing, and the problem became … how to get all this stuff to the people who needed it in the Carolinas. Little FlorenceThe problem was solved when Mathew 25 Ministries offered to add the donations the Wisniewskis had collected to their own truck that was heading down south filled with donations they had collected.

Florence didn’t even mind that in the heat of the moment, with the buzz of activity in trying to get everything packed and ready to go, her birthday rather got overlooked.  She figured the packing tape somebody brought by was a good enough gift for now … the birthday can wait.Flo birthdayHer mom is, needless to say, proud.  What she had hoped would be a teachable moment for her daughter about helping others became a larger lesson, and a storm of goodwill in its own right.


I love doing these posts.  Sometimes it’s hard to get a start, for I am mired in the everyday muck of the world, but once I find just the right good person, I focus on that person or people and the world fades away for a short time.  I hope these stories warmed your heart and helped the world to fade away for a bit.  Have a great day!

Good People Doing Good Things – Mohamed Bzeek – Redux

Note to Readers: I am cheating on this one, for I first published this post in July 2017, just over a year ago. I know the ‘good people’ feature is one that we all look forward to every week, and I didn’t wish to disappoint you, but I simply could not focus last night for some reason. So, rather than leave you without a bit of cheer to chase away the gloom, I decided to re-post one of my favourites. Please forgive, and I will try to do an original ‘good people’ a bit later in the week. Thanks for your patience!


“I am not an angel. I am not a hero. It’s just what we are supposed to do as a human being.”

Three weeks ago I wrote about the couple, Michael and Camille Geraldi, who had adopted, over the course of 40 years, some 88 children with special needs.  They are an amazing couple and their story was one of my most popular ever.  Imagine my amazement when a similar story literally dropped into my lap on Monday night when I was not even looking for a subject for this post, but was doing research for another piece. Please allow me to introduce you to a gentleman with a heart of gold, Mr. Mohamed Bzeek.

bzeek-headerMr. Bzeek lives in Los Angeles, where he has made it his life’s mission to take in foster children.  Not just any foster children, but Mr. Bzeek takes in the foster children that nobody else will … those who are dying of terminal illnesses.  Mohamed Bzeek started caring for foster children when he met his late wife, who was then already a foster mom. At first, they took in children who had medical issues. In 1995, they started taking in only children who were terminally ill. Over the years, Bzeek says, he’s taken in about 40 children with medical problems, ten of whom died while in his care, some while in his very arms.

Why does he do it?  His faith, for one thing. He feels that it’s his duty as a Muslim to help those in need. “It’s the big factor, my faith, because I believe as a Muslim we need to extend our hand to help people who need us. Doesn’t matter what nationality, what religion, what country. To me it doesn’t matter, I do it as a human being for another human being,” he says. “You have to do it from your heart, really. If you do it for money, you’re not going to stay for long.”

bzeek-5Speaking of one of his former children, he says, “And this is my kid who died with the cancer. He has a cancer. He died. They operate on him, and they find the cancer separate all of his organs. So, the doctor said, let’s stitch him back, and said, there’s nothing we can do for him.”

Mr. Bzeek came to the U.S. from Libya in 1978, then an engineering student.  Years later, through a mutual friend, he met a woman named Dawn, who would become his wife. She had become a foster parent in the early 1980s, before she met Bzeek. Her grandparents had been foster parents, and she was inspired by them, Bzeek said. Before she met Bzeek, she opened her home as an emergency shelter for foster children who needed immediate placement or who were placed in protective custody. Bzeek became a U.S. citizen in 1997. And then, in 2015, Bzeek’s wife died, and in 2016, Bzeek himself was diagnosed with cancer.

“I had to face everything by myself. If I am 62-years-old and I’m scared and afraid to be by myself – I felt what the kids felt. The young kids, how they feel when they are alone, have no family, nobody comforts them, nobody tells them ‘It’s ok, I’m here for you, we go through this together and it will be fine.’ This operation in December has humbled me, and makes me work more and help more kids.”

The video below is short (3:33 min) but please watch it … I fell in love with Mr. Bzeek when I saw this:

Today, he is foster parent to a 6-year-old girl* born with microcephaly, a rare disorder in which a baby’s brain doesn’t fully develop. She cannot see or hear. She responds only to touch. At seven weeks old, the county took her from her biological parents. They called Bzeek, and he agreed to take her in.

bzeek-6The girl’s head is too small for her 34-pound body, which is too small for her age. She was born with an encephalocele, a rare malformation in which part of her brain protruded through an opening in her skull, according to Dr. Suzanne Roberts, the girl’s pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Neurosurgeons removed the protruding brain tissue shortly after her birth, but much of her brain remains undeveloped. She has been in Bzeek’s care since she was a month old. Before her, he cared for three other children with the same condition.

“These kids, it’s a life sentence for them.”  A snippet of an interview between Mr. Bzeek and NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro:

Bzeek: And, also, she has, like, seizures. She’s blind and deaf. She has clubfoot and dislocated hips.

Navarro: How do you communicate with her? She is blind. She can’t hear.

Bzeek: Touch – communication, touching her, you know? She smiled when I play with her and make a little bit, like, noise, you know? It doesn’t mean anything. But that shows you that, you know, she understands that somebody tried to communicate with her, you know?

Navarro: How many of them have died in your care?

Bzeek: Ten. They need somebody who will be with them and take care of them, you know? It doesn’t matter how hard, you know, because somebody has to do it.

Navarro: How do you deal with the loss when they pass away? How do you cope?

Bzeek: I mean, at church. You know, you have a kid since it was a baby, since it was one week or two weeks or a few days. And, like, some of them stayed, like, six years and four months. It’s really hard. I mean, I consider them as, like, my biological, you know? And it hurts. But I believe that is part of life, you know?

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Melissa Testerman, an intake coordinator for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has nothing but the highest praise for Mr. Bzeek.  “If anyone ever calls us and says, ‘This kid needs to go home on hospice,’ there’s only one name we think of. He’s the only one that would take a child who would possibly not make it.”

Neil Zanville of the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services says that without Bzeek these children would be forced to live in medical facilities rather than the comfort of a loving home. “Mr. Bzeek is dealing with children who only have a limited amount of time. I think he’s even taken children in that died days later. So it’s the rare individual, or he might be the only individual in LA county, that will provide a home environment and provide love and care when a child in fact has very limited time left.”

On reading his story in the Los Angeles Times (an excellent read, if you have time) in February, a woman named Margaret Cotts was so moved that she decided to set up a GoFundMe account to help Mr. Bzeek. The donations will be used to get him central air conditioning and heating (right now he only has a swamp cooler in his living room), additional help, a new car and roof repairs.  As of this writing, the account has received $496,253!!!

Bzeek’s own biological son, Adam, himself was born in 1997 with brittle bones, dwarfism and other physical challenges and requires much care. At 19 years of age, and a computer science student at a local college, he weighs a scant 65 pounds. A nurse’s aide helps with care on weekdays from 8:00 to 4:00. But, still, it’s a full-time job, one Mr. Bzeek handles by himself every night and every weekend. Sleep is a precious commodity, and other than his time in the hospital last December, Mr. Bzeek has not had a “day off” since 2010. With his foster daughter’s seizures happening more and more often, he usually sleeps near her on the couch, just in case.

So the next time you hear somebody say we should ban all Muslims, think of Mr. Bzeek and think about all the children who would have spent their last days on earth all alone if not for him.  I know that if I ever get to L.A., I will make time to stop by and shake his hand. In the words of Rod Dreher writing for the American Conservative, “The whole story is so beautiful it hurts.”

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*No names of the children can be used because of privacy laws

Additional Resources:

Mr. Bzeet’s Facebook page

PBS News Hour interview with 7:00 min podcast

Good People Doing Good Things — James Shaw Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good People Doing Good Things — Small Acts of Kindness And The Homeless Mayor!

This week I am shining the light, once again, on ordinary people who are giving of themselves and their time to help others.  Sometimes the smallest act of kindness, just something as simple as picking up a dropped object for an elderly person, or helping someone across the street, can make someone’s day a little brighter.

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Never Too Old For A Bike Ride …

Elderly people sometimes don’t get out and about as much as they might like.  Visual and mobility limitations may keep them from enjoying a walk in the park, or even just a trip to the grocery store.  Imagine the feelings of loneliness, or isolation that these people experience. And young people are often busy with their own lives, wrapped up in the drama of school, relationships, sports, etc.  But in Scotland, there is one young man who is helping bridge the gap between young and old, and helping seniors have the opportunity to get out just a bit more.

Meet Fraser Johnston, a med student at Falkirk University who has started a movement to help get elderly people out on … bike rides!

Wed-Fraser“A lot of people who are stuck in care homes or stuck in their own homes, the only time they ever get taken out is with their family or through activities at the home. But it’s normally from the home to a car to a bus to the next location. For some of them it’s such a strange thing when you say, come out on the bike because they think they’re going to do the pedaling. But when they find out it’s a young or old volunteer taking them out, they jump at the chance to get on the bike. Everyone has some time in their lives that they could give back to the older generation, and offer them opportunities like this they wouldn’t get otherwise.”

What started as one young man doing a kindness soon became more than one young man could handle last month after BBC Three made a video for their Amazing Humans series.  The video went viral and … well, long story short, what started as a one-man show has now expanded.  Fraser learned of a volunteer project, Cycling Without Age, that was started in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2012, and decided to start a branch of the organization in Scotland.  To date, he has about 30 volunteers and has two of the bicycles – actually more of a cross between a large tricycle and a rickshaw — called Trishaws.

“It’s like a victorian carriage, minus the horse, which you don’t need when you’ve got a  strong pair of legs behind you. I have noticed a difference in Mary, her eyes look completely different, they’re back to what they were years ago”. – Chris Ogilvie

It may seem like a small act of kindness to us, but to the people who he is taking for rides, it must seem like a very large thing. And I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that back in 2015, Fraser was awarded the sportscotland Volunteer of the Year award.

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A Teacher’s Dying Wish …

Kay Wistrand is a language arts teacher at Tomball Junior High School in Tomball, Texas. Earlier this year, Ms. Wistrand was diagnosed with a lethal form of spinal cancer and was given a maximum of 2-3 years to live.  When she announced her diagnosis to her class, they were heartbroken, for every body loved Ms. Wistrand.  Four of her students got together and were trying to think of something to do for Ms. Wistrand, when suddenly one remembered hearing her say that her dream was to someday see the California Redwoods and dip her toes in the Pacific Ocean.

Wed-Wistrand.jpgThe students got the idea of setting up a GoFundMe account to help Ms. Wistrand realize her dream. Here is what Mickey Nolen, one of the four students wrote on the page:

“Kay Wistrand is one of the best people I have ever had the opportunity to meet. She is an AMAZING English Language Arts teacher. She teaches at Tomball Junior High School. And is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. But, she has an uncommon tumor in her back that doctors cannot remove. They have given her 2-5 years give or take. The tumor has spread and she now has a small tumor in her lungs. We don’t know if the lung tumor can be removed, if not her time left on this beautiful earth will drop dramatically. The doctors also said that she can no longer go through chemotherapy. And she told us she feels absolutely awesome without it. In class, she told us about her Bucket List, she mentioned a trip to California, specifically the Redwood Forest. She also wishes to step foot in the Pacific Ocean, because she never has before. Out of everything on the list, some friends and I thought that we could make this happen. Mrs. Wistrand has loved all of her students so much for many years. We just want to return the favor for all of the hard work she has put in to teach the youth of our community. Please find it in your heart to help out our amazing teacher, she deserves it more than anyone I know. Together we can Wistrand everything.”

The students, hoping to raise $7,500, have now raised $10,811!  Isn’t it inspiring, after all the negative stories we hear about young people and drugs, alcohol, and selfishness to see young people like this whose hearts are in the right place, who care about others enough to make an effort to help?


The Homeless Mayor …

Wed McAdamsMayor Ben McAdams, of Salt Lake City, Utah, lived on the streets and in a homeless shelter.  For three days and two nights.  His goal?  To be better able to provide better services for the homeless of Salt Lake City.  Now, you might say he isn’t qualified for the Good People post, but I think he is.  When we look at the politicians we see every day in the news, can you name one single other who would actually spend time living on the street in order to better understand the needs of the homeless?

On the first night, he slept on the street. He wanted to know why someone might choose the sidewalk over the shelter. “I didn’t feel safe. I absolutely did not feel safe.” McAdams described it as a “very chaotic environment” and got about four hours of sleep through it all. Still, some of the people he talked to said it’s better to be outside and get some space from the drug abuse and gang violence that takes place in the shelter.

wed-homeless.jpgOn the second night, he stayed in The Road Home. McAdams got in line for a bed in the afternoon, but was turned away. He came back again in the evening and was able to snag a mattress. He was drenched from the rain by the time he got indoors but was too late to get a blanket. “At least it was warmer inside,” McAdams said. Once inside the shelter McAdams witnessed the blatant use of drugs, including his bunkmate injecting drugs into his arm, and the smell of what he assumed was smoke from drugs “all night long”. He also witnessed a fight between two men in which a man was dragged off of his bunk and hit his head on the concrete floor.

During his three days experiencing life as a homeless man, McAdams said his time was consumed by solving two pressing needs: Where am I going to sleep? And where am I going to get food? “You have to plan your day around that,” he said, realizing that leaves little energy left to search for jobs or housing.

I give two thumbs up to Mayor McAdams for caring enough to make the sacrifice, for truly wanting to understand the problems faced by the homeless, rather than sitting in his ivory tower making decisions without understanding the issues and the people involved.


These stories should serve as a reminder that, no matter who we are, how little we may think we have to offer, there is always something we can do for others, and the smallest acts of kindness can mean the world to someone in need.

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