Wednesday, October 31, 2018

No matter what your religion is....

The massacre at a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, left 11 worshippers dead. But a few hours after the attack ended, two charities launched fundraising campaigns to raise money for the victim's families. Both charities are Muslim.

These two communities have a long, complicated history, and that's the point of the fundraisers -- to show that no matter what your religion is, we should all have each other's backs. They started by trying to raise $25,000 but the total quickly rose to over $185,000. All the funds will go to cover short-term needs the victims have, like medical bills and funeral expenses.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Coats (and more) for the homeless

Today's inspiring "crumb" was recommended by a reader in Wake Forest, NC, USA.

Veronika Scott was a student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan, majoring in industrial design. In the fall of 2010, she was given a project: design something to meet a social need. To prepare she worked at a local homeless shelter, and after five months she designed a heat-trapping coat that transforms at night into a self-heated, waterproof sleeping bag. At the end of the semester, she continued working with the homeless to improve the coat's quality and design. When one homeless woman yelled, "We don't need coats, we need jobs!" she began hiring and training homeless mothers to make the coats.

Veronika Scott, CEO of The Empowerment Plan

Her class project expanded into a non-profit organization called The Empowerment Plan. By making coats, the Plan brings women out of poverty, helping them build a better life and regain their independence. In 2012 she became the youngest person ever to receive the JFK New Frontier Award, and she earned it the old-fashioned way, by dedication and hard work.

"I didn't know how to sew, and my mother taught me as we sat upstairs in my grandmother's house using her home sewing machine," she remembered. "I seam-ripped five wool coats to make a Frankenstein-like monstrosity of a jacket. It turned out awful, smelled funny and weighed 20 pounds, but I was proud of it." Her homeless friends told her it looked like a body bag, so she made three more prototypes to get a good grade in class. By the end of the project, she was known on the streets as The Coat Lady and many homeless asked for coats. She wondered, "why on earth would they want something that was a school project? I'm just a student. It was just for a grade."  But it became much more than that.

One of her first employees was a homeless Mom named Elisha. After sewing coats for Scott for three months, Elisha used her modest salary to leave the shelter and get an apartment and furniture. Her three kids enrolled in a charter school. Scott now employs 15 mothers who are or were homeless. If you have five spare minutes to hear Veronika tell her story, visit

Monday, October 29, 2018

Children understand Halloween

Emily and Richie Bolusky live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They love Halloween. But they know that the Halloween costumes kids love to wear can be expensive. A few years ago, a child showed up on their doorstep trick-or-treating without a costume. She said her parents could not afford one.

That gave the Bolusky's 9-year-old daughter an idea. She quickly got an old costume she wanted to give away to the girl. And the rest is history. In 2016 the family set up a free costume shop in their driveway, where any kid could pick up a costume for free. They gave out about 150 costumes that year, including some they bought and some that were donated. Last year they gave away about 175 costumes, and this year they have FIVE HUNDRED available.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The most unpromising boy of the whole lot

Much is said today about dangerous immigrants. But few remember that, following a wave of immigration, New York City in the 1800's had thousands of orphaned children called "street urchins." They begged for food to survive. A few lived at the Children's Aid Society Orphanage, but founder Charles Brace felt kids need families, not orphanages, so he organized the orphan trains. Between 1854 and 1929, about 120,000 abandoned children were given a set of new clothes and sent on trains to rural towns in the south and midwest for adoption by farm families. Upon arrival at each town, they were lined up for inspection. If an adult wanted a child and the child agreed, the deal was done. Most farmers preferred boys who could be raised as farmhands. Girls were last to be chosen, since many farm wives felt threatened by them. Most adoptees picked well-groomed, polite children, but not Judge John Green. He picked John Brady. Perhaps he remembered the Bible verse where God reminds the prophet Samuel, "...I do not judge as people judge. They look at the outward appearance, but I look at the heart." (I Sam. 16:7)

John Brady was an Irish Catholic boy who had lived on the streets of NY to avoid his father's drunken beatings. When he turned 11, he declared himself an orphan and boarded an orphan train bound for Indiana. After it arrived in Noblesville, he and fellow-orphans were fed at the Ferguson Hotel and put on display for possible adoption.
"It was the most motley crowd of youngsters I ever did see," said Judge Green, who lived in the nearby town of Tipton. "I decided to take John home with me because I felt he was the homeliest, toughest and most unpromising  boy in the whole lot. I wanted to see what could be done with such a specimen of humanity." What was done?

John grew into a fine young man, respected by everyone. After high school, he was appointed master of the Mud Creek Public School in Sharpesville.  Eventually he continued his education, graduating from Yale University in 1874. He moved to Alaska, where in 1878 he founded a college to train Eskimos. He then served three terms as Governor of Alaska, all because Judge Green picked him instead of a "more promising" orphan.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Pranking it forward

Pranking it forward is an organization which surprises unsuspecting but very deserving people with amazing good news. If you have five minutes, turn up your sound and watch the video about a recent prank. Remember that many of the "customers" in the restaurant are actors, but the waitress does not know that. Here's the link.

Friday, October 26, 2018

When a bride looks like a princess

A couple named Caleb and Olivia Spark got married recently near Buffalo, New York. While they were being photographed in a nearby park, a five-year-old girl with autism saw Olivia in her dress and ran up to her, because she thought she was Cinderella. The child's name is Layla Lester, and her mom says she's not usually comfortable around strangers, but she loves princesses.

They talked a while, and Olivia played the part of Cinderella. She said she was thrilled that someone thought she looked like a princess on her wedding day. The wedding photographer got a few shots of them, but nobody got the name of Layla's mom. So Olivia and her family posted the photo online, hoping she'd see it, and she did. Then the photo went viral. Someone who saw the story started a GoFundMe page to send Layla to Disney World, so she can meet more Disney princesses. It's already raised over $11,000.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Cops and donuts?

A Krispy Kreme van was reported stolen recently in Lake City, Florida. Police found it a few hours later, about 200 miles from Clearwater, Florida. They called the store manager, since the van was still loaded with dozens of fresh donuts. But they would have been stale by the time he got them back. So the manager told police to keep them.

Instead of eating them, the police decided to give them to the homeless. Yes, they held back a few for themselves, but they have a daily event next to the police station where they hand out food. So they made the next day DONUT DAY, and had people line up behind the van until all the donuts were gone.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Socks for the homeless

When Kathy Francis was in the hospital for back surgery, she noticed how many good pairs of socks are thrown out by the hospital if the patient does not want to take them home.  When she began working at OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital six months after her surgery, she asked permission to salvage discarded socks.

That was eight years ago, and so far she's helped donate about 13,000 pairs of socks to people who need them. She collects about 35 pairs a week, washes them at home with a little bleach, folds them and stores them in brown paper bags, which she delivers to Tony Bonacci, a deacon at St. Joseph Catholic Church. He delivers them to a soup kitchen where he volunteers. Socks are often the most requested clothing item at homeless shelters.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Kindness rewarded with a car

Nathan and Madison Donovan live in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada. He can't work because of an injury, so she found a job at a call center. The job would get them off of social assistance, but she needed a car to get to work. The found an online company and sent a $600 deposit for a car loan, but it was a scam and their money vanished. So they told a news outlet about the rip-off and asked them to warn other readers.
One of the other readers was Denis LeBlanc. He'd been trying to sell his 2007 VW Jetta online but only received low-ball offers, so he offered it to the Donovans as a gift. Nathan hesitated to visit a stranger giving away a perfectly good car, but eventually he went and found the LaBlancs were true to their word. "Everything is going awesome now," says Nathan. "Madison is working full time and we are no longer on assistance."

Monday, October 22, 2018

A landmark victory for civility!

In Lamoille County, Vermont, with fall colors at their peak, Lucy Rogers and Zac Mayo are running against each other for a state House seat. He's a Republican. She's a Democrat. Both have visited, or plan to visit, all 2,000+  homes in the district before the mid-term election. They both want to win in the worst way.

                                                                                                             Lucy Rogers, CBS News
Recently they debated the issues at a town library. He wants less government. She's concerned about healthcare. But at the end, something strange happened. They asked for a few extra minutes and rearranged some furniture. Then they sat down and played a duet. A Democrat and a Republican united in perfect harmony. Almost everyone in the audience wiped away a tear. And now in northern Vermont it's not unusual to see homes with signs for BOTH candidates in the yard. No matter who is elected, the winner is civility.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Happy birthday!

Megan Yunn, 33, used to run a youth program in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Back in 2011 she was helping a 12-year-old girl named Beverly with vocabulary homework. One question asked, "What are people accustomed to eating at birthday parties?" Even after hearing what the word "accustomed" means, Beverly could not answer the question, because her family was very poor and she never had a birthday party. Megan cried as she drove home that day, thinking about Beverly.

A few months later, she started a nonprofit called Beverly's Birthdays. It throws parties for homeless kids. Since it began in 2012, she and about 200 volunteers have thrown parties and given presents to over 30,000 kids. She says it's never really been about birthdays. "When you strip away the birthday aspect, it's just about letting children and their parents know they matter."

Saturday, October 20, 2018

When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.

Julie and Rich Morgan live in Indianapolis, Indiana, and for the last 25 years they've been reminiscing about legendary pies sold at Steve's Pizza in Battle Creek, Michigan."We were young and money was tight, says Julie, "but every payday Rick would bring home Steve's pizza. We've never tasted anything better." The couple were recently planning to revisit Battle Creek for Julie's birthday, but an unexpected illness left Rich in hospice.

The couple didn't know it, but Julie's dad called Steve's Pizza, hoping the restaurant might contact the couple or send them a text. But 18-year-old manager Dalton Shaffer had a different idea. After hearing their story, he immediately asked what kind of pizza the couple liked. Even though Steve's has a firm take-out-only rule, he drove 225 miles to Indianapolis to deliver two pepperoni pizzas to the couple's house. Julie remembers, "At 2:30 a.m., while Rich and I slept, Dalton rolled into our driveway, left his car running, and delivered two extra-special pizzas to my waiting family." Then Dalton drove back, so he could be at work the next morning.

Friday, October 19, 2018

"She was mine, and I was hers."

What's the secret to lasting love? Is it her hourglass figure, or his fancy car? Is it a shared interest in art or music? Or can love be born from agony?  In his book, "My Germany," Lev Raphael remembers April, 1945, when his dad and 2,500 other prisoners from the Nazi Bergen-Belsen death camp were packed into a train without food or water to prevent Allied forces from setting them free. The train cars (like the one shown here) remained sealed shut as the train wandered aimlessly for a week.

On April 13, two American tanks appeared and the Nazi guards fled. When the locked cattle cars were opened, the stench was so bad that many in the 30th infantry division vomited. American troops took the starving Jews from the train and cared for them at a former Wehrmacht base, now a Displaced Persons Camp. The clean, heated quarters were paradise for Jews who had been treated like animals for years. Lev's mother had escaped from a slave labor camp 16 miles away and was already on the base when his dad arrived. They had lost everything -- home, family, country. There was no time for courting. His dad simply asked her, "Do you like me?" She answered "yes" and his dad later recalled that, from that moment on, "she was mine and I was hers." Their marriage lasted 54 years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A cut above the rest

If you have a passion, stay with it. That's what Callie Terrell has done. The beautician from Memphis, Tennessee, earned her cosmetology license in 1945 and has been doing hair for 73 years. She is the oldest licensed cosmetologist in Tennessee.

She once had her own thriving beauty shop, but now rents space in another, and has decided when to retire. Her last day will be on her birthday this November, when she turns 100. The customer she's had longest is her daughter Inez, who is too old to drive. Terrell picks her daughter up and brings her to the shop for haircuts, since the 100-year-old still drives. Even after retirement, she'll still be buzzing around town, keeping busy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Prayer in public schools?

Two years ago on the National Day of Prayer, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed into law the Student Religious Liberties Act. Bentley explained "the right to student-led prayer...while on campus grounds is secured and protected in Alabama's public schools." And not a moment too soon.  Two weeks later, during commencement at Clay-Chalkville High School, grads were receiving their diplomas when someone shouted "medic, medic, medic!" A woman in the audience had suffered a seizure. Instead of stopping the ceremony until EMTs arrived, school librarian Shannon Petty turned to graduating senior Christian Crawford for help. Crawford took the microphone, looked beyond the stadium lights, and delivered a prayer which has reached over 85,000 Facebook news feeds.

A member of New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church in Birmingham, Crawford claims he did nothing more than listen and relay information straight from above. "I cannot take any credit for what God is doing through me for His glory. People are saying, 'you're famous.' No, God is famous. I prayed, and the will of God took over." The lady suffering a seizure recovered, and soon after graduating, Crawford was invited to present the opening prayer at the Alabama Legislature. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

If Ronald McDonald was real, he'd be Wendell

Wendell Gill has worked at the same Lexington, Kentucky, McDonalds for about 43 years, since before he and his wife adopted their two special needs grandsons. In 2016, the Herald-Leader wrote a feature about his affable nature and work ethic. But last August Della, his wife of 68 years, died. Since then, at 85, he has been mourning his wife, caring for his two adult grandchildren, and still working several days a week at McDonalds to make ends meet. When his friend Todd Oldfield, 56, came for a breakfast sandwich and asked "how's it going?" Wendell told him the truth.

                                                                           Photo of Wendell and Todd  (by Frank Goad)
A few weeks ago, Todd set up a GoFundMe headlined "Wendell Needs Us to Serve Him Now! He's 85 and needs to retire." GoFundMe donor Stephanie Baker wrote, "We used to go to McDonalds as children and still talk about Wendell to this day. Such a sweet soul." In just 12 days, the GoFundMe raised more than $32,000 for Wendell's expenses. One person offered to buy a headstone for Della, which Wendell could not afford. Another family has offered to sponsor Christmas for Wendell and his boys. "They really care," says Wendell, "and I care too."

Sunday, October 14, 2018

He never considered keeping the money

An Army medic named Luis Ocampo left his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, when his national guard unit was called up to help with Hurricane Florence relief. While he was gone, someone broke into his vacant house and looted it. They stole his computer and many other valuables.

Some of his friends started a GoFundMe campaign to replace what was stolen. Their goal was $5,000, but they raised $15,000. That's when Luis told them to stop taking donations. He said he could not take advantage of people's generosity. So he gave away every dollar he didn't need. Much of it went to a charity called Soldiers and Airmen Assistance Fund.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The possible he does immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.

As a boy, Justin Gallegos wore leg braces who could barely put one foot in front of another. But after years of practice, despite cerebral palsy, he is now a runner at the University of Oregon. He's a junior in the school's running club, and he was finishing a race recently when he was met by a camera crew.

He assumed the cameras were covering the race, until Nike Insights Director John Douglass appeared and told him he made history by becoming the first professional athlete with cerebral palsy to sign with Nike. Justin wept and collapsed out of pure joy, remembering he was once a kid who could hardly walk, and "now I have a three-year-contract with Nike Running!"

Friday, October 12, 2018

Portland, Maine, needs 1,000 affordable housing units

As you might expect, most are needed for homeless and low income people. and immigrants. That's why Portland resident Kenneth Capron asked the City Council recently for permission to obtain a $250,000 grant to conduct a feasibility study on converting a cruise ship into housing.

"All these people need housing and job skill training, and we could offer that on board," he said. A cruise ship would not be for long term housing, but it could house as many as 800 people plus 300 "crew members" to offer social services, counseling and support. Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling says, "I don't know if it's the craziest idea I've ever heard or the most brilliant idea, but I like that he's coming up with creative ways to build housing in the city of Portland."

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Hugging actually makes us feel better

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, tracked 400 men and women for two weeks, talking to them every night about how their day went. They asked about social activities, conflicts, resolutions to conflicts, and whether or not they hugged anyone that day.

They learned that people who received at least one hug dwelt less on unpleasant aspects of their day. In other words, a hug helped prevent one bad thing from ruining a whole day. Nobody was asked who they hugged, since not all hugs are created equal. Hugging a stranger does not have the same effect as hugging a friend or family member, but hugs do heal. Try one today!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Why shed tears over shredded money?

Ben and Jackie Belnap of Holladay, Utah,  often shred old papers, and their 2-year-old son Leo loves to help. So when he saw an envelope on the kitchen counter recently, he decided to help by shredding it. Ben's parents had loaned the couple enough money to buy season tickets to University of Utah football games, and Ben and Jackie were saving to pay back the loan. The envelope contained their savings -- $1,060 in cash. Here's what it looked like.

They first shed some tears over their savings, until Jackee said it would make a wonderful story to tell at their son's wedding party. Best of all, the good-natured parents didn't loose their money. Ben called the Department of the Treasury and learned they will reimburse people for mutilated currency, provided the pieces of bills can be returned. He was told to put the money into a plastic bag and mail it to the department, in order to receive a full redemption.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

"When praises go up, blessings come down"

Mykehia Curry of Macon, Georgia, is the first in her family to go to college. She recently started nursing classes at Albany State University, but paying for it wasn't easy. When she arrived at her dorm room, she was so broke she didn't even own a blanket! A few days before leaving home, she wrote a note, attached it to three balloons and set it into the sky. It said "Dear God, please help me get everything I need before Wednesday." She said she was just trying to contact God, and had no idea where it would land.

                                                                                                                                   CBS News
The message floated 15 miles north to Gray, Georgia, where it was spotted by Jerome Jones, the minister at Springfield Baptist Church. He admitted he was losing his faith and didn't even want to go to church anymore -- until he read the note. He contacted Mykehia and offered to spend his last $125 to buy her a small fridge and a comforter. She couldn't believe it. The news story prompted an outpouring of donations to support Mykehia college education -- $16,000.  Rev. Jones faith is restored. He now believes, "When praises go up, blessings come down."

Monday, October 8, 2018

Javier is VERY popular at school

Javier Amos, 9, lives in Watertown, South Dakota. He has bravely battled lukemia and and is now in remission. Even though he's on the road to recovery, the Make-a-Wish Foundation approached his family and offered to grant any wish he wanted. He could meet his favorite athlete, or go to Disney World. But instead, he asked for a pizza party for all his school friends.

Last month, the Make-a-Wish people showed up at his school. And they didn't just bring pizza. They threw everyone a huge pizza party with included zoo animals, bounce houses and laser tag. Javier got to ride to school in a police car, and when he showed up, everyone was waiting for him, chanting his name. The head of the Make-a-Wish Foundation said he'd never seen anything quite like it, and yes, Javier is pretty popular at school these days.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Despite what we see on TV, kindness still happens

This photo of a 23-year-old helping a frightened senior down an escalator was taken by Paula Piccard at the Holyoke Shopping Mall in Ingleside, Massachusetts. She was waiting at the top of the escalator when she noticed an apprehensive elderly man standing at the top. Others were impatient over his hesitation, young Alonzo Johnson asked if he could help.

The older man explained that he once got caught by an escalator, and now had a phobia of moving stairs. Without hesitation, Johnson said he would ride with him all the way to the bottom. Paula snapped their photo, posted it on social media, and it went viral.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Nursing home offers trip down memory lane

For older people suffering with dementia, a metaphorical trip down memory lane can be good therapy. To prove this, the Five Rise Nursing Home in Bingley, West Yorkshire, England, built an artificial street resembling how Bingley looked in the '50s. Most patients have lived in Bingley for years, and remember the parade of shops, including Bingley Grocers and the Post Office. A vintage car and motorbike are parked on the indoor "street."

There's even faithfully reproduced bus stop, with original routes and timings listed on the sign. The purpose of memory lane is to provide an attractive destination for patients. Some believe they're still in their 20s or 30s and should be busy. They can sit at the bus stop and wait for a ride home from work, feeling a sense of purpose,  until they forget why they're there. The corridors of the nursing home are lined with historical photos of roads in nearby villages, and the activities center looks like a 1950s pub. Reminiscence therapy encourages patients to talk about events from their past. Evidence suggests it can improve a patient's mood and well-being.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The youngest barber in Philadelphia

Neijae Graaham-Henries was only seven when she accompanied her older brother as he visited the Junior Barber Academy in Philadelphia to learn about careers. He wasn't interested in hair care, but she was. She told her mom that even if he didn't study hair cutting, she'd "give it a try."

She was the youngest student in her class, and the only girl, but she did not let that discourage her. She said the training was "hard at first, and then easy." Now she's eight years old, and certified to give free haircuts to needy kids her neighborhood as a means of community service. Her dream is to someday cut President Trump's hair. Why? "He has too much hair, and I'd cut it."

Thursday, October 4, 2018

"I said, 'Just go!'"

Jeremy Bourasa, 39, is a fireman at the St. Paul Park Volunteer Fire Department in St. Paul, Minnesota. When he decided to tie the knot with Krista Boland, 32, the ceremony was held at the fire station and the bride arrived on a fire truck. No sooner had the couple said "I do" than the station received news of a house on fire. The fire was really bad, and they needed a few more guys. "I looked over at Jeremy and I could tell what he was thinking," Krista remembered. "He looked so torn, so I said, 'just go.'"

"Someone's home was in flames, so they needed him more than I did," she added. After three hours, Jeremy returned to his wedding reception just in time for the first dance with his new wife. The 120 guests gave him a standing ovation after he and his team extinguished the fire without any casualties. "Now that I look back on it, I wouldn't want it any other way," he said.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

When a hurricane is named after you...

Florence Wisniewsky, 5, lives in Chicago, Illinois. She usually goes by the name of Flo, and when she hears her full name, she assumes she's in trouble. Last month she heard it often as Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Carolinas. Her mom explained why her name was on TV, and showed her pictures of a family staying in a shelter. They had a baby, and Flo wanted to help.

Her dad made her a sign that said, "Help Flo Help Hurricane Florence Victims" and she went door to door with a red wagon, asking neighbors to donate. Her story went viral, and people sent supplies from all over the nation. She had a mountain of supplies, and even put off her birthday party to keep gathering stuff. Her parents found a charity that was taking truckloads of supplies to the Carolinas, and they agreed to take Flo's stuff too.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

A crumb from Korea

The two Koreas have just begun removing landmines from parts of the Demilitarized Zone which separates them. According to Seoul's defense ministry, this is being done "to reduce tensions and prevent accidental clashes." After the latest summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the two countries defense chiefs signed an agreement to halt "all hostile acts" and practically eliminate the danger of war.

"Regarding the landmine removal work as a starting point, military authorities of the two Koreas will make joint efforts to ensure that their military agreement will be carried out systematically and normally," the ministry said in a press release.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Is any act of kindness too small?

The man in the picture below is James Varnado, a shopper at the Target store in Kenner, Louisiana. One day, the parking lot was so drenched by a torrential downpour that, instead of rushing to their cars, customers waited out the storm inside the store.  But Varnado had something nobody else had -- a huge umbrella and an even bigger heart.

                                                                                                              Deepak Saini/Facebook
He was drenched from head to toe but had a smile on his face as he escorted mothers and kids to their cars and helped them unload their purchases. According to photographer Deepak Saini, "Every time he returned he said, 'Who's next?' with a big grin." Why did Varnado do this? "People are people," he explained. "It doesn't matter if you're the richest person in the world or the poorest. Somebody needs help? Help 'em."