Friday, January 31, 2020

All aboard! Next stop, graduation.

The government-run Ashokapuram Primary School Karnataka, India, noticed that attendance was falling. School staff suspected it was due to a lack of properly permanent school buildings. So they teamed up with South Western Railways company.

They purchased two passenger cars unfit for railroad use for $915. They upgraded the carriages to include stairways, brightly painted exteriors, desks, fans, lights, and colorful drawings on the walls.

The school now has 60 students in grades 1-7. Many families come from below the poverty line. The new classrooms have attracted a new batch of students to attend regularly, and attendance is up again thanks to the inviting classrooms.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Every child's best friend?

Dogs waiting to enter the hospital rooms of sick children, for animal therapy time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Fostering more than 600 children

Linda Herring, 75, always wanted a big family, but never dreamed she'd foster more than 600 children during almost 50 years. Nor was she a stay-at-home foster mom. She ran a home daycare for local families in Johnson County, Iowa, and worked as a night custodian at a nearby high school. She also volunteered as a first responder for nearly half-a-century. But everyone in Johnson County knew she never turned away a child, no matter what age, gender or special needs. She adopted three of her foster kids, and two of them have severe medical needs. Dani wasn't expected to live long after her birth. She's now 29 years old, but still totally dependent on others for care.

Herring says her inspiration for fostering is love. "I would just love my foster kids like they were my own, probably more than I should. I cried when the kids would leave my home, no matter how long they'd been there. It was so hard to say goodbye to them. I always questions, 'Why do I keep doing this?' because it was never easy to say goodbye to a child. But I kept doing it because I had so much love to give to those children in need."

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A crumb from Liverpool, England

Sten Burke, 16, had just gotten home from the gym when he was approached by three men asking if he wanted to buy a bike. He was suspicious, since they were trying to sell a very expensive bike for less than $200, and a bike lock was still attached to the rear wheel. But he bought it anyway, and then posted a photo of it on social media in hopes of finding the original owner.

He explained, "I bought it so I can get it back to the right owner. I'd be heartbroken if it was taken from me. Give us a shout."  Within hours, Burke was contacted by a women who knew the bike's owner. His home had been burgled earlier that week. He had saved the small fortune needed to buy the bike, and was overwhelmed with gratitude for its return. He tried to repay Burke the money spent for the bike, but Burke refused to take it.

Monday, January 27, 2020

School principal cuts students' hair

Terrance Newton became principal of Emalea P. Warner Elementary School in Wilmington, Delaware, last September. Since then, he's set up a barbershop in his office. There's an adjustable styling chair, a wall mirror, a sink and a variety of barber supplies. And he's the barber.

                                                                                                          Photo by David Maialetti
Some days, half-a-dozen boys sit on folding chairs in the makeshift shop, waiting for a haircut. As he wields his clippers, Newton talks to each boy, asking what his is reading and dispensing advice. He believes, "When you look good, you feel good, you act good." Suspensions reportedly are "way down" at the school. Newton says, "I tell them, 'You want your hair cut? I need you to do right in school."

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The best civics lesson ever taught?

Annmarie Small came to the United States from Jamaica 18 years ago, dreaming of a better life for her and her son. "I was struggling financially," she said, "and even having a master's degree, I wasn't able to make ends meet."

She was hired to teach at Cornerstone Learning Academy in Tallahassee, Florida, where she found not only a good job, but a community who inspired her. She says her school taught her about being an American. Recently she became a United States citizen. With her in the courtroom were her fourth grade students, both past and present, to support their teacher. They all celebrated afterward with a party.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

106-year-old veteran on Cloud 9

Curly Bunfill, 106, of Sacramento, California, is on Cloud 9. He says, "If there's a Cloud 10, I'd be on it." Here's why.  Before serving in the military, Bunfill was a stuntman in Hollywood. One day he met actress Rita Hayworth at a party in Beverly Hills. He remembers, "She's quite a lady. A wonderful dancer." She drove a 1956 Cadillac El Dorado. Bunfill remembers, "The poor thing died, and she willed the car to me." The doors have "Rita Hayworth" beveled on them. Bunfill has enjoyed the Caddy ever since, calling it his baby.

In January, he reported the classic car stolen. He said he'd taken the battery out of the car, so the thieves had to push it out of the garage and onto the street. Two days later, police found Bunfill's baby, parked (of all places) at a police station, where it may have been "returned." Bunfill picked up the car the next day, and says he's grateful for the officers' hard work.

Friday, January 24, 2020

A tear-filled reunion

Today's crumb was donated by an alert reader in Indiana. It takes us back to 1981, when the USS John Young spotted a fishing boat filled with people adrift on the South China Sea. The people had no water or food, so the sailors saved their lives. Recently, a group of those Vietnamese refugees, now US citizens, joined the Navy veterans in Mobile, Alabama.

On retired sailor, Chip Reichert, recognized a girl they rescued when Thao Nguyen, now an adult, walked to the podium. "I want to say thank you," she told the veterans. You all made a difference, and what you did mattered. Reichert hugged Nguyen. "She looked at me, and all we did was cry," he said. She and several family members -- all rescued by the Navy -- have become nurses in the United States. She explained, "If I can help someone else, I want to, because I know I wouldn't be here if people didn't save me."

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Gourmet cupcakes with a mission

In 2009, Amy Chasan worked for the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, where she supported academic programs. But budgets were cut, and when her work became too challenging, she spent more time with her hobby -- baking in her tiny home kitchen. Before long, she was hired to cater events, and wondered how she might connect her baking passion with her professional career of youth development. In 2012 she turned Sweet Generation Bakery into a mission-driven business that works to remove barriers for disconnected youth. In 2014 she started a youth internship program called RISE, offering hands-on kitchen experience to ask-risk young adults.

In 2015, Sweet Generation opened its first storefront located in the East Village. It has considered one of the best bakeries in the Big Apple, winning a "Best Cupcake" award from the Village Voice. Sweet Generation is now a team of 15, including interns who learn cooking and social skills which help them obtain jobs. So far, the bakery has served over 60 young men and women who otherwise would have been at-risk.

Monday, January 20, 2020

A gift for planet earth

Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Ribeiro Salgado and his wife Lélia Deluiz Wanick Salgado have spent the last 20 years planting an 1,750-acre forest to transform a barren plot of land in Brazil's Minas Gerais state into a tropical paradise. Just look at the difference!

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Indiana barber has found his pulpit

When Ray Gipson, 55, came to Columbus, Indiana, in 1999 from New Jersey. He was homeless, and adicted to "a little bit of everything" including heroin, alcohol and marijuana. He credits God with his eventual recovery and freedom. Now he's a barber and his shop is called Coach's Cutz. But he still understands how homeless, addicted people feel. And on the first Tuesday of every month, his barber shop smells like a restaurant. In the kitchen, he's cooking enough chicken tacos to serve 86 people, for free.

With volunteer helpers, Gipson delivers and donates the tacos to Horizon House homeless shelter, Brighter Days emergency shelter, and Turning Point Domestic Violence Services. As reported by the Republic, Gipson says "I know how many of these local people feel. And God has just been telling me to go ahead and tell my story." In the future, he wants to bring his free tacos to area homeless living under bridges. "I am passionate about people," he says, "and this right here is my puplit."

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Patsy the wonder dog

A brave pup is being credited with saving an entire flock of sheep form impending brush fires in Australia on New Year's Eve. That's when Stephen Hill saw wildfires approaching his sister's farm in Corryong, Australia, around 4:15 p.m. Hill and his 6-year-old sheepdog Patsy rushed over to the farm; hopped on a 4-wheeler and rode out to where the sheep were wandering in the fields.

Quick as a flash, Patsy rounded up a herd of over 200 sheep and ushered them into a barn while the farm owner fended off the flames with a tractor and water pump. Thanks to Patsy's quick action, almost every one of the sheep were saved from the fires.  Hill said, "If you haven't got a dog, you can't to much with sheep. They're really difficult to move unless you have a good dog."

Friday, January 17, 2020

100 toy trains on eight miles of track

Bruce Zaccagnino of Flemington, New Jersey, spent almost 20 years creating a toy train set in a building called Northlandz. His train set has eight miles of track and breathtaking miniature scenery. But when the building cost to much to maintain, he abandoned his project and sold Northlandz to businessman Tariq Sohail, who was looking for more warehouse space. He was told he could "demolish what was inside."

When Sohail realized the train set included 100 trains and 1,200 miniature buildings, he knew he could never demolish it. Instead, he invested a quarter-million dollars to renovate the building, repairing lights and flooring and much of the train scenery. Then he added a gift shop and private event space. He plans to add a movie theater, climbing walls and model train set classes for kids.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Helping animals in Australia

Owen Colley is only six years old, but he wants to support efforts to save wildlife impacted by the huge wildfires now burning in Australia. He lives in Hingham, Massachusetts, and for some time, he's enjoyed making hand-crafted animals out of clay.

According to his mom, Caitlin, he decided to make tiny clay koalas and sell them to raise money to save the animals.The project is dear to his heart, and so far (thanks in part to a GoFundMe page) he's raised more than $4,500.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The only girl in her Cub Scout pack

A 10-year-old Girl Scout has become the first in the United Kingdom to get every single Beaver and Cub Scout activity badge. Willow Woolhouse completed every activity badge possible while she was in the Beavers, and recently received her final Cub achievement. But getting all 57 badges wasn't easy. She had to learn to ride a horse; become proficient in Morse Code; teach herself to cook a perfect omelette; master the martial art of Tang Soo Do, and impress her Scout leader with her stargazing skills. Did I mention building her own birdhouse?

She's the only girl in her Cub pack. Her final badge was a photography patch, awarded for her series of photos of of her proud mom, Beth Shaw. And "sixer" Willow, who is set to move up to the Scouts this season, already has her sights firmly set on achieving all 62 badges there as well. "When I look back on my life, I can't picture myself not being a cub or a beaver. It's the friendship with everyone there that really got to me."

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Prison adopts lost dog

For days, Michael Parker and his wife searched for their lost family pooch, named Soup, around Montgomery, Alabama. They posted notices on social media and contacted the local Humane Society. Finally their dog was seen  by Charles Brooks on the grounds of a prison where Brooks is plant maintenance supervisor. He found Soup lying next to a truck, looking scared. He'd lost his collar, but after Brooks gave him a biscuit, Soup liked him. As Soup followed Brooks around the prison, he became an instant celebrity with inmates.

They began giving parts of their dinner to Soup, so he could feast on chicken, roast beef, and even peach cobbler. He also tussled with the guard dogs. When Parker and Books finally met thanks to social media, Brooks whistled for Soup to join them. The excited pup immediately began jumping all over his owner as he lay on the ground in tears. After a few days, it was clear that Soup missed all his prison friends, so the Parkers resolved to bring him back to the correctional facility for regular play dates.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Hockey arena filled with song

Before a recent game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens, singer Karen Newman was scheduled to sing the Canadian national anthem as a solo. But her microphone failed as she began singing, and no amount of lung power was enough to fill the giant hockey arena.

That's when the fans gave Newman a big assist by singing it with her. Using lyrics projected on in-game monitors, Americans and Canadians alike joined together in a rousing rendition of "O Canada." Media people felt the moment reflected sports as its very best. One Twitter user wrote afterward, "I KNOW it's just a hockey game. I KNOW it's just a song. But there is something about people coming together in times of need that gets me every time."

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A gold star for district attornys

An elderly woman named Bernice lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When she needed a new walker, she accidentally called the wrong number, expecting to speak to a medical supply store. But she was one digit off. She accidentally called Special Agent Kyle Hartstock at the Bernalillo County District Attorney's office. When nobody answered, she left a voicemail.

When Hartstock called back to sort things out, she just said, "I'm trying to get a hold of anybody with a walker." Instead of telling her she had dialed a wrong number, the special agent and other analysts decided to find a walker for her. Before long, eight employees with the DA's office showed up at her door to surprise her with it. All the employees chipped in to pay for the walker themselves.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

She always had a coupon for Applebee's

More than a dozen community colleges across Washington State were shocked to find a check worth $550,000 in their mailboxes this winter.They were all courtesy of Eva Gordon, who passed away in 2018 at 105. During her life, she amassed a secret fortune of $10 million through wise investing.

"A lot of people didn't know the wealth she had. If there was a coupon for two-for-one at Applebee's, she was all about that," said John Jacobs, her godson and estate representative. She never went to college, and regretted this later in life. "Her goal was to provide an opportunity for those folks who could ill-afford it, whether vocational training or academic skill." Her donation was hailed as the largest financial contribution to community colleges in the history of Washington state.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Food that was prepared, but never served

A pilot program that started at an elementary school in Elkhart, Indiana, has expanded. It provides food over the weekend for children who need it. Before the program started, theses children rushed to school each Monday for free breakfast, since they had little to eat over the weekend. The program is called Cultivate, and uses food that was prepared but never served.

It is then repackaged and delivered to selected students, who are given their own backpack filled with food on Fridays. Each backpack contains six different meals to eat during the weekend. "Cultivate goes to different venues and gets food," says Natalie Bickel, supervisor of student services. "So a big supplier is Notre Dame and Four Winds Casino. We also donate unused food from Elkhart Community Schools to Cultivate. It's really taken off."

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Firemen's courage rewarded

Lt. Duane Reddick and two other firefighters from Station 392 of the Fishers, Indiana, Fire Department, were recently stocking up on lunch and dinner supplies for their families. They were shopping at the Olio Road Kroger when they received a dispatch call about a nearby emergency, and had to abandon their groceries.

No only did several Kroger employees stash their groceries in coolers until they returned, but a customer, who wishes to remain anonymous, paid their total bill. According to Reddick, this was the first time that a community member ever paid his supermarket bill as a thank you.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Progress at New York City Ballet

Today's crumb comes from an alert reader in Bloomington, Indiana, who noticed that, for the first time in 50 years, a black dancer will perform the role of Marie in the New York City Ballet Company's production of The Nutcracker. She is eleven-year-old Charlotte Nebres.

According to Charlotte, "It sunk in that, 'Well, if I'm going to be doing this role and I"m the first person, then I want to make it count." Her mother, Danielle, says she's learning about hope from her daughter. She explained, "It's sort of magical for me to see that sort of hopefulness and just realizing that there are no limits. So I'm sort of learning through her that maybe the way things were aren't what they are any longer."

Monday, January 6, 2020

Subway serves up a "cheesy" treat

One day in 1997, Jordan Olsen, 17, showed up for his shift as a sandwich maker at the Subway in Kaysville, Utah. He remembers the day well. "This sounds cheesy, but I peeked my head around the corner, saw a new girl making somebody a sandwich, and I was done for. She was drop-dead gorgeous." After dating for four years, they were married. Now, in honor of their union almost 18 years ago, they decided to buy the restaurant where they met.

When Jordan and Jennifer learned the owners had decided to retire after thirty years in business and sell the store on Kaysville's Main Street, they took out a small business loan and returned to the sandwich line where they met as teenagers. "It sounds crazy, but to us it made perfect sense," says Jordan. "We've always been really fond of that Subway where we met, and the sandwiches aren't bad either."

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Kindness evokes memories of Gander on 9/11

High winds diverted a WestJet airliner on Dec. 25. It was heading for St. Johns, Newfoundland, Canada, but only made it to Deer Lake, about 400 short of its destination. Local resident Brian Snow realized that since it was Christmas day, all the restaurants in town were closed. On top of that, the Holiday Inn where almost 80 people were dropped off (with no way back to the airport) had no restaurant. Mr. Snow is community services coordinator for the Salvation Army, and he used social media to call for action. "Lets show the true Christmas spirit."

Within an hour, the community had organized a pot luck in the hotel lobby. Residents left their Christmas suppers at home to bring sandwiches, platters of their own turkey leftovers, freshly baked bread and lots of cookies and desserts. One stranded passenger, Dave Power, said, "When we finished eating, they said as soon as you're ready, let us know and we'll take you back to the airport." The loving care displayed by Deer Lake residents left some of the passengers "bawling."

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Recycling empty big box stores

The era of big box stores fading away. And, believe it or not, the massive abandoned retail stores could be transformed almost instantly into housing for the homeless, using a variety of plug-and-play prefab elements. The research and development studio at KTGY Architecture + Planning in Los Angeles, California, builds supportive space complexes within empty shell stores like Sears and JCPenny.

"Re-Habit" does not get rid of retail entirely, but makes the shopping portions of each building smaller, and places bedroom pods, restrooms, kitchens, dining halls, offices, job-training rooms and other spaces behind them. The main goal is to be self-supporting, by providing training, employment and housing for residents, who rotate chores like working in the kitchen or keeping the dining hall clean. The large flat roofs of big box stores are ideal for rooftop gardening, recreation and solar panels.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Stray dog wanders into future home

It was 4 a.m. when Jack Jokinen, 34, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was wakened by his wife, who said there was a strange dog in their living room. He investigated, and found an emaciated, unknown dog sitting in the middle of the floor -- wet, shaking, and visibly afraid. Jokinen checked and found all the doors and windows locked, so he looked at his security camera footage. It showed the dog wandering past his house and then doubling back and entering thru an open door. (Earlier that night, Jokinen had been walking his own dog in the rain, and when entering carrying the dog and an umbrella, he assumed he locked the door, but he forgot and the wind blew it open. Later a passer-by saw the open door, yelled to be sure everyone was okay, and pulled the door shut.)

Now Jokinen and his wife plotted their next steps. They couldn't turn the dog, who is between 7 and nine years old, over to animal control, so they took her to a vet and found she had several medical needs. Since she had no microchip, they agreed to make her part of the family and named her Suzyn Pupman. The story spread rapidly, and people starting donating for the dog's care. So far, Suzyn has raised more than $25,000 and any surplus will go to a yet-unnamed charity.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Winter can be cold, even in sunny Florida

When Michael Esmond received his utility bill for December, he remembered a time back in the '80s when he had trouble paying on time. The utility company cut off his gas connection during what he calls "one of coldest winters in Florida history." For the rest of the cold season, he was without heat, while temperatures outside dropped to single digits.

Fortunately he is no longer cash-strapped. He owns a small business in Gulf Breeze, Florida. But as he paid his bill, he felt inspired to help others who had financial difficulties. He called the local utility company and asked to pay the bills for all the households at risk of having their gas and power cut off. In total, he paid $4,600 worth of utility bills for 36 families, who will not be cold this winter.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The grandkids on the bus go up and down!

Doug Hayes recently decided to surprise his ten grandchildren by getting them their own, personal school bus for Christmas. Since the children go to a relatively small Catholic school in Gladstone, Oregon, they've never had a bus system that could take them to class.

Now, Hayes plans to use the "Grandfather Express" to bring his grandkids to school every day. As you might expect, the kids could hardly believe it. "I was really stunned, said grandson Christian Hayes. "I never expected him to buy a bus."