Monday, August 31, 2020

She put herself in the bride's shoes

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees saved a Columbus, Ohio, bride's big day after her wedding dress was accidentally left at an airport security checkpoint. The bride's mother forgot to take the red roller bag holding her daughter's gown and mom's dress after she cleared security at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport and boarded a flight for Columbus in August, the TSA said.

The bride's brother submitted a lost-and-found form online because the wedding was set for the next day. But the website indicated the response time was about five days. That's when TSA administrative assistant Loletta Nathan-Gordon saw the email and recovered the bag in six minutes. She put herself in the bride's shoes. "I could only imagine how stressful that would have been for me. I would have freaked out," she said. So she paid to ship the bag overnight and it arrived just in time for the bride to walk down the aisle.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Where everybody knows your name

Michael Dutko, 35, of Hilliard, Ohio, has been a wood carver most of his life, but recently he became Internet famous. His neighbor told him she and her daughter like to bird watch in their yard, but squirrels keep getting in the way. Without telling her, he found a way to make her yard squirrel-free.

It only took him eight hours to design and built a squirrel bar with seven different nuts on tap. It's 25 inches wide and 16 inches tall, and when her neighbor saw it, she "cracked up." After posting a video on YouTube showing the build process, Dutko was overwhelmed with requests to buy the bar. He applied for a designer patent and plans to launch a business to sell The Nutty Bar for about $175. (Don't try to guess what bar's restrooms are named.)

Friday, August 28, 2020

Thinking outside the box but inside the trash can

After their mother lost her job, and their father's work hours were reduced due to the pandemic, enterprising brothers Roberto and Marcelo Gonzalez, age 19 and 18, decided to clean trash cans in their neighborhood. In May they bought a power washer, with help from their parents. Then the brothers went door-to-door until they build a thriving business called Wash Bros.

Given people's concerns about the virus and the spread of potentially harmful bacteria, the service (a deep clean of bins for just $25) has proven very popular.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

An unexpected "wedding gift"

Melanie and Tyler Tapajna had big plans for their wedding filled with family and friends. But then the pandemic hit. They decided to carry on with their vows at a scaled down ceremony in her grandparents' back yard. And then they gave back.

All the catered food intended for their wedding was brought to the City Mission of Cleveland, Ohio, a homeless shelter for women and children. Melanie and Tyler, wearing their gown and tuxedo, served the food to 135 strangers.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A police incident you should know about

The woman in this picture with a police officer is Helen Johnson from Tarrant, Alabama. She was caught stealing at a nearby Dollar General and the police were called to arrest her. When the officer arrived, he asked her what she stole. She said, "Five eggs, to feed my hungry children."

The police officer took her back to the supermarket and bought her enough groceries to feed herself and her kids. Helen started crying and told the officer, "Sir, this is too much for you to have done for me." He replied, "Sometimes we shouldn't apply the law but must apply the humanity."

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Middle schoolers need privacy!

Lauren Nelson, 11, lives in Attica, New York. She used her pandemic down time this spring to convert a rundown camper into a tiny home where she and her friends can hang out in private. She had saved $400 after selling items at a garage sale and adding funds she would have used to go to 4-H camp. She bought the mouse-ridden old trailer from a neighbor, and began to renovate it.

According to her mom, the camper came with "a family of mice" and had to be deep cleaned before she could remodel it. Inspired by HGTV's Tiny House Hunters, she added some home decor. The camper now includes a working kitchen, and cabinets with several pops of color, plus flowers, pillows, and patterned sheets on the bunk beds. There's also a small sign that says, "Lauren's Lil Camper." And it's great for sleep-overs.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Can a canine sell you a car?

What would you do if a stray dog showed up at your car dealership day after day? Would you give him a job? That's what Merson Mariano did. He manages a Hyundai dealership in Brazil. One rainy night the steadfast stray was invited to come in from the streets. Little did the pooch know that he'd found his forever home.

After his adoption, the newly named Tuscon Prime was given the title "Official Meeter and Greeter." The staff says he's a natural for the role, but he wants to climb the corporate ladder. He's honing his marketing skills with regular posts on his "very own" Instagram account. He's become somewhat of an Internet sensation, but he remains doggedly humble about it.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

5,000 people want to adopt Jordan

A 9-year-old boy from Oklahoma is one step closer to finding his forever home. In July, Jordan was interviewed by a local news station about foster care. He's an expert on the subject, since he's been in foster care for six years. Asked what he'd wish for if he had three wishes, Jordan said, "To have a family, a family, a family. Those are the only wishes I have." He does not care if the family includes a mom and dad, or just a mom.

"The reason it's so important is so that I could have some people to talk to any time I need to," he said on the air. "I hope one of y'all pick me."  According to FOX 4, about 5,000 people from all across America have inquired about adopting Jordan, so far.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Teenage scientist wins a quarter million dollars

For the first time in its 78-year history, the Regeneron Science Talent Search competition took place virtually, but that didn't dampen the excitement as to winners were announced. Lillian Kay Petersen of Los Alamos, New Mexico, won a quarter million dollars.

The 17-year-old incoming freshman at Harvard College invented a simple tool for predicting harvests early in the growing season, which helps improve food distribution, and will aid groups working to remedy global food insecurity. She was motivated to do research in this field after her parents adopted children who faced food insecurity, and later, she read about Ethiopia where a famine had affected millions of people.

Friday, August 21, 2020

A literal stitch in time

Sewing face masks is turning into a popular hobby, and for Darin and Giselle Williams of Arvada, Colorado, it was also a good opportunity to break out Giselle's great-grandmother's 1922 Singer Model 66 "Red Eye" treadle sewing machine. She asked her husband to restore it, and he did more. He full rehabilitated the machine, and then taught Gisselle how to use it.

Giselle had never sewn anything, but Darin's grandmother was a seamstress and taught him as a child how to sew. Now, the couple has sewn and distributed nearly 500 masks to first responders across the globe. He says, "In my wildest dreams, I would never have guessed that the time my grandmother sent with me on her Singer would come back to bear fruit...responding to a real need."

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Reading between the pages of a book

Emma Smreker has a very unusual hobby. She collects used books, but she rarely reads them. Instead, she hopes to uncover forgotten treasures nestled between the tattered pages. The 30-year-old school teacher from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, most often finds plane tickets, receipts and dried flowers.

But sometimes she unearths misplaced gems -- photos that tell a story, a poignant poem or a letter that  never got sent. She says, "I have a fascination with old things because it feels like you're holding a time capsule." She revels in these rare finds, and makes it her mission to seek out the original owners and return each keepsake.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Paintings by mini-Monet in demand

A 10-year-old "mini Monet" who lives in England paints stunning floral landscapes that have sold for as much as $12,000. Daisy Watt only started painting four years ago, when she was six. Two of her grandparents became ill and she wanted her pictures to cheer them up.

Her mom, Karen, spotted Daisy's talent and asked if she'd like to paint a canvas to be displayed at a local gallery, and auctioned for charity. It was so popular that 100 special edition prints were commissioned and snapped up by buyers from Canada to Hong Kong. Since that moment in 2017, she has earned about $62,000 through her artwork, and donated it all to charity.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

As reported in The Christian Science Monitor

May Abboud Melki displayed perfect poise after a recent massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, killed at least 160 people and left as many as 300,000 homeless. Just hours after the blast, as her family was cleaning up the remains of her apartment, where all the windows were shattered, she sat down at her piano and played "Auld Lang Syne."

Her granddaughter, May-Lee Melki, posted the video on Instagram. She described the moment as "beauty from ashes" and said her grandmother is "pushing through her pain." The video went viral around the world, reminding everyone that music has a healing influence.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Nigerian dancer wins full scholarship

Anthony Mmesoma Madu studies dance at the Leap of Dance Academy in his hometown of Badagry, on the coast of Nigeria. Recently he was filmed dancing "Singing in the Rain" and the video went viral. Cynthia Harvey, artistic director at the American Ballet Theatre Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School of Dance in Manhattan saw the video, and decided to offer him a scholarship.

The school, known for its "elite atmosphere dedicated to the success of each student, has organized internet access at home for Anthony, so he can take virtual lessons from the academy this summer. And it's not just Anthony for whom dreams are coming true. His dance teacher, Daniel Ajala Owoseni, has been included in the American school's National Training Curricullum for instructors.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

4-year-old knows black lives matter

A Colorado mom was shopping recently at Home Depot in Commerce City when she suddenly heard her four-year-old daughter Camryn yell, "Black lives matter" at another shopper, Sherri Gonzales. "She said it with strength," said Sherri, "like she was making a point." Sherri looked at Cam and and thanked her for recognizing that "my life matters." The pair quickly became friends, and took this photo together.

Cam then sweetly invited Sherri over for a sleepover, so the group exchanged numbers. Since then, Cam and her mom recently held a garage sale in which they donated all the proceeds to Sherri's organization, called Sherri's Girls Empowerment International. Over two days, the sale earned $2,070, which will now go toward sending girls to school in Kenya.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Two hundred years ago this month

Harry Burn was the youngest member of the Tennessee General Assembly when he was elected to represent McMinn County at age twenty-two. He is best remembered for action taken to ratify the 19th Amendment during his first term in the legislature, giving women the right to vote. His vote broke the tie in the legislature, causing Tennessee to pass the Amendment. Since Tennessee was the 36th state to ratify the Amendment, it became the law of the land.

Burn credits his mother with changing his vote to support women's right to vote. She wrote him a 7-page letter advising him to support the Amendment. Opponents quickly attacked his honor and integrity, so he inserted this personal statement in the House Journal. He explained that he decided to support women's rights in part because "I knew that a mother's advice is always safest for a boy to follow, and my mother wanted me to vote for ratification."

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Fishing helps boys catch a dream

Carmen Garner grew up in the "hood" in Washington, D.C. He never went outside as a child, "because people get shot out there," except when his cousin's boyfriend took him fishing. "I remember every single time I went fishing as a kid," he says.  Today Garner is a teacher at Shepherd Elementary School, and when he received his economic stimulus check, he used it to create a non-profit that allows him to take children from struggling neighborhoods fishing.

Garner remembers, "I said, why not spend the money on something that's going to benefit kids. I was that kid on the step waiting for someone to come and pick me up! Now that's what I'm going to be doing. I'm going to be picking these kids up.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Old age is like a bank account...

It happened three years ago. This 92-year-old, petite and well-poised lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock with her hair fashionably coiffed even though she is legally blind, moved into a nursing home. He husband of 70 years had recently passed away, so the move was necessary. After several hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready. As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I described her tiny room to her.

                                                            Photo by Karsten Thormaehlen

"I love it!" she said like an eight-year-old receiving a puppy. "Mrs. Jones, you haven't even seen it yet?" "That has nothing to do with it," she said. "Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged. It's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice." She went on to explain, "Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put in. So my advice to you is to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories. Thank you for doing your part in filling my memory bank. I am still depositing."

Monday, August 10, 2020

Bet your mask can't do this!

A Japanese robotics company has developed a super-smart mask that can amplify voices, transcribe dictation, and (are you sitting down?) translate speech into eight different languages. It will be available to the public as soon as September.

The C-Mask was designed by Japanese tech company Donut Robotics to improve communication between airline workers and supermarket employees during the pandemic. It is Bluetooth-connected to the users phone, and can translate Japanese into Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian, English, Spanish and French.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

It happened two years ago this month

Are you over-protective? When you're a dog, the instinct to protect is not an option. Such was the case for a dog named Matyas. He and his family were enjoying a day on the beach in France when he felt sure they narrowly escaped disaster.

Matyas put up with his owner's young granddaughter playing in the waves. He even got his paws wet so he could guard her more closely. But when a rogue wave (about 12 inches tall) knocked her slightly off balance, he knew it was time to leave the ocean. He gently grabbed her by her shirt and pulled her from the (gently) tossing waves. Another life saved from the ocean's fatal tricks! (She laughed all the way as he pulled her.)

Saturday, August 8, 2020

He was just tickling the ivories

John Capron, 23, is a student at Boston College. Recently he was browsing at ReMARKable Cleanouts antique store in Norwood, Massachusetts, when he found an old $200 Whitney piano for sale. With permission, John sat down to play a heartfelt rendition of "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. Delighted customers came together to listen, and a sales associate videoed the impromptu sing-along and posted it on the store's Facebook page.

Soon, national news outlets began searching for the identity of the piano player. After John identified himself, store owner Mark Waters offered to give him the old Whitney piano for free. But then he changed his mind. Instead, he decided to surprise John by giving him a $3,000 Steinway that had been sitting in the back of the store. When Waters unveiled the surprise gift, John burst into tears. He says the Steinway will be the first piano he has ever owned, and now he's searching for helpers to get it into his fourth-floor apartment in Mattapan.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Even little hands can help

In Indiana, the city of Bloomington has launched a family-friendly volunteer program called Adopt-a-Drain. Residents help maintain storm drains to reduce flood risk and increase water quality.

With over 12,000 storm drains within the city limits, volunteers may usually opt to care for a drain in a location convenient to them. "The only prerequisite for volunteering is a concern for the well-being of our community," says stormwater education specialist Kriste Lindberg.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Swapping guns for trumpets

New Orleans, Louisiana, is famous for jazz music, but it also has more gun violence that you'd expect. After hearing of the recent shooting of a boy from the city's 7th ward, local jazz trumpeter Shamarr Allen thought his extra trumpets might chain the tune played by kids susceptible to gun violence. "People don't understand that these kids are trying, and wanting to do other things," he said.

With police approval, Allen posted an offer on social media. "To the youth of New Orleans: bring me a gun and I'll give you a trumpet, no questions asked." He quickly collected four guns and depleted his supply of extra trumpets. One weapon was a handgun with ammunition given to him by a young girl. "She was the most excited about getting a trumpet," he said. Since then, Allen has gained support from local musicians who volunteer to give free lessons to anyone who puts down a gun and picks up music. An online fundraiser allowed Allen to collect $34,800 for instruments and supplies. He also received a number of instrument donations to his program, which he now calls "Trumpet is my Weapon."

Monday, August 3, 2020

Teens making a difference

14-year-old Matthew Sullivan of Morristown, New Jersey, had three goals during the pandemic -- stay busy, make money, and help others, so he started his own lawn care business, "Leaf it to Us," with three friends as partners. Riding their electric dirt bikes, they drive from job to job, offering landscape services including weeding, planting and leaf blowing.

Last year, the teens donated part of their earnings to St. Jude Children's Hospital, but this year, as a result of the pandemic, they decided to help out their local food bank, HELP MORRIS NOW. The group hopes to continue running their landscape business as long as their mission stays the same -- helping others in need.

Native Americans buy back tribal sacred land

It's been a very long-awaited homecoming for the Esselen Tribe, but after 250 years, the northern California native people's sacred land is finally theirs again.The tribe inhabited the Santa Lucia Mountains and Big Sur coast for thousands of years, until Spanish explorers claimed the land as their own.

After centuries of life without land, the tribe recently PURCHASED 1,200 acres in Big Sur to rebuild their tribe and tend the land there. Tom Little Bear Nason, tribal chairman of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, said the deal will position his tribe close to the most "sacred spot on the coast," for the Esselen people, and the "center of their origin story."

Anyone can be friends

Sunday, August 2, 2020

A truly priceless Build-A-Bear

Before Marilyn Soriano died last year, she put her voice into a teddy bear. She give it to her daughter, Mara. It was a custom-made Build-A-Bear made to look like Marilyn, glasses and all. When squeezed, it said, "I love you. I'm proud of you. I'll always be with you." But recently the teddy was stolen from Mara during a hectic move.

Mara's pleas for the bear's safe return were widely heard. Actor Ryan Reynolds offered $5,000 for the bear's safe return, no questions asked. Others chipped in money, raising the total reward to $15,000, and within a few days Mara had her bear back, voice box intact. She said two "good Samaritans" returned the bear after they found it at a park nearby.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

When farmers can't sell crops

When Geore Ahearn heard that farmers in Washington state were giving away onions and potatoes they suddenly could not sell, his instinct for goodwill led him to rescue 200 tons of vegetables and deliver them to food banks to feed people in need. The breakdown in farm supply chains due to the pandemic meant crops were left to rot, and farmers in rural Washington wished they could get their crops to food banks in Seattle.

Inspired by the farmers' plight, Ahearn asked on Facebook to borrow someone's truck or trailer for the day, to haul around 2,000 pounds of restaurant grade onions and potatoes. The response was dramatic. Soon, four trucks and two trailers had hauled 9.3 tons of crops to feed the hungry. This act of kindness grew into a nonprofit organization called EastWest Food Rescue. It has saved over 2.4 million pounds of food from the fields, while gathering enough donations to help compensate farmers for their loss.