Sunday, January 31, 2021

School principal works nights at Walmart

 Henry Darby, principal at North Charleston High School in South Carolina, is considered his community's guardian angel. He remembers, "A couple of years ago I had two students who were sleeping under a bridge. There was another former student who slept in her car with her daughter. Another student needed funds for water and light bills.

That's when Darby took action. He started working at Walmart three nights a week, stocking shelves from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m. His decision to stand and deliver has led to close to $100,000 in donations from all over the country. And now that his story has gone viral, Walmart has donated $50,000 to North Charleston High School.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Bernie's mittens raise $1.8 million

 Senator Bernie Sanders' mittens were one of the highlights of Inauguration Day. His hunkered-down image was captured by photographer Brendan Smialowski. Apart from some much needed humor, Sanders' sartorial tour-de-force injected much needed cash into some charities, thanks to the Senator himself.

He quickly added the image to a line of merchandise on his website, with all proceeds benefitting Vermont-based charities, including Meals on Wheels and senior citizen advocacy groups. The sweatshirts, tees and stickers sold out in less than 30 minutes. In all, Sanders reportedly raised about $1.8 million in five days. Jen Ellis, the Vermont elementary school teacher who knit the world's most famous mittens, says Sanders called to let her know "the mitten frenzy" had raised big bucks for worthy causes.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Presidential transfer, and cookie transfer

As the presidential transfer of power was underway, another transfer was happening nearby. Kavi Sadar, 4, made cookies for the National Guard soldiers who were maintaining security at the inauguration. Kavi said he told the soldiers, "Thank you for protecting our neighborhood." After Kavi slid his plate of cookies under the wire fence, the guardsmen repaid him with an American flag patch.

 The boy's mother, Janet Sadar, said it was all Kavi's idea.  They live close to the capital and she said, "It's a very weird time to live in this area. I think that day that the riot happened was a little bit scary because his school is one of those preschools in the neighborhood. It's a strange time to live here, but it's very exciting for a 4-year-old to have a bunch of soldiers around. He doesn't entirely understand, but it's very exciting for him."

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Many caring for George Floyd's daughter

 When George Floyd was killed last May by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, footage of the homicide sparked Black Lives Matter protests across America. He left a legacy of activism, but he also left behind a 7-year-old daughter named Gianna. Now the world is looking after her. For example, Kyrie Irving, point guard for the Brooklyn Nets, bought the Floyd family a house.

Barbra Streisand gave them stock in Disney. And Kanye West donated $2 million to help Gianna and also the families of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old victim of racially motivated murder in Georgia, and 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, who was killed during a botched drug raid when police showed up at the wrong apartment. Ordinary citizens are also donated to George Floyd's daughter. A GoFundMe page has raised more than $2.3 million, providing a fund when she's ready to attend college, if she does not want to take advantage of a full scholarship offered by Texas Southern University.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Miami Squeeze it totally surprised

 Staff at a Miami juice bar just got the surprise of their lives when a frequent customer left a $2,021 tip for the new year. Her tab was $71.84, but the gratuity she left equated to a 2,814% tip.

When the staff received her bill, they thought the tip was really meant to say $20.21. Miami Squeeze owner Kelly Amar said her employees went up to the customer to confirm. "I'm so grateful for you guys," the regular explained, "and I want to start the new year out right and give this to you." All 25 of the cafe's staff members will split the tip equally between them. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Mom discovers "you just have to ask"

 Nico Lavallee is four years old and has a favorite stuffed animal -- a small reindeer named Rudolph. At least he HAD the toy until recently. While the family was on a walk, his younger brother, two-year-old Santiago, tossed Rudolph over the railing above the frozen waters of Ottawa, Canada's Rideau Canal, to see if it could fly. It couldn't, so the family returned to the site more than once to visit the plush toy which landed on the ice near a frozen marker sign. There was  no way they could retrieve it, so Nico's older brother, six-year-old Sebastian, urged his mom to use social media to reach out to neighbors. "I didn't think anyone would care," she said, but she took to Twitter anyway.

She asked if anyone could help retrieve Rudolph, and a mission to rescue him was quickly mounted. Even the National Capital Commission signed on, pledging to put its skateway squad on the lookout. By now the toy was covered with snow, but one crew member spotted it, frozen and a bit soggy. After Rudolph was thawed and groomed, he was reunited with a happy Nico and his grateful family. "You just have to ask," said Nico's mom. "People do care. Assuming that they don't is something that adults do. My kids are growing up knowing that other people have their backs and other people care."

Monday, January 25, 2021

Everyone deserves a second chance

The City of Memphis, Tenn., announced a new partnership intended not only to reduce crime, but to give those who had a history of crime a second chance. Mayor Strickland said the city is partnering with Kroger to provide job opportunities for graduates of the city's Manhood University and Women Offering Women's Support.

 The mayor said this partnership gives women and men in the community a second chance. "If somebody who has a criminal background finds a job and turns that job into a career, there's very little chance they'll go back to a life of crime," he said. Kroger said right now there's no limit to how many people they're hoping to help with this new partnership.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

One good deed deserves another

Matthew Resendez was working behind the register at a Burger King in San Antonio, Texas, recently when a homeless man standing line line asked if there was anything on the menu he could buy for fifty cents. It was all the money he had. Matthew asked him what he would order if he could, and the man said anything would help his hunger pains. 

So Matthew ordered him a hearty meal and then used his own debit card to pay for it. He handed him the receipt and told him to relax and take a seat. A woman in the restaurant saw this sweet exchange and was deeply moved. When she came to order her meal, she left Matthew a $100 tip to reward him for the good deed he'd done.


Saturday, January 23, 2021

What did we do to deserve dogs?

When Cemal Senturk went to a hospital in northeastern Turkey on January 14 to receive treatment for Covid-19, his dog Boncuk managed to escape from home every single day and wait at the hospital entrance. Staff informed the family about the dog, but every time they retrieved her, she'd find a way out again. (Senturk lived nearby, but his family still does not know how the dog did it.)

The hospital staff made sure Boncuk was fed and cared for during her visits, and Senturk even got to see her through a hospital window. He tried to reassure her, but she refused to leave until he did. Senturk recovered and was reunited with his loyal pup, who was, of course, waiting right outside the door for him.

A soldier for music education

It's not everyday you see someone teaching band class from a Humvee. But that's what Sgt. Jacob Kohut did when called to protect the nation's Capitol ahead of the presidential inauguration. Beside being a member of the D.C. Army National Guard, he's also a teacher at Canterbury Woods Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia. 

 He made time to teach his students during shift breaks while on duty. He admits teaching music virtually is difficult, but he'd do anything to be there for his students. "I'm a soldier for the constitution, and a soldier for music education," he says.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Pen pals for 70 years

 Jill Stretton and Cathie Alexander have been pen pals for seven decades while living half-a-world apart. Their letter-writing relationship began in 1950 when 12-year-old Jill, from Australia, was given Cathie's address by a friend who had recently visited Scotland. I those days, it could take up to six weeks for a long-distance airmail letter to arrive, but the pair quickly became best friends. 

The two women didn't meet until 1982, and have met several times since then, but they feel as if they truly grew up with each other, sharing all life's milestones. They still write letters and send holiday packages, but they have bowed somewhat to the times. "We email now," Jill admitted, adding cheekily, "Aren't we clever?"

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Another police "incident"

 It was five days before Christmas when Somerset, Massachusetts, police officer Matt Lima responded to a report of shoplifting from a nearby Stop & Shop supermarket. He learned that two women with two young children had not scanned all their groceries at the self-checkout kiosk before leaving the store. Lime took the suspects aside and learned they had fallen on hard times. The tried to steal additional groceries to give the children a Christmas dinner.

Officer Lima refused to file criminal charges. "The two children...reminded me of my kids," he said, "so I had to help them out." Instead of filing charges, he bought gift cards with his own money, which allowed the women to buy groceries for their Christmas dinner at another Stop-and-Shop location.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Future president of Hallmark?

 Five-year-old Aryana Chopra rang in the new year in the most positive way possible. She designed and handmade 200 cards to send to every resident at a senior living home in Vestal, New York. Her dad is a doctor in the front lines in the pandemic, so she knows how serious it is. 

She says, "I got the idea of making cards for the people in the nursing home who can't go out and meet their friends and families." When her mom called the home to ask how many residents there were, they said two-hundred. It was a tall order, but Aryana worked almost two weeks to make them all, decorating each one with a unique combination of rainbows, snowmen, kids holding gifts and a special New Year's message.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Homeless does not mean dishonest

 Evelyn Topper probably dropped her wallet when she and her granddaughter, Mikayla Gounard, were leaving a coffee shop in San Rafael, California, recently. She didn't realize it was missing until she got home. With her credit, debit and medical cards gone, she was upset. But she wasn't upset long. The next day Sean Curry found her wallet in a dumpster behind the coffee shop. Except for cash, it was completely intact. Even though he's been homeless for five years, he made arrangements to return Topper's wallet.

Her granddaughter had already planned a socially distant "drive-by" party for her upcoming 12th birthday. She originally asked for contributions to be given to charity in her name, but after learning more about Sean Curry, she asked for donations for him. By the end of the day, she'd raised several hundred dollars. When she and her mom went to Curry the next day to give him the money, he admitted feeling truly humbled by the heartwarming gesture.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

"You'll be the last man to walk me home."

Fred Paul and Florence Harvey first met 68 years ago in the bayside town of Wandsworth, Canada. They were high school sweethearts, taking walks after church and kissing between classes. Every night of their two years together, Fred would flicker his porch light before going to be so Florence could see it from her side of the bay It was his way of saying he loved her. But eventually the teens went their separate ways. They grew up and got married and had families. Florence's husband passed away in 2017, and Fred lost his wife in 2019. Florence looked up Fred and gave him a call to offer her condolences. 

They chatted and shared fond memories about their families and their past. Soon they were chatting daily, and when they finally met again in Toronto months later, they knew almost immediately that, after full and happy lives apart, they were meant to share one together. They were married in August. "You were the first young man to walk me home in my teens," Florence told Fred during the ceremony. "I guess you'll be the last man to walk me home."


Friday, January 15, 2021

Not one shot fired all year

 Police and city officials in Newark say their de-escalation training program is working, with not one officer firing his or her weapon while on duty in 2020.  The New Jersey police force faced huge challenges this year, with officers being exposed to COVID-19 on the job, and protestors marching against police brutality in the summer. 

2020 was stressful, but Public Safety Directory Anthony Ambrose says the staff used their de-escalation training to keep the peace. "Our training also played a huge role in Newark having zero violence during this year's protests of the murder of George Floyd. The community and police worked together to ensure than non-Newark residents who came here to protest didn't initiate any violence. Overall crime was down 6% in 2020."

Thursday, January 14, 2021

"It's OK. You guys go to my house."

 Carolyn Palisch recently saved her neighbors from their burning house in Avondale, Arizona. This picture shows her surrounded by smoke, banging frantically on their door and yelling until homeowner Nicole Salgado answered the door.

Palisch told Salgado to get her family and get out. Salgado, her husband and her four children didn't even have time to put on their shoes! Minutes after they were safely outside, the roof collapsed. People on Salgado's social media noticed something especially kind -- the comforting way in which Palisch says, in a moment of terror, "It's OK. You guys go to my house."

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The James Bond of Philanthropy

 Chuck Feeney was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, to a blue-collar Irish-American family during the Great Depression. After he served in the Korean War, he made a fortune as founder of Duty Free Shoppers, the world's largest duty-free retail chain. In 1988, he was hailed by Forbes Magazine as the 24th richest American alive.

Secretly, Feeney has already transferred all of his wealth to his foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies. Only in 1997 when he sold his duty free interests was he "outed" as one of the greatest and most mysterious philanthropists in modern times. He had anonymously funded universities and hospitals from San Francisco to New York to Brisbane. His example convinced Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to give away their fortunes during their lifetime, known as the Giving Pledge.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Outfoxing an urban fox

 Last summer, residents in the leafy Berlin suburb of Zehlendorf noticed that a thief was stealing their flip flops and sport shoes from their gardens and yards at night. One resident raised the issue on the neighborhood watch website, and other locals complained that their flip flops were missing too.

Finally a men spotted the culprit "carrying two blue flip flops in his mouth," the daily Tagesspiegel reported. It looked like a dog, but was really an urban fox. Eventually residents found where the fox had hidden his hoard -- more than 100 shoes. Lesson? Don't leave your flip flops in the garden overnight.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Sticking to charity

 When the going gets tough, the tough keep going, or at least that's what 93-year-old retired Air Force Colonel John Hobson does. In 2020, he busied himself by handcrafting and selling nearly 100 walking sticks, and donating proceeds to a local Ohio charity group, the Xenia Area Fish Food Pantry. 

"He's just a sweet man who gives a darn about other folks who don't have (anything)," says his son Mark Hobson. To sell his wares, Hobson set up a roadside stand in his front yard. The price was beyond reasonable -- $3.00 each, or a donation to the food pantry.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

"All you got to do is buckle down..."

 Mack Richardson II served seven years in prison for several DWI arrests, but he never lost his love of cooking. The 63-year-old Navy veteran was released from prison in April. Afterwards he stayed in a veteran's homeless shelter for six months. Then he started going to Workforce Solutions Alamo school and got a job cooking. He's saved enough to rent his own apartment.

In his own words, "I got out of prison. I was homeless. I didn't have any place to do nothing. At all. Not a chance to work. And look at me now, eight months later. I'm a cook. I'm a chef at the San Antonio Food Bank. Going places, you know. So it can be done. All you got to do is buckle down, and put your mind to what you want to do."

Saturday, January 9, 2021

A crumb from Wednesday's riot in the Capitol

 Chef Jose Andres owns a restaurant called Jaleo in Washington, D.C. In the past, he's fed pandemic heroes and first responders during natural disasters. This week he helped feed National Guard members and law enforcement responding to Wednesday's deadly riot at the Capitol. 

Since a curfew was imposed to increase security, Andres said he knew these hard-working men and women would not have a lot of options to eat, so he drove around Washington and collected about 120 pizzas. Later, early on Thursday, he opened his restaurant and was seen making eggs, sandwiches and pasta. His non-profit organization, World Kitchen, said the team was able to feed about 700 people. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Putting the human in HR

 Ramu Dosapati is a corporate HR executive. In 2020 heavy flooding and a COVID lockdown left many migrant workers in the Hyderabad region of India stranded without means of support. Dosapati lives there, and spent about $60,000 of his own savings to establish a Rice ATM, doling out rice and other necessities 24-7. He cashed in his retirement fund, but that's not all. 

He'd been working to move his family into a larger home until he learned that another new group of migrant workers had arrived seeking aid. With his family's blessing, he put his new house plans on hold. "That's when my wife supported me and asked me to carry on with the initiative," he said. Since the Rice ATM opened last April, word of his generosity has spread. Support from outside sources now pours in, and he says he hopes to keep feeding those in need for a long time.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Necessity is the mother of invention

 Brothers Ayaan and Mickey Naqvi, who live in Shelton, Connecticut, were decorating their family Christmas tree in 2019 when a favorite ornament fell and broke. It made the wonder if there might be a better way to hang ornaments, so they'd be truly secure. From their curiosity, the Ornamental Anchor was born, using a loop and toggle system. They presented a prototype as a school project and the response was so favorable that they decided to turn their invention into a money-maker. 

"My brother and I worked together to design the product, patent it, create an awesome website, calculate profit margins and do our own market analysis," said Ayaan. After it earned $1,000 in six hours at a local Christmas trade show, the Ornament Anchor went on to be showcased on Good Morning America and featured on QVC. In one year, the brothers' brainchild has earned more than $250,000.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A crumb from the state of Delaware

Joe Hylton has driven big rigs for two years. One recent evening, he was driving a Perdue Farms truck down Delaware's Route 1 when he came across a bad accident. Both cars were totaled, so he pulled over and parked. Then he walked into the middle of the dark highway to direct traffic away from the wreck, but one of the drivers of a wrecked car started to scream that he could not find his daughter.

As a father-of-three, Hylton went into "dad" mode and began searching through the marshy area along the road, using his flashlight. He finally came across a small gray bundle. At first he was afraid to look, knowing the type of injuries a two-year-old could have sustained after being ejected from the car. But to his astonishment, the little girl reached up to him without a single scratch. The tearful dad thanked Hylton, who got back in his truck and went his way.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Loom hook changes a life

 Nelson Mendonca was incarcerated in British Columbia, Canada. He'd been in and out of prison for 20 years while struggle with addiction. But one day he found something behind bars that would change his life for the better -- a knitting tool called a loom hook.

Believe it or not, he started knitting hats for the homeless. After his release he joined a recovery program and now leads a knitting circle with about 10 other men. He says knitting teaches several life lessons. "It's the one thing in my life I can't cheat, manipulate, cut corners or find a loophole," he said. "You just have to follow every step, one at a time, over and over again." So far the group has knitted more than 200 winter hats which are given to people in need.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Granddaughter graduates with grandma

 Melody Ormond and her grandmother, 74-year-old Pat Ormand, just graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on the same day. "I always knew I would graduate from college," said Melody, "but I never knew my nana was also going to be there." Pat Ormond started her college career 42 years ago, but eventually moved, took up work as an accountant, and raised a family. Now she has a shiny new bachelor's degree in anthropology. 

The two Ormand ladies got to walk on stage at their socially distanced ceremony, one after the other.Pat Ormond may have taken the scenic route to her degree, but she has excellent advice for anyone else in her shoes. "Learning never stops."

Sunday, January 3, 2021

"My dog was my best friend"

 Keith Walker has been homeless since he was 13 years old. The one constant in this 53-year-old's life is his dog Bravo. To keep him safe, Walker arranged to have Bravo spend nights at the Underdogs animal shelter. On December 18, Walker arrived to take Bravo for a walk and found the shelter engulfed in flames. 

Firefighters at the scene had called animal control to take charge of rescuing the home's furry residents, but with the fire raging, Walker refused to wait. "I was nervous as hell, I'm not going to lie," he said, "but my dog is my best friend, and I knew I had to save all the other dogs." Scared as he might have been, Walker pulled every one of the animals -- six dogs and ten cats -- to safety.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Into every life some sun must shine

 After working as a preschool teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina, for twenty years, Joe Camp was laid off in September amid the pandemic. A month later, his father passed away. He said he was in a dark place, but on a recent morning he went to the store as he usually does and bought two scratch-off lottery tickets. He remembers, "I didn't win on the first one, so I tried the second and scratched it off, and I fell to my knees at the gas pump.

Camp, who is a father and grandfather, won $250,000, which he plans to spend on his family. He says he wants to help pay for his daughter's education, and buy a new home which he plans to pass down to his loved ones. "What I plan on doing with my winnings is having a future for my daughter," he said. "I want to have something for us. I never had anything. No one passed anything down, and that's what I want to do."

Friday, January 1, 2021

92-year-old gets 1,000 Christmas cards

 Nancy Letham, 92, usually receives only four cards around the holidays, since many of her friends have gotten older and died. Last October, Nancy's granddaughter, Leo Sheppard, posted an appeal online, hoping her grandma might receive 40 cards from neighbors in Fife, Scotland, where the family lives. 

For weeks, Nancy received about 50 cards a day from India and the United States and Canada and Australia and Italy and Spain. She has also received chocolates, flowers and Christmas ornaments from well-wishers. She said, "There are some beautiful cards and they are from all over the world. I didn't expect that."