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9 months ago · by · Comments Off on 81 Year Old Customer And Dunkin Donuts Staff Bond Amid Pandemic

81 Year Old Customer And Dunkin Donuts Staff Bond Amid Pandemic

A Dunkin’ Donuts crew in Concord, California, has adopted an 81 year old customer separated from his family and friends as their unofficial “Grandpa”. Gilbert “Gil” Walker, a retired high school teacher of almost 40 years, began making daily coffee trips to the local Dunkin when the pandemic interrupted his regular breakfast get together with friends. After he left them a $280 tip, the staff was so touched by the gesture that they have all adopted him as Grandpa ever since.

Walker began visiting as a way to safely get out of the house during the stay at home orders. Walker and owner Matt Cobo had a conversation that left Walker wanting to help. “I asked … if he had to lay anyone off and he said he had 14 employees and wanted to keep them but had to cut their hours,” Walker said. He started to think of ways he could help, and a little movement was born. On his next visit, Walker presented Cabo with an envelope of $280 cash, or $20 for each staffer. They were so moved by his gesture of kindness, they started calling Walker “Grandpa,” and adopted him as one of their own.

Cobo said that when the first shelter-in-place orders went into effect, “There was this feeling, this emptiness, this uncertainty of what was going to happen. We all felt it. We were scared,” he explained. “What Grandpa did that time was so much more than a gesture of kindness. He made us feel like things were going to be OK.”
Since then, there is a kindness shared between the staff and “Grandpa Gil.” They have signs posted throughout that jokingly read: Anyone who lets “Grandpa” pay is terminated immediately-The Management. “It became a contest of how I could convince them to take my money and them not taking it,” Walker laughed. “We’ve had a lot of maneuvering just to try to get money inside the door.”

Walker’s family even tips the staff off about upcoming events like his birthday or anniversary with his wife, Virginia. When Walker and his wife celebrated 62 years together, the staff set them up with a Dunkin’ smorgasbord in honor of the anniversary. “Holy cow, they’d set up a whole table inside the building, pictures of our wedding, a dozen white roses and food,” Walker said. “They had maple bars in the shape of a heart, it was crazy.”

In September, for Walker’s 81st birthday, the staff surprised him with a party, a sign and gifts in honor of his big day. “They were just all teary-eyed, and when you see that, you’re just like man, our work here is done,” Cobo said. “No one can deserve it more than him … it’s been really fun.” Walker, who has three kids, 13 grandkids and 20 great-grandchildren, said his closest family lives hundreds of miles away. The staff at Dunkin’ Donuts, mostly teens and young adults — have been there for him through this pandemic. “Those kids kind of remind me of my family,” he said. “They’re really nice and just treat me well every single day.”

Cobo said they consider Walker part of their family and the staff are always rushing to the drive-thru window each morning to say hi when “Grandpa” rolls up. “He doesn’t have any grandkids around and that’s part of why I think he’s developed this relationship … Maybe not technically family but we’d love to kind of fill in as his local grandkids. We all just think he’s incredible. There’s people that just have this smile and warmth — you say, ‘This guy is just goodness,’” Cobo explained. “That’s what he is. People catch that and they share that.”

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9 months ago · by · Comments Off on Celebrity Chef David Chang Wins $1 Million For Restaurant Industry

Celebrity Chef David Chang Wins $1 Million For Restaurant Industry

Celebrity chef David Chang, founder of the successful Momofuku restaurant brand, is donating his $1 million dollar “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” winnings to the restaurant industry. Like the other celebrity contestants on the show, Chang had been playing for the charity of his choosing, the Southern Smoke Foundation, a Houston-based crisis-relief organization for hospitality industry workers experiencing debt or other hardships.

“I’m so honored that Dave chose Southern Smoke as his charity,” founder Chris Shepherd said. “Now, more than ever, with indoor dining shut down in many parts of the country and temperatures dropping to prohibit outdoor dining, food and beverage industry employees are desperate.” Southern Smoke was established in 2017 and COVID-19’s impact on restaurants, bars, and catering companies in 2020 has made the need for financial crisis intervention all the more urgent. According to their website, the Southern Smoke Foundation has distributed more than $5.7 million, both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in our industry.

Chang has seen first-hand how the spread of covid-19 has cost the hospitality industry hundreds of billions of dollars and put many people out of work. When Chang reached the $500,000 mark, host Jimmy Kimmel cautioned him that no celebrity contestant had ever taken home “the big check.” Chang seriously considered walking away, but trusting his luck, he decided to go all in. “I’m a gambling man and shame on me if this is wrong, but I’m doing this because having a million dollars right now, in this moment, is a game-changer for many, many families.”

Unless you’ve been lucky enough to work from home the entire time, it’s likely your industry has been affected in one way or another by the pandemic. Across the globe people have faced tough decisions on how to navigate a socially distanced life. From teachers creating and maintaining virtual AND in-person curriculums to drivers and delivery people, as well as healthcare professionals on the brink of burnout. Millions who work in the hospitality industry, including food and drink service, have seen unemployment since early into the pandemic in March. Thankfully, many people, like Chang, have found ways to help others through this and inspire others to do the same.

Chang won over several front-line workers in this season of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which also featured celebrities Tiffany Haddish, Julie Bowen, Ray Romano, Rebel Wilson and Joel McHale. The restaurateur, author and television personality is known for founding the Michelin-star winning Momofuku restaurant group as well as Netflix original series “Ugly Delicious” and “Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.” Southern Smoke Foundation immediately celebrated the win on twitter with the tweet “WE WON A MILLION DOLLARS!!!! #TAKINGCAREOFOUROWN

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10 months ago · by · Comments Off on Atlanta Entreprenuers Pay For $40K In Groceries Inspiring Others To Help Community

Atlanta Entreprenuers Pay For $40K In Groceries Inspiring Others To Help Community

A group of local entrepreneurs in Atlanta paid for over $40,000 of groceries just before Thanksgiving. The group surprised shoppers at the Kroger on Wesley Chapel Road in Decatur on Tuesday. Video posted by entrepreneur Brad Giles’ Instagram pages shows customers dance for joy and tear up as they go through the checkout lanes — only to find their bills taken care of. The generous benefactors worked the registers and delighted customers with the news.

The social media post read “This is the season of giving and it’s more important than ever to give back to those in need! We had the Kroger at Wesley chapel in Atl on fire by giving out free groceries and paying for everyone for over 2 hours! Well over $40,000 of purchases given back to our community! I’m so proud to be a part of an incredible group of successful entrepreneurs that banded together to make this happen! Not only did we shut down the grocery store, we helped inspire the community by showing them that Entrepreneurs can give back to the community just as big as any celebrity and it was so much fun helping so many people this holiday season! “We literally took up all 12 registers for two hours at the grocery store and family after family would go through,” Jason Lobdell, one of the benefactors said.

As many still suffer from the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, spreading food insecurity across America, it is important for people to help others where they can. Millions are still without jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic and according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, more than 54 million more people in the country could soon face food insecurity. That is 17 million more than before the coronavirus outbreak.
Local churches across the country have been trying to keep up with communities’ food distribution and are experiencing record turnout with car lines miles long in some areas. Brad and Tronda Giles, along with several of their fellow entrepreneurs took notice and wanted to give back. “We’ve always had that love for giving back and helping individuals who have never had help before, and all the people we help in our work translates to who want to help in our communities,” Brad said.

The Giles’ said that after their group’s show of giving went viral, other entrepreneurs reached out to them to learn how they could give back. “Every little bit counts. Giving is something we all have to do as a community, and if we can all give to each other, it’s going to make everybody stronger,” said Giles.

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10 months ago · by · Comments Off on Prison Camp Survivor Donating $50 Million Children’s Hospital In New Zealand

Prison Camp Survivor Donating $50 Million Children’s Hospital In New Zealand

Mark Dunajtschik, an 85 year old prison camp survivor committed $50 million dollars of his own money toward building a children’s hospital in New Zealand. Dunajtschik is one of the most successful industrialists and real estate developers in New Zealand and is known for his philanthropic works—having financed the country’s Life Flight Trust helicopter rescue service which has been credited with saving 22,000 lives. Dunajtschik’s latest major humanitarian endeavor is overseeing the construction of a new children’s hospital in Wellington.

Dunajtschik escaped Knicanin prison camp with his mother near the end of WWII and was forced to flee his homeland of Yugoslavia. Five years after the war ended, he became an apprentice toolmaker. He mastered the trade and after spending five years travelling the world, decided to make New Zealand his home. Soon after arriving he established his company Precision Grinders, running the business for 25 years. Dunajtschik was among New Zealand’s most successful property developers and investors, although he only started in the industry as a “hobby” at the age of 57 and has no staff.

Dunajtschik’s life experiences have undoubtedly contributed to the man he is today and his commitment to giving back. Housing in post-war Germany was almost nonexistent, Dunajtschick’s only option at that time was living in a housing facility for the mentally and physically disabled. Seeing the daily challenges his housemates faced made him realize how lucky he was. “Because I was given the opportunity to live in that home, which was founded by an industrialist in the 1880s, now that I am in a position that I can also do something, naturally I want to do it. Those people that are born with a healthy body and mind can look after themselves and those unfortunate to be born with, or suffering ill health, need our help” he said in an interview.

Over the summer, construction on the exterior of the hospital was completed. Dunajtschik had no desire to simply throw money at the new hospital. He takes a hands-on approach to all his projects so he plans to see it through to completion. “It’s exciting to see that in a little over a year the vision will be realized and we will have a magnificent new purpose-built facility that will help generations of sick kids to come,” said Bill Day, Chair of Wellington Hospitals Foundation.

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10 months ago · by · Comments Off on DC Restaurant Owner’s Plea For Help Heard Worldwide

DC Restaurant Owner’s Plea For Help Heard Worldwide

Kazi Mannan, owner of the Sakina Halal Grill in Washington, D.C., has been serving meals to the homeless free of charge since he opened in 2013. In the midst of the pandemic, his restaurant suffered a huge loss in revenue and he reached out with a plea for help by setting up a GoFundMe, thankfully-the world listened. People from all over the world including Bangladesh, London, Haiti and elsewhere made donations. So far $328, 441 has been raised, surpassing his $250,000 goal.

Mannan learned to cook from his mother growing up in Pakistan. She also taught him the importance of helping others. “She would always have an extra plate to give to the neighbor. I prayed to God that if I ever have a restaurant, I will announce on the first day that I will bring in the homeless people”, said Kazi. “You can come in hundreds; I will never say no… you’re welcome to eat free with respect and dignity. We will treat you the same.”

Mannan kept that promise but was heartbroken in July when he could no longer afford to serve free meals. “It just hurts,” Mannan said. “Like, you know, it’s in you that you wanted to give, but your pockets are empty.” He never asks for help but when he realized the uncertainty of the pandemic meant he would have to consider closing his restaurant for good, he took a leap of faith.

Mannan’s kindness for feeding thousands of homeless at his restaurant was recognized by a local news outlet in 2018. Sakina Halal Grill looks like your typical high-end restaurant located just blocks from the White House. During the lunchtime rush hour, many customers flock to the grill for the all you can eat buffet of authentic Pakistani-Indian food. From the day he opened the doors, he welcomes all people, whether they can pay for the meal or not and he hopes to continue to be able to do that.

His latest update on his GoFundMe reflects the type of person he is. “ I am speechless and overwhelmed by your support that my human family saw someone falling and they all came together to help me. This is the type of the world I have been preaching for the last 6 years. Where someone falls and without judgment we help them. You are all God angels on this earth. I pray that God sends countless blessings your way. You made dreams alive again. I will make sure we use your donation to make a difference in other people lives. You all stay blessed. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Stay tuned for the next update!”

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10 months ago · by · Comments Off on East Idaho News Secret Santa Giving Away $500,000 In Gifts This Year

East Idaho News Secret Santa Giving Away $500,000 In Gifts This Year

Every year, a Secret Santa brings joy to people in need in East Idaho through an anonymous donation and with the help of East Idaho News. The anonymous “secret Santa” has been giving out gifts to people in the East Idaho community for the last five years. This year, more than $500,000 will be given to area families. The news station created a program to nominate people that are in need. They are still seeking nominations for this year and they still have about $150,000 along with several cars left to give away.

It all started in 2015 when Nate Eaton, news director of East Idaho News, received a call from a person wanting to give away $100,000 in gifts to local people in need and the Secret Santa just needed the news site to find the people first. The idea was an immediate hit and their email server almost crashed from the number of nominations they received the first year. The program has grown rapidly since then and people love watching the gifting every year. They now have more than 33,000 followers on their YouTube channel.

Eaton wanted to be sure people know it’s not an organization or business giving the money away but a very generous individual. “Secret Santa looks for people that just need a break,” Eaton said. “They’ve run out of luck, they’ve run out of money, they don’t ask for a handout, they’re working hard, they have specific needs, [and] they just need something to get ahead in life.”

Families across the Eastern Idaho region have been fortunate to be the recipients of gifts from the mysterious and generous “Secret Santa,” who for the past six years has worked in secrecy. Since the “Secret Santa” is anonymous, Eaton has become the face of the entire operation. He’s the one showing up on doorsteps handing out the presents. “It is a local person here. I think if you were to meet him on the street, he might deny it,” said Eaton, who is the only one on his team who knows Santa’s true identity.

This year some gifts will be bigger than ever and will include money towards a prosthetic leg, a pickup truck and a 15-seat passenger van. “The key is you don’t want to have somebody receive a large gift and then [they] have to pay the taxes on it or any fees or things like that,” he explained of how it works. “So Secret Santa covers all of that. If somebody gets a car, the taxes have been paid for. The only thing the person has to pay is the registration and he gives them a check to take care of that.”

Film and production crews will go out to sometimes several places each day during November and December to hand out gifts. Sometimes those situations can be so heartbreaking or personal that East Idaho News elects to not air the footage from giving the gift away.

“The people that maybe you haven’t read about in the news, but have quietly suffered for years and years that don’t think they’ll ever get a break—this might be their year when they can know someone is thinking about them and they can get a gift that will actually change their life,” the news director explained. To nominate someone (you can’t nominate yourself) for the Secret Santa program, you just need to fill out an application on their website.

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10 months ago · by · Comments Off on Barbershop Employees Step In to Help Jersey City Eatery During Covid Quarantine

Barbershop Employees Step In to Help Jersey City Eatery During Covid Quarantine

There is no denying the restaurant industry has been hard hit during the pandemic. One Jersey City eatery saw their neighbors step in when they were dealt with another blow. Würstbar had a staff member exposed to the virus and rather than running risk of spreading the disease, the management decided the best course of action was to shut down—at least temporarily. But their neighbors at Virile Barber Shop swooped in to help after seeing their post about the temporary close.

They posted on their Instagram page “No, we are not randomly closed for ‘renovations!’ We unfortunately, had an exposure to COVID-19 at Würstbar. Würstbar is a small team run by an extremely hardworking and loyal staff. Running the restaurant with only non-exposed employees isn’t an option for us at the moment. We decided as a team that we would close until every employee exposed or not has been tested and can return to work confident in their safety, and equally as important, our guests’ safety. Thank you to @hdsid_jc and Prestige Health Mobile for getting the entire staff tested so quickly. We look forward to serving you soon.”

Word of Würstbar’s crew quarantine quickly made the rounds of the tight-knit community and in less than 24 hours, workers from Virile Barber Shop just up the street stepped up, offering to lend a hand by taking shifts to keep Würstbar open for business until the impacted staff members could all be tested and cleared.
“The weather is too nice out to let our neighbors at Würstbar stay closed!” Virile Barber Shop owner Andre Fersa posted. “I’ve taken over the bar and am selling PRETZELS, beer, wine and cider for outdoor seating only. Come on by and support this great staff.”

As expected, the grateful Würstbar staff was soon singing the praises of the generous community volunteers who’d pitched in to keep their doors open. “A big thank you to the crew at @virile for taking over Würstbar yesterday, that was a blast! We love this community and couldn’t ask for better neighbors. Let’s not forget barbershops and salons were hit just as hard as restaurants during the shutdown. With so many people home from the office and big events not happening it’s easy to skip a cut here and there. If you have the means, please get that extra cut and look your best for your Zoom call or socially distanced gathering.”

Fersa and his friend, Joe Mercurio, got a quick crash course and soon enough Wurstbar was open for business. There were no tables inside, no cocktails, and their typically large menu of brats, sausages, hot dogs and poutine was pared down to just hot pretzels. But from noon until around 6 p.m. on Saturday, Fersa and Mercurio ran the show with Kahn supervising. Neighborhood locals got word that Virile was taking over Wurstbar for the day and came out to support the business, with outdoor tables packed throughout the day. The Kitchen Step, another Jersey Avenue restaurant, offered to send help if they needed it and bought a bunch of hot pretzels to feed their staff.

Kahn has tried to be optimistic as possible throughout the pandemic, but admits the positive COVID-19 test knocked him down. The bar was closed from Nov. 8 until Nov. 12, until all the employees tested negative. But Fersa stepping up to help out, even for just one day, rejuvenated him. “I didn’t feel that feeling of defeat anymore. I felt like, ‘I’ve got this.’ It kind of revived me, like we’ll get through this closure. I felt like I needed that,” Kahn said. “Andre stepping in and helping me out really just brought me back.”

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10 months ago · by · Comments Off on Couple Loans Cottage To Single Dad During Pandemic

Couple Loans Cottage To Single Dad During Pandemic

Families around the globe have had to adjust to the stresses of the pandemic and it’s always comforting to hear of instances of people helping one another during this unprecedented time. When a single dad in England, Sam Smith, appeared on the BBC Breakfast Show to talk about what it’s like to be confined in a very small living area during the pandemic, Ken and Sheila Sims decided to help.

Everyone has faced challenges during the pandemic but many don’t realize there are families with children out there who are living in small spaces with little to no space to run around. Since lockdown began in England, Sam Smith, 6-year-old Lysander and 3-year-old Zenduel, have been confined to their one-bed apartment on the 15th floor of a high-rise in East London. During the interview, Smith described what it was like sometimes being confined in the apartment 23 hours a day with just 12 steps from one side of the main room to the other—and with local parks closed.

Ken and Sheila Sims were watching the interview from their home on the Devon coast. Ken grew up in a high-rise apartment building as a young boy, and felt especially saddened seeing the difficulties the Smiths were going through. Ken knew all too well the challenges of growing up in a small apartment but he didn’t have to live through a pandemic. Luckily, he knew just how to help and he wasted no time in offering the Smiths a week at their cottage on the English seaside so the family would have some space to play, explore and run.

Sam immediately said yes to the offer and he was touched by the kindness of strangers. “I can’t find the words… ” Sam said at the beach on his family’s Devon vacation. Motioning at the sky and water all around him, at his young sons making sandcastles, he exclaimed, “It’s beautiful!”

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10 months ago · by · Comments Off on TX Animal Sanctuary Connects Children & Animals With Special Needs

TX Animal Sanctuary Connects Children & Animals With Special Needs

A family owned Texas animal sanctuary has launched a program for children with special needs to visit and bond with rescued animals who are also special needs. Safe in Austin is the brainchild of Jamie Wallace-Griner after she observed the interaction between her autistic son and his service dog, Angel. The current menagerie numbers 20 dogs, 14 cats, eight horses, 32 goats, four rabbits, three tortoises, one parrot, four turkeys, numerous chickens, 18 pigs, and four cows.

Over the years, as the ranch has been rehabbed, the population has grown to include chickens, pigs, and goats, many of whom have special needs. “We have animals that are blind or deaf, have diabetes, cerebral palsy, deformities, missing limbs, broken spines … they all become part of our family. Once they are healthy enough and we have earned their trust; we introduce our rescues to children that come from similar backgrounds of abuse, neglect, and/or special needs. Our animals provide healing to trauma, at-risk, and/or special needs children by way of unconditional friendship and a clear, loving, example of what they are looking for most… hope” said Wallace-Griner.

As with their rescued animals, humans of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions are welcome at the sanctuary. “We don’t care about the choices you made in the past, what you look like, who you love, or what you eat. We concentrate on no judgment at all. Our goal is to offer a place of healing and happiness that is available to everyone. Visits and events are affordable, fun, worry free, and are guaranteed to touch your heart! Safe in Austin is a judgment free zone! Autism has taught us that nothing is black and white, and everyone has a story. We just want you to meet our babies, take some of their love, and share it with others!” Wallace-Griner said.

Prior to COVID-19, Safe in Austin was open to members of the public who toured the sanctuary led by volunteer guides. The pandemic meant enacting safety restrictions, which limited the number of guests that could be safely accommodated. The sanctuary has since made the switch to pre-arranged private family and small-group tours. Having to adapt to change and challenge is all part of the process and Wallace-Griner remains positive. She sees Safe in Austin as a work in progress, never losing sight of the sanctuary’s ultimate goals of healing, acceptance, and unconditional love.
Having to adapt to change and challenge is all part of the process and Wallace-Griner remains positive. She sees Safe in Austin as a work in progress, never losing sight of the sanctuary’s ultimate goals of healing, acceptance, and unconditional love.

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10 months ago · by · Comments Off on Single Foster Dad Adopts 5 Siblings To Keep Them Together

Single Foster Dad Adopts 5 Siblings To Keep Them Together

Single foster dad Robert Carter decided to adopt an entire brood of five siblings to keep them together. Carter, 29, spent years in the Ohio foster care system himself so he knew only too well what it was like to lose touch with loved ones. He entered the system at age 12 and wasn’t reunited with his younger sister and brother until years later when they were teens. Carter was emancipated and granted custody of a younger sister and guardianship of a younger brother, he said. The emotional trauma of the experience fueled his desire to shield other kids from similar distress and provide them with a safe home.

Prior to the adoption, Carter was already fostering the three brothers and the two sisters were each being fostered in separate homes. When he arranged for the girls and their foster moms to meet up so the children wouldn’t lose touch with one another, he realized how distressed they all were at the end of the visit and he knew there was only one course of action. The children Carter adopted are Marionna, 10, Robert, 9, Makayla, 8, Giovanni, 5, and Kiontae, 4.

Carter became a licensed foster parent in 2017 and the three boys, Robert, Giovanni and Kiontae were placed with him in December 2018. The siblings, who he said came from a neglectful home, were reunited after not seeing each other for six months. “Once I did find out they had sisters, that’s when I started to advocate to set up visitations.” Carter said. Marionna and Makayla were later placed in Carter’s home with their brothers.

Caseworker Stacey Barton said “Mr. Carter was the only foster parent willing and able to adopt all of the children and his childhood background has made him aware of the importance of keeping siblings together. He says that he enjoys being their father and that parenting them is easier than he could have ever imagined. His life is busy, with a lot of love, laughter and loudness. I have enjoyed working with him and witnessing the children bond as siblings.”

Carter said he was the third oldest of the nine kids in his own family and he took on a parenting role before he entered foster care. “I was the parent figure and was the one trying to feed my siblings and going out trying to find food to eat.” Carter said he sees a lot of himself in Marionna, the oldest, “She’s the mother figure to the kids,” he explained. “But I won’t even let her make them a bowl of cereal now because that’s not her responsibility. She’s done it for too long when she shouldn’t have had to in the first place.”

With all the attention his family’s story is getting, he wants people to know how important fostering and adoption are. “Just the fact that they’re together, the fact that they have something that will help them remember their past… It’s beautiful to watch them grow up together and make memories together. As long as you have the means and love to give to kids, then anybody can do it,” he said. Right now, Carter is concentrating on earning his children’s trust and assuring them. “Every night, I talk to them and let them know, ‘I’m your dad forever. I know what it’s like, and I’m always here for you.’”

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