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8 hours ago · by · Comments Off on Chicago Neighborhood to Become Energy Efficient with Microgrid

Chicago Neighborhood to Become Energy Efficient with Microgrid

A Chicago neighborhood has created a microgrid to become energy efficient. The Bronzeville Community Microgrid combines rooftop solar, natural gas-fired generators and batteries to produce and store energy at a local level. Once fully operational, it will render the entire neighborhood “energy independent,” giving it the ability to disconnect from and reconnect to Chicago’s citywide grid at will.

The microgrid is part of a $25 million initiative, including $5 million in Department of Energy grants and is the first neighborhood microgrid in the US. ComEd plans to have the system up and running by early 2023, not just for emergencies but also to balance and optimize the interplay of distributed energy resources with the larger grid.

The microgrid also has become a blueprint for reducing communities’ contribution to climate change. This is due to the fact that the system gives its operators the ability, at scale, to introduce more renewables into its energy mix while reducing “line loss,” the electricity lost as it travels across power lines.

Along with the microgrid, ComEd has sponsored community-related activities, off-grid and solar-powered streetlights and free Wi-Fi throughout the service area. The community will also have freestanding digital kiosks providing community-related news and energy-related information.

The neighborhood also has an advisory council, The Bronzeville Community of the Future, which is composed of approximately two dozen individuals and organization leaders from a broad range of organizations. They have formal sessions quarterly and frequent informal meetings to keep stakeholders and residents informed about the initiative. The initiative has been years in the making and ComEd also hosted an Ideathon in 2018, 2019 and a virtual format in 2020 for Bronzeville-area high school students to design smart city and smart grid projects using STEM skills.

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2 days ago · by · Comments Off on Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott Makes $122 Million Donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott Makes $122 Million Donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has made the biggest donation in the 118-year history of Big Brothers Big Sisters. The organization announced that the billionaire philanthropist has donated $122.6 million. The massive donation will be divided among 38 agencies, which is what the organization calls its local chapters.

The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization has been fostering one-on-one relationships between kids and their adult mentors across the country for more than a century. The goal is to help children achieve their potential through long-lasting, positive relationships. The organization has mentoring programs that are community-based, school-based, for children of military families and children with incarcerated parents.

With the nation’s largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network, they make meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers (“Bigs”) and children (“Littles”), ages 5 through young adulthood in communities across the country. Artis Stevens, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America said “We are incredibly grateful and humbled by MacKenzie’s generosity and acknowledgement of the incredible work of our passionate professionals and volunteers who are unwavering in their commitment to create meaningful outcomes for young people today and for generations to come,”

Scott’s donation is the latest in her extensive philanthropic work. Since pledging to give away most of her fortune, the ex-wife of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has given more than $12 billion to more than 1,200 organizations over the past three years. In March, Scott revealed she donated $3.9 billion to various organizations including Planned Parenthood and Habitat for Humanity.

Last year, Scott announced giving away $2.7 billion to 286 organizations including the Children’s Defense Fund and National Equity Project. In 2020, Scott made two big donations of $1.7 billion to diverse organizations including historically Black colleges and universities, and another $4.2 billion to groups providing services including food banks and debt relief.

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6 days ago · by · Comments Off on Good Samaritans Recognized for Saving Florida Woman Having Medical Emergency In Her Car

Good Samaritans Recognized for Saving Florida Woman Having Medical Emergency In Her Car

A video of Good Samaritans in Florida rushing to help a driver experiencing a medical emergency in her car went viral. The rescue happened on May 5th and the video shows several people springing into action after witnessing a gray car slowly roll into an intersection with its driver, Laurie Rabyor, unconscious at the steering wheel.

A press conference was held where Florida’s Boynton Beach Police Department recognized Jannette Rivera, Juan Chavez Jr., Michael Edelstein, David Formica, DaVida Peele, Marko Bartolone, Muriel Vaughns and Robin Fox for their quick thinking and courage. The press conference was the culmination of tracking down those who had helped. Each person was awarded a Royal Caribbean cruise and a $2,000 gift card, plus flowers.

Jannette Rivera, a co-worker of Rabyor’s had seen Rabyor slumped over her steering wheel, jumped into the street and began waving her arms to attract the attention of other motorists.
Several individuals, including Edelstein, leaped into action to find a way to stop the car, put it into park and then push it into a nearby 7-Eleven parking lot. A nurse there helped Rabyor until the fire department arrived.

Marko Bartolone said “I saw a lady chasing a car through an intersection in South Florida … and I thought, ‘Wow, she’s really mad at that other lady!. I figured out what was happening and thought, ‘I really can’t stop a car.’ But then I see Chavez … and I thought, well, with a couple of people, we could probably stop the car. I feel like I just did what anyone would do.” Michael Edelstein said “I’m stunned to be standing here. I was in the right place at the right time. … I was the fool that jumped in front of the car and then tried to punch the window out.”

Rabynor says she doesn’t remember any of it. “They all just came together to help a little old lady and I appreciate it so, so much. … It is so wonderful to see something nice today instead of all this crap that’s going on in the world and even in our community. … It’s so nice to see something nice” she said.

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Planned Bronx Housing Complex Will Have Biodigester Turning Food Waste Into Fertilizer

Planned Bronx Housing Complex Will Have Biodigester Turning Food Waste Into Fertilizer

A new community housing development in the Bronx will feature an on-site biodigester that can turn 1,100 pounds of food scraps into 220 pounds of high-quality fertilizer every single day. A biodigester is basically a big stomach filled with bacteria that breaks down food scraps and wasted food into their component parts. Producing fertilizer right there in the city reduces the need for it to be trucked in from afar.

The Peninsula, organized by Gilbane Development Company, was selected to transform the former Spofford Juvenile Detention Center in the Bronx’s Hunts Point community into a 5-acre campus featuring 100% affordable housing, good jobs, and recreational space. The complex
will feature 740 units of affordable housing, 50,000 square-foot light industrial space and equal sized green space, and 15,000 feet of commercial space, all of which will send their food scraps into the digester.

Built by Harp Renewables, the biodigester will be the first ever in a New York residential building. Each year, nearly 4 million tons of New York’s organic waste end up in landfills. Digesters have the potential to turn one of building owners’ biggest problems into a payday and have the potential to become a standard part of all apartment units as the amount of food waste in America reaches 30% of the total mass of all trash collection.

Another problem these aerobic or bio-digesters could potentially help is pollution and greenhouse gas emissions since fertilizer is a big emitter of all three of the most-targeted GHGs. Food scraps emit more greenhouse gasses in the U.S. than airplanes but biodigesters are clean eaters. They don’t emit carbon dioxide or methane, and their output replaces synthetic fertilizers. Bio-digesters by design keep the CO2 and methane in the fertilizer produced, rather than it entering the atmosphere.

Fertilizer, like quarry dust and ammonia is often imported from countries who specialize in its production, such as Norway, but also Russia and Ukraine, whose conflict has recently highlighted the fragility of the supply chain with sharp price increases. This importation means thousands of tons of CO2 gets emitted during transportation.

The U.S. has over 2,200 biodigesters in all 50 states; 250 digesters on farms, 1,269 water resource recovery facilities are using biodigesters and 66 stand-alone systems. More than half of those used on farms and in industrial facilities are an energy resource for producing electricity or usable heat for operations at the facility. Biodigesters are slowly making their way into residential and industrial spaces around the country because they combat several issues. Digesters can last for decades if used correctly, paying off their initial investment and generating long-lasting returns.

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on 2019 EuroMillions Winners Say They’ve Given Most of Winnings to Charity

2019 EuroMillions Winners Say They’ve Given Most of Winnings to Charity

Frances and Patrick Connelly won more than $145 million (£115) million in the lottery in 2019 and the self-confessed charity addicts say they’ve already given away half of it. Frances is a former social worker and teacher. She said winning the EuroMillions 2019 jackpot gave her all kinds of ideas on how to help people so after helping friends and family-the couple immediately set up two professional charities.

One is named after Frances’ late mother Kathleen Graham in her native Northern Ireland and the other is PFC Trust which supports organizations that support the elderly, refugees and others in her hometown. Connelly has been helping people since childhood. She volunteered with St. John’s Ambulance as a child and set up an AIDS helpline while a student in Belfast. She runs several community groups that do a variety of work—from helping refugees to providing seniors with tablets so they can video call their families.

In an interview, Frances said “Helping people… it just gives you a buzz. I’m addicted to it now.” Patty said when they won the couple sat down and he told Frances to go ahead and make a list of her charity ideas. In terms of personal treats, they did buy a new house—a six-bedroom home in Durham with seven acres of land. Frances said that most of the big money ideas have already been given out and that she has a yearly charity budget for the allocation.

She said she wasn’t overwhelmed with the large winnings, but rather recalled all those conversations she had had throughout her life about what would you do if you won the lottery so the hierarchy of helping was well established. She said she balks at the idea of spending money on luxuries like yachts, saying reports of people spending $25,000 on a bottle of champagne make her think the money could have helped someone buy a house.

The Connolly’s agree that winning a huge amount of money might change a person’s life but it does not alter their personality. Frances said “If I had any advice for a winner… I’d say money liberates you to be the person that you want to be. If you’re stupid before you get it, you’re going to be stupid afterwards.”

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Call of Duty Endowment Reaches Goal of Putting 100K Vets Back to Work 2 Years Early

Call of Duty Endowment Reaches Goal of Putting 100K Vets Back to Work 2 Years Early

Since the first release of the Call of Duty video game in 2003, the game series has received universal acclaim. The ongoing series holds the Guinness World Record as the best-selling games of their kind. In 2009, the game’s publisher Activision Blizzard launched Call of Duty Endowment, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to getting unemployed veterans back to work. They have intensely supported veteran employment efforts and committed to funding the placement of 100,000 vets into high-quality jobs by 2024 through the Call of Duty Endowment.

The Endowment also expanded its support internationally to the United Kingdom in 2017, attempting to help more of those who have served their nation in uniform to find meaningful careers. In addition to supporting its grantees, they committed to highlighting high performance in the veteran employment through its Seal of Distinction program, which provides both a $30,000 prize and national recognition to winners of the award.

Last month the nonprofit reached its goal of placing 100,000 vets two years ahead of schedule. To mark the occasion—and the start of Military Appreciation Month—Activision Blizzard has committed an additional $30 million in funding to support the program moving forward. Over the last twelve years, the Call of Duty Endowment says it has partnered with the most effective nonprofit veterans organizations in both the US and UK to deliver high value job placements, a service most requested by veterans.

They use a performance-driven approach to fund organizations delivering the highest standards of quality and cost-efficient veteran job placement services. Activision Blizzard pays for all the Endowment’s overhead costs and 100% of all donations received go directly to Endowment grantees. Co-chairman General James Jones, a former National Security Advisor and retired US Marine Corps commander said “To put 100,000 placements in perspective, the entire active-duty Marine Corps is made up of more than 178,000 people. While reaching 100,000 placements two years earlier than our goal is an accomplishment to be proud of, there is much more we can and should be doing to support our veterans as they transition to civilian employment.”

Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard and Co-Founder of the Endowment said “To date, we have invested over $60 million in support of veterans employment initiatives. With our even more efficient programs we expect to generate another 50,000 job placements through Call of Duty Endowment grants.” One of the leading charities supported by the grants is VetJobs. Their mission has received funding that led to more than 48,000 of its 77,000 placements. VetJobs CEO Rear Admiral Dan Kloeppel, U.S. Navy (retired) said “There is no better, more supportive resource for veteran job placement than the Call of Duty Endowment,”

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Former Refugee Finally Finds Woman Who Gave Her $100 on a Plane Decades Ago

Former Refugee Finally Finds Woman Who Gave Her $100 on a Plane Decades Ago

One woman’s quest to find a stranger whose act of kindness years ago has helped shape who she is today, has finally come to an end. Ayda Zugay was an almost 12-year-old refugee fleeing the former Yugoslavia with her 17 year old sister when a stranger handed them the envelope on a flight to the United States in 1999. The woman made them promise not to open it until they got off the plane. Inside, the girls found dangly earrings and a $100 bill. A note in the envelope said “I am so sorry that the bombing of your country has caused your family any problems. I hope your stay in America will be a safe and happy one for you — Welcome to America — please use this to help you here. A friend from the plane — TRACY ”

Zugay says that money helped feed them for an entire summer. The two girls scraped by staying with their brother, who was a college student in Iowa at the time. And it’s still shaping the way both sisters live their lives 23 years later. She still remembers how she felt the first time she read the message on the envelope and how the word “safe” was underlined. “It was the first time that I felt, like, relief. This is a safe place, and we can build a future here,” she says. “I think that’s why the letter really resonated with me at that time, because we went from like this drastic horror into this beautiful act of kindness” she said.

Every year, on the anniversary of her arrival in the US, Zugay renewed her search to find her. Recently, Zugay’s video searching for Tracy was shared by Refugees International’s Twitter page and it went viral. She shared clues in the video such as “Tracy” was traveling with a friend and they both appeared to be in their late 30s or early 40s. One was a brunette with a ponytail and the other had mid-length blonde hair. Both women toted tennis rackets and they both spoke about playing tennis in Paris. She believed they may have lived in Minnesota, possibly within a few hours of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. The flight they met on was from Amsterdam to Minnesota on May 31, 1999.

Her years-long search finally came to an end when Tracy Peck, a 70-year-old massage therapist living in Minneapolis received a series of texts and calls — first from her tennis coach, then from her best friend. “Have you seen the CNN story?” both of them asked. “That has to be you.” Peck had no idea what they were talking about but she pulled over and opened the link they’d sent. A picture of a letter popped onto Peck’s iPhone screen. As soon as she saw it, she says, memories from a plane ride 23 years ago came rushing back and how frightened the sisters seemed. She said they reminded her of her own daughters and their experience fleeing war was heartbreaking, unlike anything she’d ever dealt with.

She cried as she read how the gift had changed their lives. With the help of friends and family with a whirlwind of tweets, emails and texts- less than a day later, Peck and the sisters reunited on an emotional Zoom call. Peck said she’s forever changed by hearing this latest chapter in their story. “It warms my heart beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life,” she said. Peck says she’d worked to teach her children to be kind, telling them you never know how your actions might affect others but she never imagined she’d experience such a stunning example of how truly important an act of kindness can be.

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on No Mow May Movement Spreading in US

No Mow May Movement Spreading in US

If you ever needed a reason to skip mowing the lawn, saving the bees seems a commendable reason. No Mow May, is a movement that began in the United Kingdom and is now rapidly spreading throughout the United States. The Bee population has been dwindling which is not good for our ecological system. No Mow May’s popularity lies in its simplicity: Just give bees a leg up during the crucial springtime by crossing a chore off your list and letting your lawn grow for the month of May.

In North America, a quarter of our native bee species are at risk of extinction. Bees pollinate 35 percent of our global food supply, and many of the wild plants our ecosystems depend on. Backyard bee conservation is all the buzz these days, with people planting native pollinator gardens, installing bee houses, and participating in citizen science endeavors to monitor local bee populations.

Letting your lawn grow lets “lawn flowers,” such as dandelions, clover, and violets, bloom at a time when bee food is scarce. In many communities, grass height is limited to eight or 10 inches, but those that have adopted No Mow May will suspend enforcement of these restrictions for the month. If this is the case in your community, make sure to cut your grass at the end of the month.

Yard signs are also helpful for informing others that your wild lawn means that you’re helping the bees and are not a neglectful homeowner. Many communities that adopt No Mow May, such as Appleton, Wisconsin, and Edina, Minnesota, provide free yard signs. Dr. Israel Del Toro, one of the originators of the US No Mow May movement said “To avoid misunderstandings, talk to your neighbor; talk to your community; get the word out about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and generally you’ll find a lot of good allies.”

If you’re unsure whether your community has adopted No Mow May you can call your city or homeowners association to determine what rules are in place. If your community hasn’t adopted No Mow May, but you still want to participate, try laying off the mower until your grass reaches your community’s maximum allowed grass height. This will allow flowers to bloom for at least a little while.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Cape Town Bartender Hailed Hero For Saving People Swept Out to Sea

Cape Town Bartender Hailed Hero For Saving People Swept Out to Sea

Tongai Matandirotya, a bartender turned hero, who works at Brass Bell Restaurant near Cape Town South Africa left behind any thoughts of his own safety to dive into the cold Atlantic ocean to rescue a mother and daughter swept off the pier by a rogue wave. It was a relatively calm day and several people were walking by the window of Brass Bells looking out to the water when a huge wave came over the harbor and pulled them into the ocean.

Clair Gardiner and her 8-year-old daughter Arya van Hilten were two of the people swept away. Gardiner knew they were being pulled into the water as soon as the wave rushed over them, and she managed to wrap her arms around little Arya. Matandirotya saw it happen and dropped the drink he was pouring, ran outside and dove into the cold Atlantic Ocean.

The ferocity of the waves had pulled Gardiner and Arya apart. Matandirotya used his belt to rescue Arya who wasn’t able to stay afloat by herself. Gardiner said she went back to the restaurant to thank him “I didn’t know who saved us but my daughter recognized him immediately, and we all embraced each other. We are so thankful to Tongai and the tourist man who risked their lives to save ours; we’ll forever be grateful to them.”

Matandirotya, along with another man, also saved Angela Campbell, 75, who was also swept away that day while taking a stroll with her family. “I looked around and realized I was in the water. I panicked! Eventually, I managed to turn over, but I then started sinking. I remember talking to myself, saying ‘God make it quick, I’m scared’. Campbell said that besides her life being saved, she was more thankful that her grandson was not in the buggy that she was pushing when the wave hit her.

Matandirotya told news outlets he dove in because he saw a child (Aryna) go in and he has a very soft spot for kids and his instinct to help just kicked in. Brass Bell restaurant spokesperson Ethan Govender said the staff and management team were impressed by Matandirotya’s bravery. “We applaud him for his braveness in jumping into action to save those that fell into the ocean. Tongai is a wonderful, loveable, fun human being. His character speaks volumes, and we are immensely proud of the risk he took in saving lives.”

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on California Community Composting Program’s Success Spurs Other States To Follow

California Community Composting Program’s Success Spurs Other States To Follow

California leads the nation in food production, which requires a lot of water and new water restrictions issued for millions of residents of Southern California highlighted the need to make agriculture more efficient.  A new statewide composting mandate is providing the solution.  They became the second state in the nation after Vermont to make large-scale composting required by law.

Food waste makes up nearly 20% of the stuff in our landfills. When that food decomposes, it releases methane; tens of times more potent than carbon dioxide, it’s one of the main greenhouse gasses fueling the climate crisis, and landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.

More than 200 cities across the country, and many universities, have followed San Francisco’s lead and implemented curbside collection of food scraps for composting. In compliance with the new law—(SB 1383) requiring California cities to reduce landfilling of compostable materials by 75 percent by 2025—cities up and down California are establishing curbside programs that provide bins for food scraps, sticks, and leaves, so they can be turned into ‘black gold’ compost for farmers.

City composting programs produce thousands of truckloads of finished compost that go onto farms, orchards, and vineyards, creating a natural sponge that attracts and retains moisture. When citizens dump their coffee grounds and banana peels into a bin for pick up, they are feeding the soil, while guarding against water shortages and farms can grow up to 40 percent more food in times of drought when they use compost.  

San Francisco’s pioneering food scrap collection program, which was labeled as something that would never work, created momentum for the statewide program.  That citywide green-bin program has diverted 2.5 million tons of compostable material from the landfill, which not only saved landfill space and eliminated thousands of tons of methane emissions, but also helped local farms grow more healthy food, using less water and less fertilizer.

Delegations from 135 counties have traveled to San Francisco to view this program firsthand, which was implemented later at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, in Marin County and 11 cities in San Mateo County. Other cities adopting the trend—Portland, Seattle, Denver and Boulder, St. Paul and Minneapolis, Baltimore, Anchorage, Eugene, Cambridge, and Ann Arbor, Michigan—proving the program is a WIN for landfills, farmers, and the planet.

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