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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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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on JPMorgan Chase Commit to $5 Million Grant for Open Air Economy Collaborative

JPMorgan Chase Commit to $5 Million Grant for Open Air Economy Collaborative

JPMorgan Chase announced a three-year, $5 million commitment to support the Open Air Economy Collaborative, a partnership of LA community organizations including Inclusive Action for the City (IAC), California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC), Public Counsel, and East LA Community Corporation (ELACC). The commitment will help local Black and Latina street vendors strengthen their businesses.

It will provide economic opportunities for low-income and immigrant workers, and play an important role to promote food access across Los Angeles County. This three-year philanthropic investment in Los Angeles is part of JPMorgan Chase’s $30 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equity.

The Open Air Economy Collaborative will provide 500 street vendors and other micro-entrepreneurs with one-on-one coaching and over 200 vendors with low-interest loans. The community organizations will also help the small business owners address barriers frequently encountered when navigating the permit approval process, overcoming financial obstacles, and accessing support services.

Small business owners across the county scrambled to apply for federal coronavirus stimulus funds but many street vendors didn’t qualify for relief. A study found that there are an estimated 10,000 sidewalk food vendors working in the City of Los Angeles yet only 165 have received permits in 2021. Thousands more vendors sell merchandise and other goods in the open air economy and face a variety of challenges throughout the process of seeking a permit, hindering the majority from formalizing their businesses and accessing critical business development opportunities and services.

Rudy Espinoza, executive director of Inclusive Action for the City, a part of the collaboration, says street vendors are essential to the local economy, but they have difficulty accessing capital. He said the grant will ultimately help out Black and Latina women, who he says are the majority of street vendors in L.A. Espinoza said “We’re emerging from a global pandemic that has disproportionately impacted Black and Latina street vendors and micro-entrepreneurs. For far too long, these entrepreneurs and community leaders have worked on the margins of our economy simply due to the nature of how they earn their livelihood in the open air economy.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on NBA Basketball Star Donates Full Salary to Build Hospital in DR Congo to Honor Father

NBA Basketball Star Donates Full Salary to Build Hospital in DR Congo to Honor Father

NBA star Bismack Biyombo is donating his NBA seasonal salary to build a hospital in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The 29-year-old Phoenix Suns said the donation is in honor of his late father who passed away in 2021. The hospital is being built in their native country and will be named after his father Francois Biyombo .

Biyombo took last season off to care for his sick father, who passed away in August of 2021. Returning to the NBA after a year as a free agent, Biyombo signed a one-year contract with the Phoenix Suns two months ago. He announced he will donate the entire $1.3 million value of his contract to the construction of the hospital in his home town in Congo.

Biyombo said he became aware of just how fortunate he was simply to be able to bring his father to the hospital. Biyombo said building the hospital in his father’s name will consolidate his legacy whilst helping those in need back home. The construction will be carried out through the Bismack Biyombo Foundation, which uses the star’s success as an NBA player to help those in the DR Congo.

During the early pandemic, the Foundation delivered $1 million in medical supplies to hospitals across the country. The Foundation focuses on creating initiatives in athletics, education, and health to increase opportunities for children in the DRC:. The foundation’s work has resulted in 185 annually-granted scholarships, 150 higher education opportunities, and helps over a thousand patients every week receive treatment at Congolese hospitals.

“He was my everything — my friend, my business partner, my mentor and everything. This year, to give my father a gift that will continue to service people, my salary for this season will be going towards the construction of a hospital that will be named after my dad back home to give hope to the hopeless and for those individuals that can not take their family out. The idea is to give them better conditions so that they can somewhat have hope that their loved ones could potentially be able to leave and see another day” Biyombo said.

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Tik Toker Raises $20,000 for Christmas Gifts

Tik Toker Raises $20,000 for Christmas Gifts

Thanks to the kindness and determination of one woman, Christmas came early at Happy Valley Elementary School in Johnson City, Tn. Mariah Walker moved to Tennessee three months ago and jumped headfirst into helping the community. Walker, who moved from California, had asked her Tik Tok followers last year to help sponsor foster kids for Christmas. “We came from California and last year, we helped some kids in foster care, like 10 of them at a local foster agency,” said Walker. “When I came here, I knew I wanted to do the same thing.”

She was already working with The Rise Up program when a chance conversation with their Amazon driver, Donnie, led her to Happy Valley Elementary. Walker’s husband told Donnie they were looking for more children to sponsor. Donnie suggested there was some need at Happy Valley Elementary, where his wife Becky works as a secretary. She once again turned to her 144,000 Tik Tok followers for help and raised $20,000 for Christmas gifts.

“I put videos out on TikTok and all my followers just bought gifts for all the kids or donated money,” said Walker. “They donated like $20,000.” Local businesses also pitched in. Walker said she got 400 gift cards from Owl’s Nest, and they donated another 50 for free and that Open Doors gave her a discount on the gift card. Walker raised enough not only to give each Happy Valley Elementary schooler a toy, book or coloring book, and candy. She also gave each and every Happy Valley Middle and High schooler a gift card. Almost 700 gift cards in total. Walker incorporated the help of a local youth group to wrap the hundreds of presents before the big day.

The gifts weren’t Walker’s only gift to the school. According to Greer, Walker and her followers bought $2,000 in books for the Happy Valley Elementary School library during their book fair earlier this fall. Happy Valley Elementary School Principal Mandy Greer said they managed to keep this a secret from the students. Greer said they are thankful for not only the gifts, but the outpouring of love from Walker, her followers, and the local community.

Before Walker “went viral,” last year she had around 8,000 followers, accrued through content meant to uplift and connect those in relatable situations. Walker said she enjoys watching and creating content related to parenting because it provides opportunities for human connection as well as escape from chaotic reality. Walker said when she asked for help sponsoring foster kids last year she realized the community building potential of Tik Tok.

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9 months ago · by · Comments Off on Surprise Adoption Request Goes Viral

Surprise Adoption Request Goes Viral

Daniel Donaldson and his family had always left the decision up to their foster daughter if she would like to become legally adopted. Donaldson, who has been a youth sports coach in Haleyville, Alabama, for many years, became a mentor and friend to 14-year-old Alecia after coaching her in 2019. After he became aware of Alecia’s foster care experience, the family said they didn’t hesitate to take her in.

A few months before Donaldson’s birthday, Alecia asked his wife Tiffany Donaldson to make it official. Together they planned a birthday surprise to make it official. On Donaldson’s birthday, Tiffany Donaldson, their three other children and Alecia, blindfolded him and lined up with a series of signs to share the good news.

They recorded the special moment where they blindfolded Daniel and asked him to help hold signs. The signs said: This man here started out as just my coach. But he stepped up when he didn’t have to. He is now not only my coach. My encourager, my protector, my provider, but now the man I call daddy. I have been part of this family for 524 days, but today for his birthday, I want to ask if we can make it official. He has no clue that I’m about to ask him to adopt me!

His family then lined up behind him and asked Daniel to take off the blind fold to read the final note. “ Let’s Make It Official. Will You Adopt Me? When Donaldson took off the blindfold and read the signs he was overcome with emotion and gave his new daughter a hug.

Daniel said when he learned of Alecia’s foster care experience it just felt natural to help her and she’s bonded with his three sons over the years. He said they have always left it up to her if she wanted to make it official so he was taken by surprise when he took off his blindfold. “They always crack on me about my age so I just thought it was a prank about me being old or something.” Alecia said of the happy moment that went viral “I will always remember that day and the hug he gave me. When he hugged me I felt so happy and safe.”

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12 months ago · by · Comments Off on Jaden Smith to Expand on Initiative to Feed Homeless

Jaden Smith to Expand on Initiative to Feed Homeless

Two years ago, to commemorate his 21st birthday, actor Jaden Smith launched the I Love You Restaurant, a vegan food truck initiative to combat food insecurity for Los Angeles’ homeless. Smith’s vegan meals found their way to 8,000 of L.A. ‘s Skid Row residents. Eventually, I Love You’s efforts were expanded to serve at-risk residents in Harlem, New York City.

“Our mission is to spread love to communities experiencing food and/or housing insecurity by offering water along with fresh, high-quality, and delicious sustainable meal options,” his food website explains. When the pandemic hit Smith’s organization continued to donate vegan food but also distributed masks, clothes, hand sanitizer, and other essential items.

Smith is now pivoting his I Love You concept yet again with plans for a more permanent version of his restaurant on the table, bringing the success of his past efforts into the next phase. The “pay as you can” philosophy welcomes anyone to partake of the yet-to-be-announced location’s fare. Those who can afford the suggested menu prices will be in effect subsidizing meals for those who can’t.

The I Love You Restaurant is just one of Smith’s philanthropic projects. In 2019, through his company JUST Goods Inc., he led an initiative centered on bringing a water filtration system to Flint, Michigan. The company joined forces with Flint’s First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church to implement a system called “The Water Box” which helped reduce lead and other toxic chemicals in contaminated water.

In 2018, he also led an effort to donate water each month to the city’s schools until the water was safe to drink which led to thousands of bottles being donated to Flint schools. “I want to have something I can feel good about that I can feel like it’s changing the world. I’m not only being neutral with the world, I’m actually making the world a better place. I’ve just always wanted to be an advocate of humanity” Smith said.

Initiatives like Smith’s are instrumental in evoking change. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are over 500,000 people in the United States experiencing homelessness on a given night. Feeding America reported that in 2017 nearly 40 million Americans—including over 12 million youngsters—lacked access to food.

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12 months ago · by · Comments Off on Teacher Who Disarmed Idaho Shooter Praised For Her Compassion

Teacher Who Disarmed Idaho Shooter Praised For Her Compassion

When a student opened fire at an Idaho middle school, teacher Krista Gneiting directed children to safety, rushed to help a wounded victim, and then disarmed the shooter, hugging and consoling the girl until police arrived. The community crediting Gneiting’s display of compassion with saving lives. Police said a sixth-grade girl brought the handgun in her backpack and shot two people inside the school and one outside. All three were wounded in their limbs and released from the hospital within a few days.

Gneiting, a math teacher at Rigby Middle School was preparing her students for their final exams on the morning of May 6 when she said she heard a gunshot from down the hall. She said she looked outside her classroom and saw the school’s janitor lying on the floor at the end of the hallway. She said she shut the door as she heard two more gunshots.

“So I just told my students, ‘We are going to leave, we’re going to run to the high school, you’re going to run hard, you’re not going to look back, and now is the time to get up and go'” Gneiting said. Gneiting said she was trying to help one of the students who had been shot when she saw the girl holding the gun. She told the wounded student to stay still and approached the sixth-grader.

“It was a little girl, and my brain couldn’t quite grasp that. I just knew when I saw that gun, I had to get the gun” Gneiting said. She asked the girl, “Are you the shooter?” and then walked closer, putting her hand on the child’s arm and sliding it down to the gun. “I just slowly pulled the gun out of her hand, and she allowed me to. She didn’t give it to me, but she didn’t fight. After I got the gun, I just pulled her into a hug because I thought, this little girl has a mom somewhere that doesn’t realize she’s having a breakdown and she’s hurting people.”

Gneiting held the girl, consoling her until police arrived. The girl has been charged in the shooting, but because juvenile court proceedings are kept sealed in Idaho, neither her name nor the nature of the charges has been released. Meanwhile, Krista Gneiting hopes people can forgive the girl and help her get the support she needs. “She is just barely starting in life and she just needs some help. Everybody makes mistakes,” she said. “I think we need to make sure we get her help and get her back into where she loves herself so that she can function in society.”

Krista’s brother in law Layne Gneiting posted on his facebook “My sister-in-law, Krista, who took the gun from the little girl who fired it, is more of a hero than I thought. The tender tale is hers to tell but I’ll say this: it’ll break your heart. Krista is a born mother. Mess with her kids she’ll rip you apart. Need a hug she’ll hold you for hours, mingling her tears with yours.
I naively believed the mother bear had raged into action. Not so. Determination pushed her to act, but tenderness and motherly love-not force-lifted the gun from the girl’s hand to hers. I’ve called Krista a hero but the word pales. She’s a guardian angel.”

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1 year ago · by · Comments Off on Humble Hero Who Saved Maryland Toddler Identified

Humble Hero Who Saved Maryland Toddler Identified

Maryland father Jonathan Bauer is being hailed a hero for his heroic rescue of a toddler from Assawoman Bay in Ocean City, Maryland. Bauer was driving home from running errands on the Ocean City bridge with his 13 year old daughter when he was involved in a multi-car pileup on an overpass. He checked on his daughter and got out of his vehicle to help someone trying to get out of the trunk that was hanging over the side of bridge.

That’s when he heard people yelling for help and saw the 2 year old girl who had been ejected from another car involved in the pileup. Bauer said the girl was in the water about six feet away from her car seat floating perfectly on her back, head completely out of the water, arms moving and legs kicking, in a little pink dress. In a matter of seconds the little girl flipped over on her stomach with her face in the water so Bauer jumped 25 feet into the water.

Bauer said he reached her just as she was starting to sink and he lifted her out of the water. Her mouth was open, her eyes were semi-open so he put her against his shoulder and aggressively patted her on the back. Within seconds she spit up a bunch of water, started coughing and took a deep breath. Bauer said “I just kept patting her and she would cough and then spit up a little bit more water.”

Two good samaritan boaters, Joe and Alayna Oertel, had seen the accident and headed to Bauer when they saw him jump into the water. When the Oertel’s reached Bauer he handed the toddler to the boaters and she was airlifted to a local hospital for treatment. The Oertel’s recalled pulling Bauer and the girl to safety during a Today show appearance. “He didn’t say anything. He was just so shocked of what happened.” said Alayna. Joe added that Bauer “was in some tremendous shock himself. It says a lot about some people’s demeanor, just doing the right thing when you got to do it.”

Police say the girl is expected to make a full recovery. Seven others in the crash have since been treated at hospitals and released. Initially after the accident, Bauer did not want to be identified. Ocean City emergency responders met with Jonathan Bauer, who shared his story publicly for the first time since the crash May 2.

Ocean City Mayor Richard W. Meehan and Ocean City Fire Chief Richard Bowers called Bauer a “humble hero” for putting his own life on the line by plunging into the shallow water from that high up. “What he did was without question a heroic thing, and very courageous thing to jump over the railing, down 25 to 30 feet into open water,” Bowers said.

Bauer’s wife said “I can’t say how proud I am of him. It doesn’t surprise me. If you know him, that is something he would do.”

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1 year ago · by · Comments Off on California Woman Has Fostered Over 80 Babies

California Woman Has Fostered Over 80 Babies

A Hayward, California woman has been a mother to more than 80 babies over the years through foster care.  Linda Owens has cared for 81 infants in the 34 years she has been a resource parent.  The 78-year-old retired grocery department manager fosters the babies as a single parent and she remembers them all.  She keeps a supply of baby gear and clothes on hand; some, bought with her own money. 

Owens said “It’s a challenging job, but very rewarding.  This is what God’s handed me a gift to do,” said Owens, who has loved taking care of babies since childhood.  Sometimes she fosters two infants at a time.  A number of the newborns come to her exposed to drugs in the womb. Some have developmental delays and many don’t sleep through the night.

Among the county’s 500 resource parents, Owens is one of the longest-serving.  Mia Buckner-Preston is the Placement Division Director of the Alameda County Department of Children & Family Services, which places children in foster homes.  “Her experience, the care, the love she provides to the babies, it’s immeasurable.  She’s in a category almost all by herself.” said Buckner-Preston.  That experience shows according to pediatrician Mika Hiramatsu. Owens has brought many babies to her over the years.  “She’s always been very optimistic, always determined to give these babies the best possible start in their lives,” said Dr. Hiramatsu. 

According to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families, 7% of all children in the system are under the age of one and the average age of children in foster care is about 8 years old.  From October 2018 to September 2019, there were 672,594 children served by the U.S. foster care system.  During that time, 254,359 entered the system and 248,669 have exited the system. The Statistics from Adoption Network show 140,000 children are adopted in the U.S. every year and 59% come from the foster care system, 26% from foreign countries and 15% are voluntarily relinquished. 

When Owens job is done and it’s time to turn the babies over to their birth or adoptive families, letting go can be heartbreaking but she’s giving them and their parents the best possible start.  The oldest of the babies she’s fostered is now 37.  Owens has loved taking care of children since she was a child herself and it shows through her over three decades of work with the foster care system.

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1 year ago · by · Comments Off on Edmunton Restaurant Has Served 32000 Free Meals During Pandemic

Edmunton Restaurant Has Served 32000 Free Meals During Pandemic

When the pandemic caused businesses across the globe to shut their doors, it thrusted millions into food insecurity but many people of all walks of life did not hesitate to help in any way they could.  Canada Restaurant owner ​​​​​Imran Javaid sprang into action within weeks, offering meals to anyone who was hungry.  He began with about 35 free meals a day and now hands out 100 meals daily.  Over the last year he has provided over 32,000 meals with the only request that people wanting a free meal let the restaurant know in advance.

Javaid partnered with local businessman Varinder Bhullar, whom he met through mutual friends and his Edmonton restaurant, Dil-E-Punjab, had catered some of his business events.  Bhullar is president of Green Scholars of Alberta, an Edmonton non-profit organization that runs summer camps for kids to learn more about their Punjabi and Gujarati cultural roots.  He reached out to Javaid when he saw people struggling with the COVID-19 lockdown early in April 2020, especially people who didn’t have enough money for food while they waited for financial help from the government.

“It’s heartbreaking when someone says, ‘I just could not afford to eat.  We all have to hang in there together and make sure we stick together and help each other” Bhullar said.  Javaid’s restaurant was initially closed during the lockdown for renovations but after hearing Bhullar’s idea, he finished the work and served the first free meals on April 10. 

Now, the cost of the meals are partially covered by community donations and provincial government assistance.  The giving goes beyond the restaurant as many who were helped have found jobs and make donations to help.  Bhullar said other organizations, restaurants and community members have reached out to help. 

Christina Usborne met Bhullar while volunteering at the Old Strathcona Peace Camp last summer. After it was closed, she wanted to continue to help, so the two partnered together.  Through donations from residents and other restaurants, she now delivers over 100 meals a week to people who are experiencing homelessness.

The hope is one day there will no longer be a need, but as long as people are hungry, Bhullar wants to help.  “It tells me there is a lot of poverty out there, a lot of hunger. A lot of people working that are on benefits but not enough to survive,” he said.

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