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2 days ago · by · Comments Off on British War Veteran Raised Millions During Pandemic

British War Veteran Raised Millions During Pandemic

Captain Thomas Moore, a British World War II veteran raised money for charity in the run-up to his 100th birthday during the COVID-19 pandemic. On 6 April 2020, at the age of 99, Moore began to walk one hundred lengths of his garden in aid of NHS Charities Together, with the goal of raising 1,000 pounds or $1391 USD by his 100th birthday. In the 24-day course of his fundraising, he made many media appearances and became a popular household name in the UK, earning a number of accolades and attracting over 1.5 million individual donations. By the end of the day on Moore’s hundredth birthday, the total raised by his walk was 32.79 million pounds or $45 million USD.

When his campaign reached 5 million pounds, he explained his motivation “When we started off with this exercise we didn’t anticipate we’d get anything near that sort of money. It’s really amazing. All of them, from top to bottom, in the National Health Service, they deserve everything that we can possibly put in their place. They’re all so brave. Because every morning or every night they’re putting themselves into harm’s way, and I think you’ve got to give them full marks for that effort. We’re a little bit like having a war at the moment. But the doctors and the nurses, they’re all on the front line, and all of us behind, we’ve got to supply them and keep them going with everything that they need, so that they can do their jobs even better than they’re doing now.”

Funds raised by Moore were used on well-being packs for National Health Service staff, facilitating rest and recuperation rooms, devices to enable hospital patients to keep in contact with family members, and community groups who support patients once discharged from hospitals. When his campaign ended, Moore encouraged people to continue to donate, directly to the NHS Charities Together’s urgent appeal.

Moore’s selfless pursuit captured hearts around the world, including that of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who called him “a beacon of light through the fog of coronavirus.” So many cards had been sent to him during the last two weeks before his 100th birthday that Royal Mail had to introduce dedicated sorting facilities and around 20 volunteers were recruited to open and display them, at the local Bedford School. On the morning of his birthday, a Hawker Hurricane and a Spitfire from the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight performed a flypast over Moore’s house. In the afternoon, a second flypast featured two Army Air Corps helicopters, a Wildcat and an Apache.

Murals were created in his honor, a bus company named one of its buses Captain Tom Moore on and reprogrammed the electronic displays to show a “Thank You Captain Tom” message intermittently in between the vehicle’s route and destination. On 17 July 2020, he was personally knighted by the Queen at Windsor Castle. Moore passed away on February 2nd 2021 after contracting Covid 19 but his impact during the pandemic made him a hero in the United Kingdom. Moore’s family continues to honor his life and giving spirit through The Captain Tom Foundation.

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4 days ago · by · Comments Off on Missouri Woman Turned Grief Into Hope During Pandemic

Missouri Woman Turned Grief Into Hope During Pandemic

A Missouri woman turned her grief into hope after she lost 11 of her family members and friends to COVID-19.  Shana Jones, of Maplewood, sets up dozens of tables outside her home six days a week with hundreds of free items for those in need.  Jones lost the first eight of her friends and relatives in her home town of  Albany, Georgia, in the week before and after her March 25, 2020 birthday.  “I cried, and I felt weak.  It just became so overwhelming that I became numb” she said.  But soon after, Jones wanted to use her grief to do something good for her community, and she began putting a collection of tables on her front lawn, each one full of food and supplies for anyone to take — free of charge. 

The tables were stocked with paper products, snacks, canned goods and cleaning supplies — things that a struggling family may have a hard time affording if they have fallen on hard times.  Residents only have to drive by and take what they need from the “Grab-N-Go” tables.  Although she remains heartbroken from the losses, she wanted the tragedy to be a stepping stone and decided to give back to her community.  Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has given away food to more than 300 families a week.

“A lot of people cannot go back to work full time, they’re part-time and they’re still trying to make it, but they are struggling because, you know, they’re home. They can’t work” Jones said.  Jones’ generous actions meant so much to her neighborhood that many left notes expressing their appreciation. “Every time I get a note,I feel that the angel of one of my family members or friends is saying, ‘Well done” Jones said.

I have elderly people who come by and say, ‘I’m scared to go to the store, can I get some cabbage off your table?’ People come by and donate. They just put stuff on the table to help the community. That’s all I’m trying to do,” Jones said.  The St. Louis County Council awarded Shana Jones with a special resolution “for making a difference in Maplewood.”

Lisa Clancy, the Chairperson of the St. Louis County Council said “I see Shana as an inspiration.  “We just wanted to honor her for what she’s doing. I think it’s great.”  While some items are donated, Jones has purchased many of the items herself, costing her hundreds of dollars. “Her main focus is improving the lives of those around her,” according to the GoFundMe page set up to accept donations for the effort.

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1 week 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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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on California Couple Adopts Seven Children Orphaned In Deadly Crash

California Couple Adopts Seven Children Orphaned In Deadly Crash

California husband and wife adopted seven children after the children’s mother and father perished in a car accident a year earlier. The siblings had been placed in foster care when Pam Willis came across a post about their story. Pam, 50, and her husband Gary, who have five biological adult children, had fostered before, but they had never discussed adoption. She tagged him in the post, not knowing if he would feel the same but by the end of the day the both wanted to adopt them all.


“We knew deep inside that this mission was being placed before us,” Pam wrote. “If not us, then who? Who would keep them all together? Who would have the space for them? Who would have the time, and the love, and the patience for their trauma? We would. Why else did we have a six-bedroom house that was about to have its last child’s bedroom vacated? Why else would our nest that had raised our first five babies be empty just in time? It was only to make room for our new babies.”


Two months after making initial contact with the foster care agency, Adelino, 15, Ruby, 13, Aleecia, 9, Anthony, 8, Aubriella, 7, Leo, 5, and Xander, 4 were placed with Pam and Gary. The Willises knew it would take time for them to earn the children’s trust but they were willing to do whatever it took. Last August, Pam and Gary made the adoption official. The virtual ceremony was attended by the couple’s biological children, Matthew, Andrew, Alexa, Sophia, and Sam—whose ages range from 20 to 32.


The couple learned that the children had experienced quite a bit of trauma in their lives. Their mother and father were sometimes indigent and also struggled with substance abuse. As a result, they were sometimes unable to provide a stable environment for their kids. The family left their home with all their belongings in tow, headed to a new life in Texas when the deadly rollover crash occurred. All seven children had been ejected from the vehicle, suffering minor to critical injuries. They ranged in ages of 1 to 12 at the time. The children were treated for their injuries and placed in foster care.


Pam revealed that connecting with the older ones was tough. “I think it’s so hard to trust when so much has been taken from your life,” she told the outlet. “Ruby didn’t know how to be a kid. She had to be a mother figure at a very young age.”


Though a second family hadn’t been in their plans, Pam said “They were ours from the minute we saw their faces on the news story. If you ask my friends, one moment we were reposting their heart-wrenching news story and calling attention to their plight, the next minute we were meeting them, falling in love, and starting the adoption process… WE are their forever home, and this is our second chance with SEVEN!”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Atlanta Nonprofit Raised Millions for Eviction Relief Fund

Atlanta Nonprofit Raised Millions for Eviction Relief Fund

Marjy Stagmeier started investing in old affordable apartment communities and quickly realized that many of her renter families were low-income single parents who needed services like after-school programs and playgrounds for their communities.  She launched her own 501c3 nonprofit that provides free on-site services to families living in affordable apartments communities—and Star-C has since changed the lives of many families.

“Many children have come through the Star-C after-school program, who are now doctors, plumbers, and school-teachers, earning good wages that moved them out of poverty,” she said.  “Almost 100 families have elevated from renting to home ownership because we kept rents low so families can save their money.”  A chance meeting in 2017 with Bill and Melinda Gates, Mathew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Evicted—opened her eyes: Even with her rents below market, some of the tenants struggled to pay rent, so she began to build an informal resource network for families to get rental assistance.  Through Star-C, her renters also have access to summer camps for their children, health care, after-school programs, meals for the children and more. 

After COVID-19 struck in March 2020, many of Stagmeier’s tenants were laid off from their jobs or had to manage multiple children that were suddenly at home during the day, which made the need even greater.  In April 2020, Star-C launched a $50,000 GoFundMe campaign for eviction relief.  When the local municipal government of Cobb County found out about the Star-C Eviction Relief Fund, they quickly voted to donate $1.5 million of their federal stimulus funding.  Other municipalities, like Fulton County, followed, and Star-C has now raised over $9 million from governments and foundations, giving the ability to help over 3,000 families avoid eviction.

Marjy’s staff has spoken personally with thousands of Atlanta families through their hotline, and has, so far, partnered with over 330 landlords representing 65,000 apartment units.  “The eviction relief fund works with landlords who offer affordable rents for low-income families.  Our landlords know their neediest tenants and assists them with their applications” Stagmeier said.  The Star-C program has been a game-changer not only for tenants but landlords who have struggled as well.  “So many of our tenants and landlords are simply grateful. Our Star-C staff often receives thank you notes and calls from families who have now found work and can pay their rent.”

The 2021 federal relief package has provided another $4.1 million so they can give even more assistance.  Stagmeier is convinced her property model and brand of caring capitalism can transform communities and still make a profit for its investors.  She believes it’s the logical, profitable, moral thing to do.

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1 month 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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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on NJ Moving Company Sparked Initiative to Help End Hunger

NJ Moving Company Sparked Initiative to Help End Hunger

A simple question asked by a New Jersey moving company in 2009 has sparked an initiative capitalizing on the amount of food left behind in clients’ fridges in order to help increase supply to local food banks. Over 1,050 moving companies and 22 million pounds of food later, Adam Lowy—founder of Move for Hunger—has turned unwanted food items into enterprise-level charity.


Lowy said “When people move, they throw away a whole bunch of stuff: food, clothing, furniture, you name it. And what bothered us was the perfectly good, nonperishable food that was getting left behind in the pantry, or simply thrown in the trash. So we started by asking a very simple question: ‘Do you want to donate your food when you move?’” In the first month of Lowy’s idea, he managed to collect 300 pounds of food. He wondered if one moving company could make this kind of impact in their local community, what an entire network of moving companies could do.


That question, led to the creation of Move for Hunger, which links moving companies with food banks in their area, and these pairings with apartment offices, corporate housing, relocation management companies, real estate agents, and other entities to reach as many tenants and homeowners as possible about the impact they can make by donating their food before they change addresses.


Once one of these partners gets word that someone wants to move, Move for Hunger provides a pamphlet about local hunger problems, a large plastic bag, and a cardboard box—all to help people donate any food they don’t feel like bringing along with them. Then a local moving company will bring those packed-up pantry staples to a local food bank, helping ensure nothing gets wasted.


Hunger affects one in six American children, and it’s only gotten worse during the pandemic as government-mandated business closures have ravaged the economy, destroyed jobs, and disrupted supply chains. Move for Hunger operates across the USA and Canada. They try to hold special events—such as food drives and holiday-themed collections as well. Their February 2021 Spread the Love event received 16,000 meals donated across 300 separate food drives, and 20,000 pounds of peanut butter and jelly being used.


Rental property owners or managers, moving companies and real estate agents can help by signing up on the moveforhunger.org website and encouraging others to do so too. Anyone with an upcoming move can also find moving companies in their area on the website who will deliver their donated food. Move For Hunger’s mission is to mobilize the relocation industry to reduce food waste and fight hunger. Rescuing and donating meals for communities in need is so important because millions of people need help today.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Million Gardens Movement is Growing Seeds of Hope

Million Gardens Movement is Growing Seeds of Hope

Million Gardens Movement (MGM) is a charitable and educational initiative that hopes to put a garden in every household—whether that’s on a fire escape, in a window box, or as part of a community garden initiative—and fresh fruit and vegetables on every plate.  The brain child of Frank Giustra and Elon Musk’s brother Kimbal, MGM puts Little Green Garden units in homes and classrooms for just a $10 donation.

The Little Green Gardens are ready-to-use fruit and vegetable garden beds—and over 5,000 of them have already been distributed.  Kimbal Musk explains that each garden bed comes with a customized growing plan and online lessons and activities to support the growing of culturally relevant at-home veggie gardens.

If you’re a gardener, sign up to join the community. Donate $10 to give a garden to a family that can’t afford it, or that lives in a food desert, read and contribute to the blog, and then tell other gardeners about it.  With thousands of gardeners already joining up with the movement, celebrities like Harrison Ford, Zooey Deschanel, Nicole Scherzinger, and Kimbal’s brother Elon—are helping spread the word.   

We’ve been so humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response and the passion surrounding our mission,” says Frank Giustra. “When Warwick Saint was photographing gardening activists for our launch, activists like Salma Hayek and Jonathan Scott were asking us “What more can I do for the Movement? What else can I do to help get more people involved? That’s a real sign of how dedicated people are to making a difference.”

7,300 gardens in total have been started, including some done out-of-pocket, while 632 have gone into schools to teach kids about gardening and grow a new generation of gardening-savvy adults.  “We’ve been able to deliver garden kits to Denver, Detroit, Memphis, and Indianapolis so far,” Giustra said. “We’re working to deliver 5,000 kits in Denver alone in April for Earth Month, and we’re working on delivery plans for cities after that drop.  The most successful aspect of the Million Gardens Movement has been the continual growth of an online gardening community,” says Giustra.  “Our Movement, just like gardening, is about developing our best aspects slowly and steadily as we grow in numbers towards one million gardeners. Seeing people donate is wonderful because they are helping others garden, and those who donate might also take up gardening.”

Food insecurity was a problem in America long before the pandemic began. One study from 2017 found that 5.6% of Americans don’t have adequate access to fresh food.  The benefits of a home garden can significantly reduce these impacts—even something the size of the Little Green Gardens given out by MGM can help.  “Our hope is to quickly expand to Canada this year with sights on Vancouver and Toronto,” says Musk. “We hope to expand to Mexico and beyond to make this a worldwide movement to encourage millions of people to grow their own food.”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Wheel of Fortune Winner Donates 100% of Winnings of Charity

Wheel of Fortune Winner Donates 100% of Winnings of Charity

Scott Kolbrenner of Encino, California, a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, donated his $145,000 in winnings to be split between two charities.  Kolbrenner won approximately $45,000 in cash and prizes during the regular rounds of play, before correctly guessing the bonus puzzle and collecting the $100,000 Grand Prize.  He pledged $72,500 each to Uplift Family Services at Hollygrove and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Kolbrenner has worked with Uplift Family Services, one of the most comprehensive behavioral health treatment providers in California, for the last 20 years.  He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors and volunteers his time.  The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank sources and acquires food and other essential products to distribute to those experiencing food insecurity.

Kolbrenner has been watching Wheel of Fortune “his whole life” and watches religiously with his wife and kids. He was selected to be a contestant after applying with a video at WheelOfFortune.com and participating in a virtual audition.  When asked he said the COVID-19 pandemic and current economic downturn is why he knew he wanted to help the community if he won.  “It’s been a dark time,” Kolbrenner said. “When I went on the show, I was doing it for the fun of it, and I said to my wife … ‘If I do OK here, anything that I get, let’s give it to charity. We’re very fortunate. Let’s see if we can support some others who aren’t as fortunate as we are.”

He added “I got lucky that day and knew right away that I wanted to share my good fortune. So, I decided to contribute all of my winnings to Uplift Family Services and Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, whose services support thousands of families. The fun and memories from the day will stay with me forever, but the urgent need in our community cannot wait.  My wife was the only person that knew what happened that night of the taping. It was complete and utter shock for everybody in our lives, and they were elated about it.”

Both organizations thanked Kobrenner for his generosity on Facebook.  Uplift Family Services, which helps children and their families manage and recover from trauma and related challenges wrote “We are so honored and grateful that Scott chose to play for us while advocating for our agency’s Los Angeles-based Hollygrove programs!”

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank said in a Facebook post said “It takes the whole community to fight food insecurity and the critical work that we do is possible with the help of people like Scott Kolbrenner.”

Kolbrenner said that Hollywood, despite being known for its “glitz and glamor,” also has struggling communities that are underrepresented. “What I was hoping with the ‘Wheel’ is to shine a light on them,” Kolbrenner said.  The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank serves more than 300,000 people every month.  They estimate one-quarter of the food they distribute goes to children, and roughly one-fifth to senior citizens in LA County. 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Former Student Starts GoFundMe for Substitute Teacher Living In His Car

Former Student Starts GoFundMe for Substitute Teacher Living In His Car

Like many others around the country, Jose Villarruel has been struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic.  The 77 year old substitute teacher from Southern California saw his hours cut as schools around the country closed their doors to slow the spread of the virus starting in early 2020.  When a former student, Steven Nava, 21, saw his former teacher in the parking lot of a senior center earlier in the month getting things out of his trunk, he gave him $300 and helped him find a hotel to stay for the night. 

Nava said it took him a few days to work up the courage Villarruel after first seeing him but he insisted on giving his former teacher the money he had on him and it was Villarruel’s reaction that made him want to do more.  “He gave me this big old smile and said, ‘Thank you so much” and as he was hugging me, I saw a little tear run down his face.  Nava promised he’d help to get him out of his current situation.

Nava said ““He really stuck to me just because of the way he was so nice around his students,.  He’d ask how your day would go, did you eat, just small little details like that. He’d be really, really funny when he took attendance.”  Nava started a GoFundMe campaign for his former substitute teacher and thanks to a popular TikTok video Nava made, which had been viewed 1.7 million times, he was able to keep his promise. 

In just six days, the campaign raised $27,000.  Nava wrote on the GoFundMe page “Mr.V was a great funny and helpful educator and substitute teacher in the Fontana Unified School District.  He’s struggled with getting back on his feet after the pandemic hit and has been living in his car ever since despite the brutal weather and living conditions. This fundraiser is to help him out financially and getting back to normal life.  Any help is appreciated, thank you god bless.”

On March 11th, also Villarruel’s 77th birthday, Nava presented Villarruel with the $27,000 check generated from the donations.   “From the bottom of my heart, I just had to resort to all of my self-control not to become sentimental about the whole thing and not to become nervous.  It was extremely exciting, totally unexpected and great” Villarruel said. 

In an emotional moment shared to TikTok, Nava presented Villarruel with the lifechanging check. Later, the two shared a hug. “My initial thought was, ‘Am I dreaming?’ I still can’t get over this experience,” Villarruel said of the surprise. And now, he plans to pay it forward.  “The greatest feeling that I have right now is like an obligation that I need to do a lot for the world and the greatest feeling is I can do it and I’m going to find a way to do it,” he said.

Villarruel made the decision 8 years ago to live in his car because he was sending most of his income to his wife, children and extended family in Mexico, he said.  .  “I couldn’t possibly support my family and extended family in Mexico and rent an apartment here at the same time with the income that I can have.” Villarruel said.  Villarruel, who was affectionately known as “Mr. V” by his students, resigned from teaching last spring after the district shifted to virtual learning.  The necessary change made his situation worse as he used his pension to pay debt and survive during the pandemic. 

Nava ended the original GoFundMe campaign but there were still people who wanted to help so he started a new one to “Keep Mr. V Moving Forward” and has raised $25,000 of the $30,000 goal so far.  Thankfully-this chance encounter with a former student is bringing better days ahead for Mr.V.

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