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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Food Donations Pour In For Rescue Crew of Florida Building Collapse

Food Donations Pour In For Rescue Crew of Florida Building Collapse

As crews continue to search through the rubble of the building collapse in Surfside Florida for those still missing, a growing army of volunteers has been offering everything from water and energy drinks to pizza and deep-fried Oreos to firefighters, police officers and other rescue workers working 12-hour shifts at the site. The crews have been searching since the huge section of the Champlain Towers South building fell to the ground at around 2am on June 24th.

The community has been dropping off cases of water and food to nearby churches for distribution to the hundreds of search-and-rescue workers since the day of the collapse. At Casa Church near the disaster site, Pastor Ezequiel Fattore began with handing out a few bottles of water. His congregation pitched in and within hours he was at Costco buying $600 worth of water and food with the first donations. The donations have been flowing in ever since and the church has a side room now packed with cases of water along with a large assortment of energy drinks, bottled iced coffees and bags of chips and other snacks. As volunteers pack coolers to distribute among police and emergency crews in the area, more donations keep coming in. Fattore said he’s had heartbreaking conversations with loved ones of those dead and missing. Some members of his church have friends still unaccounted for but the outpouring of donations reaffirms his faith.

Members of the community and businesses have been steadily dropping off large orders of food to crews and some line the nearby streets handing out water and snacks to police, fire and rescue crews as they pass by. Nicolette and Patrick Daniel and her husband traveled from Texas to Florida to offer whatever assistance they could to victims’ families and emergency workers. They hired a food truck to cook 350 meals that were distributed in a parking lot of another nearby church. Daniel said she felt compelled to give back after the outpouring of support she received when her mother died suddenly a year ago. “It was the doorbell that kept ringing and the people who kept calling that kept me going,” she said.

The outpouring from the community has also been for families and victims affected by the collapse. The Shul, a community center located blocks from the scene, created a central fund to disperse money to families and victims affected by the collapse. The organization said they are overwhelmed with emergency supplies for families and has asked those who would like to support survivors to make a monetary donation. The American Red Cross is helping displaced residents find shelter and is providing them with food. The Miami Heat and several local organizations have launched a hardship fund for the victims: https://supportsurfside.org/ Neighbors 4 Neighbors along with the City of Surfside and F.R.I.E.N.D. Miami-Dade’s Long Term Disaster Recovery Group has set up a fund to assist the victims in the long term with unforeseen costs and things not covered by insurance. https://neighbors4neighbors.org/surfsidefund

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on American Humane Society Reunites Retired Military Pups With Former Handlers

American Humane Society Reunites Retired Military Pups With Former Handlers

American Humane, the country’s first and largest humane organization, has a program dedicated to protecting the dogs that serve the United States by reuniting them with their former handlers once they retire. Recently the program reunited both Army Veteran Michael Stepnovich and U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Wade Alfson with the military dogs they worked with overseas. Not only did each man get a hug from their canine partner again, Stepnovich and Ssgt. Alfson both adopted their former patrol pals since the dogs are retired from active duty.

Ssgt. Alfson reunited with Xxanthe, the Belgian Malinois, after a year apart in Honolulu, Hawaii — where Ssgt. Alfson is currently stationed — on May 5. The pair served together for 18 months, including two tours in the Middle East on classified missions, where the duo worked to find improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Now, Ssgt. Alfson is thrilled to have the opportunity to adopt Xxanthe, his best friend, and give her a comfort-filled, love-filled life.

“She’s such a caring dog. You can feel how much she cares about you,” Ssgt. Alfson said of what he adores about Xxanthe, adding that the pooch was his “morale” overseas. Xxanthe will be sharing her life with Kyra, a six-year-old Belgian Malinois that Ssgt. Alfson adopted after the dog failed out of military training because she was too startled by loud noises.

On May 21, Stepnovich reunited with Popeye, the military dog he served with for 18 months in South Korea. After 5 months apart, they were reunited in Las Vegas. “It was a lot of emotion. He looks amazing. It was a really emotional moment for me. I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s only been a few months for us, which is lucky, but it feels like it was a very long time,” Stepnovich said of the reunion. “I was just overwhelmed with joy to see him again.”

The 7-year-old German shepherd started showing signs of severe separation anxiety and was taken off duty after he and Stepnovich originally parted. The military retired Popeye early, allowing Stepnovich to adopt the dog. Stepnovich is looking forward to caring for Popeye and hopes to work with dogs in the future as a trainer or handler. “Having him back in my life is going to be absolutely amazing. I’m so excited to just show him the area and take him on my adventures because I like to get out and do stuff here in Vegas,” Stepnovich shared.

It is common for military dog handlers and their pups to get separated or reassigned, making it hard for handlers to keep track of their canine partners. But the bond between dog and handler is often unbreakable, and both humans and canines benefit from getting the chance to enjoy their friendships in everyday life. American Humane Society helps military dog handlers find their former partners and adopt them when they retire, guiding the handlers through the complicated and daunting process of transporting the pooch to their home. The organization also helps cover post-retirement medical care for the canines and travel expenses.

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3 months 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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3 months 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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4 months 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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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on 60 Year Old Miami Woman Has Been Feeding Thousands Since Start of Pandemic

60 Year Old Miami Woman Has Been Feeding Thousands Since Start of Pandemic

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has left millions with food insecurity but good Samaritans like Doramise Moreau ensure that people in her community don’t go to bed hungry.  The part-time janitor who lives in Miami has cooked over 1,000 meals a week for the hungry since the start of the pandemic.  Moreau doesn’t have a vehicle so she walks or takes the bus to work and prepares the meals at the end of the week to feed between 1,000 – 1,500 people every Saturday. 

Every Thursday and Friday, the 60 year old widow borrows her church’s truck to buy groceries. Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church pays for the food, relying on donations.  Moreau then cooks all day long preparing the meals singlehandedly, while church volunteers serve or deliver them to people in need.  Sometimes cooking until past midnight, people ask if she’s exhausted but she says she is fueled by her faith and her passion for helping others encourages her to wake up early to start cooking. 

Moreau said her desire to feed the hungry goes back to when she was a little girl in Haiti. She’d sneak food from her parents’ kitchen to give to those in need. Despite her mother’s fury, Moreau persisted because it bothered her so much seeing people in need.

Reginald Jean-Mary, a pastor at the church, said this isn’t Moreau’s first time lending a helping hand. She also sends pallets of food back monthly for her family and friends in Haiti. Since the start of the pandemic, every morning before work, Moreau lays out a table with hot teas and other homeopathic remedies for church staff, police, and community leaders to inhale and drink to help strengthen their immune system.  “She takes care of everybody from A to Z. She’s a true servant. She goes beyond the scope of work to be a presence of hope and compassion for others,” Jean-Mary said.

Though she didn’t expect it, Moreau’s selfless deeds were rewarded by community leaders who nominated her to receive a brand new car. As part of a Miami, Florida anti-poverty initiative, community leaders nominate residents known for community service.  The Toyota Corolla was purchased by the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation through a grant, and Moreau will only have to pay $125 monthly for three years before she can own it. It was just a small token of appreciation for a woman who does so much.

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Mercy Chefs Serves 10 Millionth Meal

Mercy Chefs Serves 10 Millionth Meal

In February, the Virginia-based disaster relief and humanitarian aid group, Mercy Chefs, reached the milestone of serving its 10 millionth meal. Founded after Hurricane Katrina, the nonprofit organization has served professionally prepared restaurant-quality meals to victims and first responders in 27 states and 10 countries, responding to more than 134 disasters.


Since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic in March 2020, they have distributed 7 million meals with the help of 10,000 community volunteers. The group uses coronavirus response distribution locations it has established across the US, where Mercy Chefs works with food distributors and volunteers to supplement the USDA Family Farmers Food Box Program with more meals.


Mercy Chefs has also deployed to locations in 2020 following natural disasters, including Hurricanes Hanna and Laura; and the recent tornado in Alabama. They have repeatedly returned to Panama City to serve those still affected by Hurricane Michael. Just after reaching their milestone, they headed to Dallas Texas when the call for help came as severe cold weather left millions without electricity, water or food.


They served thousands of hot meals to Texans during the unprecedented storms from a large mobile kitchen at Gateway Church North Fort Worth Campus. The team served both lunch and dinner to the community, distributing food from multiple locations. Mercy Chefs utilized several kitchens in order to prepare meals to distribute to citizens and also. They also have been working to provide clean drinking water to those who need it throughout Texas.


Founder Gary LeBlanc said he was driven to help with disaster relief on a broader scale when he volunteered in his hometown of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “The devastation was so intense and widespread. I saw firsthand the incredible difference a hot meal could make. I was inspired to the point of distraction by the idea of serving high-quality food in a disaster area. Little did I know how far that distraction would lead and Mercy Chefs now has three mobile kitchens and two refrigerated trailers. “


LeBlanc founded the non-profit in 2006 to help with disaster relief and they are often one of the first organizations to arrive following a major weather event. His teams are capable of providing 15,000 meals daily to meet the needs of devastated communities. When the pandemic started Mercy Chefs delivered millions of meals through grocery box distribution in places like Texas, Florida, Virginia, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma and others. They are also working toward ways to support people in food insecure communities with job skills training, single mothers cooking classes, and budget recipe creation.

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5 months ago · by · Comments Off on Canada Father Accepts Lowest Offer On Condo Amid Market Boom As A Way Of Paying It Forward

Canada Father Accepts Lowest Offer On Condo Amid Market Boom As A Way Of Paying It Forward

Sometimes paths cross in life for the sole purpose of changing the lives of those involved.  It’s no secret the housing market has changed during the pandemic.  Sellers used to hope to get close to their asking price but today are receiving multiple offers well above their asking price.  One Ontario father of three decided to sell his condo to the lowest bidder as a way of paying it forward.  When he listed his condo in London, Ontario for $20,000 less than others in the area, he, of course, received multiple offers above the asking price. 

Juliana Aguero was having a tough time buying a house after she separated from her husband.  “Every time, I lost the offer for $100,000 or something like that. It was crazy,” said Aguero, who made about 10 offers on homes within a span of three months.  When Aguero found a three-bedroom condo listed for $330,000, far less than other units in the same building, she offered $375,000.  Unbeknownst to her, Aguero’s realtor had included a letter with her offer, detailing her client’s backstory.  Aguero, who moved to Canada from Colombia 11 years ago, has two children with her ex-husband. The couple decided they wanted to live in the same neighborhood and raise their children together.

“When my realtor came, she actually started with Juliana’s offer,” said Damian Devonish, a London-based therapist with three children. “She said, ‘This is a really touching story. I know your heart and I know that you will want to give it to her.”  Devonish, also an immigrant, arrived in Canada eight years ago from Barbados and believes strongly in paying it forward.

“We don’t know how life will treat us 10, 15, 20 years from now. So the best thing to do is to live it well today.”  “I really didn’t have a lot of money when I came to Canada,” He said. “I was having difficulty getting a job because I needed a vehicle.” Devonish finally found a car and remembers how the seller agreed to take $500 less for it, and he also threw in a set of winter tires.  And that’s why when Devonish reviewed all of the offers on his condo, and Aguero’s was the lowest by about $50,000, he still accepted it.

Aguero takes possession of the home in May in a market where homes are now listing at $600,000.  “I just feel so blessed, I’ve cried. I cannot believe there are people like Damian.”  During an interview with news outlets, Aguero spoke directly to Devonish: “I’m absolutely sure you will receive many, many blessings in different ways. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

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7 months ago · by · Comments Off on Six Year Old Leukemia Survivor Delivers Gifts To Kids Fighting Cancer

Six Year Old Leukemia Survivor Delivers Gifts To Kids Fighting Cancer

A young leukemia survivor spread holiday cheer to kids battling cancer by delivering toys throughout the D.C. area. Six-year-old Summer Grace Cernoch and her family drove around the region with the gifts. Summer Grace battled leukemia for two years, spending holidays in the hospital, had several surgeries and countless painful treatments. She finished her last treatment in February.

Two Christmases, 79 port chemos, 10 blood transfusions, and a countless number of pills later, Summer Grace beat cancer. Per her request, the night she took her last chemotherapy pill the Cernoch family set off fireworks in celebration. The fireworks, however, were just the beginning of their celebration of Summer Grace’s hard-fought battle – in September they started the Summer Grace Foundation in her honor.

December 21st marked three years since she was diagnosed. “I’ve dreaded this day every year as it … just brings back a lot of bad memories for our family,” said Summer Grace’s mother, Jessica Cernoch. The Cernoch family started the foundation to help kids like her and many of the toys delivered Monday were donated by the community.

The foundation’s mission is to raise awareness, raise funds for pediatric cancer research in hopes of finding better and less toxic treatments, and support the childhood cancer community. 1 in 5 kids diagnosed with cancer will not survive. On average, 43 kids are diagnosed with cancer every day, and 7 kids die every day due to cancer or because of the effects of their harsh treatments. “We remember very vividly how awful this journey is, and so we want to do everything we can to give back and support the childhood cancer community,” her mother said.

The world changes in an instant, and things are never quite the same ever again after a cancer diagnosis. Childhood cancer effects every aspect of family life. In addition to the physical aspect of cancer, there’s often a huge financial burden, and an indescribable level of worry and stress. Life becomes physically and emotionally draining, and there’s often little energy left to focus on anything or anyone other than the child. Marriages may become strained and siblings may be left feeling disconnected from the family.

Every year, the foundation also partners with various businesses to offer relaxing, overnight retreats. Donations to the foundation can sponsor a retreat for families battling cancer. Summer Grace and her family also plan to start a music scholarship program for cancer patients.

You can support the Summer Grace Foundation through AmazonSmile. At no cost to you, you can find the same selection of products and low prices! Upon checkout, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase price to us. Simply go to smile.amazon.com, sign in, and choose the Summer Grace Foundation as your charity. Amazon will donate .05% of all eligible purchases.

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8 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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