A New Hampshire pup is a real life hero after leading help to the crash site of her owner on a snowy stretch of I-89. On Jan. 3, 2022, highway drivers spotted a young Shiloh shepherd — thought at first to be a German shepherd — running loose on Veterans Memorial Bridge on I-89 near the New Hampshire-Vermont border. New Hampshire State Police responded to reports of a wandering dog on the highway at around 10 p.m.
Trooper Sandberg and other officers of the Lebanon Police Department made attempts to corral her and get close, but she kept running away. Tinsley, a 1-year-old Shiloh Shepherd, eventually led them to a damaged section of guardrail. Police saw a badly damaged overturned F350 pickup truck with two injured occupants nearby who had been ejected from the vehicle.
The officers called for medical assistance and found the two injured men to be suffering from hypothermia. It was then that they learned that the shepherd pup belonged to one of the injured occupants of the truck, Cameron Landry. Tinsley stood by her owner as officers assisted him and the passenger.
Public relations and community outreach officer Amber Lagace said the dog never tried to run away from the officers on scene but instead led them further up the road and over the bridge.
Laundry suffered minor injuries and was later released from the hospital. The other passenger, identified as Justin Connors, suffered more serious injuries and is still in the hospital. He has undergone two surgeries but is expected to recover. Unfortunately, Connors’ dog, a bulldog, was also riding in the truck with the two men and Tinsley. Sadly, the bulldog was struck on the interstate after the crash; its body was discovered the next morning.
Lt. Dan Baldassarre, commander of Troop D of the New Hampshire State Police said the incident is a real-life Lassie story. Baldassarre said. “It’s really quite remarkable. This dog definitely saved their lives. I don’t think they would have survived the night given the temperatures.” The New Hampshire State Police posted a long message on Facebook about the incident which included pictures from the scene of Tinsley and the totaled Ford F350 truck after the rollover crash. Laundry said after the crash, “She’s my little guardian angel. It’s a miracle how she has that kind of intelligence to do what she did.” For all her bravery, Tinsley was rewarded with a lot of back scratches and goodies including a venison dinner.
A Texas family’s Christmas light display raised just over $80,000 for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Jordan Maywald has been in charge of his family’s Christmas decorations since he was nine. Jordan said the display started very small, just a few things in their front yard but over the years he expanded across much of our property and now it covers about 3.5 acres.
For the past seven years, the Maywalds have used their famous light display to raise money for Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas. The Maywald Christmas Light Display won on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2019. The family won $50,000 and expanded the display to include a snowman made out of truck tires, vintage-glass carolers, a specially-built lighthouse and a whole lot of decorations.
“At the time I was the youngest champion in the show’s history, and currently still am,” Jordan said. Each year, Jordan, now 23, has added more to the light display that has turned their Austin property into a holiday destination. This year, the bigger than ever display had over 200,000 Christmas lights and welcomed more than 15,000 visitors- raising more than $80,000 to fund 10 wishes. To date, the display has raised nearly $200,000 and granted 27 wishes.
Each time a wish is granted, Jordan adds a glass reindeer to the mix, all hovering above a Christmas light-filled “Wish Lake.” He prefers to build most of the displays himself and spends the months leading up to Christmas scouring the country for old décor via Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. The highlight of this past year’s spectacle was a 17-foot-tall fiberglass Santa Claus.
Jordan, a student at Texas A&M University said there was no doubt that Christmas is his favorite holiday. “Helping these children is what Christmas is all about for us. We will continue to put up our display yearly to help grant life changing wishes!” he added. The Maywald Christmas Light Display begins in November and lasts through New Year’s Eve. The entrance is free for the public to walk through the display with donations appreciated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This year, the family’s goal was to raise $40,000.
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.
The city of Akron, Ohio, launched a program designed to help support the local businesses. The program rewards shoppers for shopping locally through a city-sponsored app called Akronite, from which shoppers receive reward points for every purchase they make. James Hardy, Akron’s deputy mayor of integrated development, says that the app is “encouraging citizens to spend money locally while putting cash back into their pockets.”
The reward points are called “blimps” after the Goodyear Blimp, which is based in Akron. Blimps can be redeemed at any of the participating stores for discounted or even free services. At the end of the month, the city reimburses the businesses for these redeemed values. The more you shop, the more rewards you earn.
Michael Mazur, vice president of business development at Colu, the entity responsible for building the app used to run Akronite, says that constantly rewarding people for doing something they were going to do anyway makes them want to come back for more. He also says that collecting rewards becomes a conversation point among social circles, and that “it becomes a game, a friendly competition.”
While shoppers enjoy the savings, the main goal is to support local business owners by creating loyalty and giving them a new way of attracting new customers. Business owners get to announce events and promotions in the app as well. Since the launch of the app, businesses are reporting that regular customers are visiting more frequently and spending more money.
In addition to this, the app is designed to accommodate advertising space for nonprofits so that their stories can reach their target audiences. There are plans to add ways to reward front-line workers, disabled merchants, and other underprivileged communities who need the support. The success of the app in Akron inspired the Colu team to expand the initiative to include other cities such as Youngstown, Oh, Boston, MA and several regions in California.
USA TODAY’s Best of Humankind Awards honor everyday people who have showcased the highest level of kindness, compassion, and perseverance in 2021. Each Humankind award celebrates an everyday person who is making a difference in their community. Winner of this award, Pastor Heather Boone, has shown a dedication to helping those who need it most in the Monroe community and her efforts are well-documented.
Boone moved to Monroe from Detroit and immediately went to work. She and her husband decided they wanted to stay in Monroe and start their own church, Oaks of Righteousness.
She made the Miracle on E. Second Street a reality by convincing the Detroit Archdiocese to sell her the historic St. Joseph Catholic Church at far below the asking price. It started as a homeless shelter and learning center known as Oaks Village.
She then further developed Oaks Village and formed a nonprofit grocery store, a clothes closet, soup kitchen, free childcare center and a free medical clinic. Her ministry serves as a village in the community. “I’m an unpaid pastor. We’re not a wealthy church and so we just wanted to change our community,” says Boone.
When the winner was announced, Boone was quick to point out none of it would be possible without the efforts of their volunteers. Boone, who lived in the homeless shelter for 2 years until they could afford to expand, said “There is no one road to homelessness. These are people just like you. We are all just a few paychecks away from being in this same predicament.”
When asked about winning the award Boone said “I mean it’s still surreal. When you think about it, across the whole United States, it’s all over the country. And so to be the person of the year… out of the whole country. It feels amazing.” But she says things are really just getting started. Next, Pastor Boone wants to build a tiny house village for those who are ready for permanent housing. This award puts her on the map, which is what she’s been praying for. “I had a lady call me from Chicago who saw it and she was asking me questions because she wants to do something similar in her community and that’s what we’re here for,” said Boone.
A young man from Zimbabwe is replicating his experience for talented students in his home country—launching their academic journeys into schools like Northwestern and Stanford. Like many young Zimbabweans, Eric Khumalo didn’t have a lot of options, even for a curious mind like his. He found a breakthrough moment, however, in a U.S.-sponsored school near his home town of Bulawayo.
A fascination with coding grew and because of his background in teaching-so did the desire to share the knowledge. He started Emzini WeCode, an education program that has grown from teaching locals in Zimbabwe classrooms at the American embassy to hosting online classes for more than 1,000 students. “I graduated high school in 2018, and within the government there was a shortage of STEM teachers, so I applied for a year and a half. I taught at three high schools and got accepted into UC Berkeley on a scholarship from the Mastercard Foundation” Khumalo said.
Khumalo said he started out studying chemistry but it was the chance encounter with the fabled “good professor” that launched his computer science journey. “I was just like asking questions, and then he told me just about his journey, about how when he was a kid he learned to code; he would make games, and for me I just admired the wonderful things he could accomplish with just code,” says Khumalo. “I found it interesting—this power to create, and this power to solve problems, or if you have a solution—scaling it is possible with computer science.”
Despite the popularity of his classes, he has kept them free, or as cheap as possible, covering only the costs of buying the data necessary to stream in the teachers from local and U.S. universities. “Usually, like two U.S. dollars a month,” says Khumalo. “The group that I usually target most is people who I know are facing challenges in the community.” His focus is broad in scope, avoiding a strict focus on any particular coding language, and opting instead to inspire students to see computer science and coding as a way to solve problems, in whichever career they focus on.
Khumalo feels a sense of pride that keeps him motivated when he sees the students taking his course moving on to other schools and other careers. “If one of my students can get into Stanford, then ten of my students should get into Stanford,” he said smiling. He wants to expand the opportunities he gave to them to more people, and he’s currently designing a computer science curriculum for high schools.
“The main problem I wanted to tackle was job creation,” explains Khumalo, whose January classes are now open for enrolment online for 1,000 students. “I have a vision that local universities here, have young people skilled with world-class knowledge getting hired to solve some of the problems that we have here.”
Marty Rogers, from Bronx, NY, has been feeding the homeless for 44 years. And in those four decades, the dad from Bronx, New York, has organized a Thanksgiving dinner for those in need through his church, Immaculate Conception. Every year, his three kids help him serve up the holiday meal. He said even though they’re all grown now, he can count on them to return to the Bronx and help him each Thanksgiving.
Marty was inspired to do even more a few years ago. Marty came up with what are now called “Hope Walks.” A few times a year, Marty and volunteers from the church and school would get together to make sandwiches and then walk around their South Bronx neighborhood and ask people if they’d like some food. Marty and his group try to make each person feel comfortable, and they also ask each person their name.
When the pandemic hit and many things shut down, Marty decided to ramp up his efforts. “No one was out. Everyone was quarantining. But, who is out, is more and more people who are homeless,” he said. “Now, it’s staring us really in the face. And we had the conversation and we started going out once a week with our supplies, and then we said, ‘This has to be more.’ And we went three times a week.”
Each week, they pack up bags with homemade sandwiches, snacks and water. The supplies are bought with donations from the community, including donations from businesses. Volunteers for the walks include kids from Immaculate Conception. Each volunteer grabs a bag filled with sandwiches, cookies, water, and gloves, and walks the neighborhood to look for people who might be in need. The students witness people on the street looking out for their friends, at times leading the walkers to another person “who could use” a sandwich or a bottle of water that the group was giving out.
“Our neighborhood has a lot of people who are homeless. Some of the people are seniors, some of the people might have addiction issues. We don’t ask, it’s none of our business, it’s non judgemental.” Each person they encounter is gracious for the food and the prayer. Marty has gotten to know many people in the neighborhood and is happy it’s making an impact. Rogers said he hopes other parishes, schools and church organizations replicate what the Hope Walk is doing so more people can be helped.
Brazilian artist, environmentalist, and animal lover Amarildo Silva Filho was inspired after coming across a pile of used tires in his neighborhood a few years ago. Where some saw trash, Silva Filho saw an opportunity for upcycling treasure that wound up making a world of difference to stray cats and dogs.
He collects the tires he uses from unused lots, the side of the road, or waste disposal areas. These are cleaned thoroughly, cut into the right shape, and then Silva Filho puts his artistic and artisanal skills to use to create cozy, vibrantly painted, personalized animal beds. Once the custom paint jobs are complete, with the addition of hand-sewn mattresses, the colorful comfy cots are ready to be distributed to local shelters.
Silva Filho’s recycled pet beds became so popular, a niche market of eco-conscious pet owners sprang up as well. To meet the growing demand, he launched Caminhas Pets and has since created more than 6,000 hand-crafted beds in the two years of his operations. While retail sales have helped sustain his efforts, the majority of Silva Filho’s creations have gone to animals in need.
He’s even branched out to create potted plant holders from tires and play areas for kids. There’s a lot that can be done with upcycled tires, as far as Silva Filho is concerned. He’s certainly showing us that when a good idea stems from a good place, almost anything can be achieved. Silva says he intends to help as many animals as he can and he believes that the only way to do a great job is to love what you do.
Mark and Kenda Mullert, owners of Black Mountain Handyman, Inc in Black Mountain NC saw a need for help with home repairs in their community and set out to help. Mark had already been helping people who could not afford desperately needed home repairs and had seen houses with debilitating damages, a problem all too common for low-income and older members of the Swannanoa Valley community.
When he made a facebook post to “Nominate a Neighbor” he realized the need was greater than he thought. “I thought ‘Oh we’ll get 10 people, five people, I don’t know how many,'” Mullert said. “We ended up getting over 60 people who needed help.” He took off work from Thanksgiving to Christmas, taking his crew of five to address the most urgent needs for three weeks. He hated having to pick and choose which projects to tackle, but it opened his eyes to the serious need in the area.
Along with his wife, Kenda, Mullert invited business owners, building contractors and anyone who was interested to meet in 2019 to figure out how to create an organization, that could do the work so many people required while maintaining affordability. They saw momentum with the amount of businesses that were willing to help. In May 2020, Mullert organized another meeting and determined what was necessary to create a nonprofit, a means to raise funds and funnel the money to contractors to get the repair work done. Mullert chose five people with specific skills to function as the board, asking Ben Fortson to act as the leader of Hammer & Heart.
“We need folks who are in our community, who can see the home repair issues and send them our way,” Fortson said. Originally starting in Black Mountain, Fortson said the organization expanded its reach to the entire Swannanoa Valley after conducting research on what areas were most in need of assistance. He said repairs are not limited to a specific area and can include electrical issues, plumbing, roof work, accessibility concerns or anything else that if the problem persists, things will only get worse.
“Or it could be something that’s a hazard to their health,” Fortson said. “Maybe their heat doesn’t work. Maybe they’re elderly and the entrance to their home is rotted so it’s a struggle for them to get in and out of their home.” Fortson said often, these sorts of homeowners need help but don’t know where to ask for it. Through a careful vetting process, Hammer & Heart determines where the need is for applicants and how to best provide assistance. Their mission is to provide urgent home repairs to neighbors of the Swannanoa Valley who are financially unable to maintain their homes in a safe or livable condition. Local businesses and volunteers are vital to their efforts to better their community.
Bob Vogelbaugh is known around Moline, Illinois, as “Mr. Thanksgiving,” and for good reason — since 1970, he has organized community dinners on Thanksgiving for anyone who wants to break bread and celebrate the holiday. Vogelbaugh used to own a grocery store called Bob’s Market, and when he learned that 91-year-old customer Rose Hanson had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, he quickly set up a dinner for her and eight other elderly people he knew, serving turkey and the trimmings in the back of his store.
Hanson died just a few weeks later, and Vogelbaugh said he initially thought it would be a one-time only thing, but Rose changed that. “I didn’t want people to be alone” he said. The dinner grew every year, and has changed venues to accommodate more people. For the last 30 years, Vogelbaugh and volunteers have been holding the feast at SouthPark Mall, with thousands of people typically showing up.
Every year, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, Vogelbaugh hosts a free Thanksgiving dinner. “It’s not a charity dinner, it’s a community dinner” he said. “It’s just a Thanksgiving gathering of friends and people you don’t know and some people have become friends through this over the years.” Vogelbaugh is retired from the grocery business, and now focuses on fundraising throughout the year to pay for the dinner. “I used to have a live band and then there was dancing. Then I went to a DJ, and so it was really a Thanksgiving party,” he said of previous years.
The past two years with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Vogelbaugh kept his tradition going but switched things up. Instead of hosting a seated dinner, Vogelbaugh and his volunteers set enough for people last year with many families not getting together because of the COVID outbrup tables outside so people could drive over and pick up meals. “I figured that it was hard eak and stuff, and so I thought we’re gonna go ahead and we’ll do a drive by,” he said.