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2 months 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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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Hero Trucker Saves CA Utility Worker

Hero Trucker Saves CA Utility Worker

A trucker was at the right place at the right time to become a hero when he rescued a utility worker who was trapped in a raised bucket truck, which had caught fire below. Efrain Zepeda was sitting in Santa Rosa, California’s traffic at about 9 a.m.  . Sgt. Bill Harm of the California Highway Patrol knock on the passenger side door of his tractor-trailer and asked if he’d be willing to pull his rig out of traffic and alongside a utility bucket truck that was on fire.

Harm explained the truck’s operator was in the extended bucket above the street and the fire had killed the bucket’s controls. The only way down was for Zepeda to pull alongside the burning truck and position the trailer so the stranded worker could jump onto it to safety.  “I didn’t have to think about it said,” Zepeda. “I told him, ‘Let’s do it.'”  Sgt. Harm got other drivers to move out of the way and Zepeda pulled out of traffic and eased up directly next to the bucket truck that was totally engulfed in flames. He said he kept one eye on Sgt. Harm and the other on the flames, which were perilously close to his right side fuel tank.

The bucket truck operator jumped to safety and Sgt. Harm signaled Zepeda to move ahead. Shortly after he did, the utility truck exploded and the extended bucket collapsed into the street.  A coworker brought a ladder for the utility worker to climb off Zepeda’s trailer. The rescue took about 10 minutes, but it seemed forever as it unfolded, Zepeda said.  “The guy came to thank me,” said Zepeda. “I could see he was really scared but he was really grateful too.”

Zepeda has been driving for Estes Express Lines professionally for about two and a half years and they praised him for his quick acting heroics.  “It is nothing short of a miracle that our driver, Efrain, was there just as this individual needed rescue from such a dire situation,” said Webb Estes, the company’s vice president of process improvement. “Enough can’t be said about the quick thinking by the police to request Efrain’s assistance and his bravery and immediate actions that allowed the worker to escape without serious injury by jumping onto our trailer. At Estes, the safety of everyone on the road is our highest priority and Efrain’s heroics exemplify this to the fullest.”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Nation’s Largest Hunger Relief Organization Needs Volunteers

Nation’s Largest Hunger Relief Organization Needs Volunteers

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, they provide meals to more than 40 million people each year.  During the first months of the pandemic, roughly 4 in 10 people visiting food banks were seeking help for the first time.

Food banks have adapted to this new level of need with most food banks serving over 55% more people than before the pandemic began.  With the help of donations and volunteers, the Feeding America network provided nearly 6 billion meals to throughout the US from March 2020 to January 2021.  Member food banks received more than $326 million in emergency funding for their COVID response efforts.

Many people of all walks of life have helped make this all possible whether it was money or their time they donated.  Tiller & Hatch co-founders Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams Paisley pledged a donation of 1 million meals in partnership with Feeding America. The brand made stops in 15 cities to give out frozen, chef-crafted Tiller & Hatch meals to local communities nationwide.

Impossible Foods teamed up with Colin Kaepernick and Know Your Rights Camp to distribute more than 1 million meals in 2020.  Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Disney Springs Chef José Andrés teamed up with Coca-Cola to donate $1 million to José’s World Central Kitchen to distribute 100,000 meals.  The initiative also helped 150 local restaurants in communities hit hardest by COVID-19 by enabling them to rehire up to 1,400 employees. 

Kanye West and Chick-fil-A both sponsored the Dream Center in Los Angeles, helping them to provide 300,000 meals to people in the area, including meal delivery to high-risk seniors in the community.  Tan France donated to Frontline Foods, an organization that’s still supporting local restaurants and frontline workers by delivering meals to hospitals. Frontline Foods is feeding healthcare providers and has helped local restaurants in 38 cities stay afloat.

Over a year into the pandemic, 42 million people, including 13 million children, may still be at risk of hunger.  Food banks are now accustomed to the increased number of people they are serving and Feeding America’s network of food banks are on pace to distribute 6.5 billion meals in 2021.  But none of this would have been possible without donations and volunteers stepping up to get food into the hands of those at risk. 

The pandemic reversed the last decade’s progress towards ending hunger in the United States. Sixty-five percent of network food banks working with Feeding America are accepting and still in need of volunteers.  Unfortunately, many people continue to face unemployment and families still struggle to pay bills like housing, utilities, and medical care.  Many people who had never volunteered before did so for the first time during the pandemic. The generosity many have shown and determination of everyday people to create solutions to the social distancing obstacles through the pandemic has kept millions of families going and the need is still there. 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on NC Mother Raises $35K For School Custodian Who Helped Her Son

NC Mother Raises $35K For School Custodian Who Helped Her Son

After the head custodian at Edenton’s White Oak Elementary, Raymond Brown, didn’t take home the North Carolina School Hero Award he’d been nominated for last year, an entire community—led by one determined mom—got together to let him know just how much they appreciated him.  Adrian Wood, whose autistic son Amos has formed a special bond with Brown said Brown welcomed her son and when the most popular man in the school gives her son a nice nickname, it drew other children in, leaving Amos with no trouble fitting in.  “As a mom of a child with a disability, there’s nothing more I want in the world to others to include him” Wood said.

When the kids at his school realized there was something special going on between the 7-year-old and the school’s favorite grownup, it helped them see Amos in a way they hadn’t before.  All the kids started talking to him. Even now, if you walk down the hall, you’ll hear children say, “There’s Famous Amos! Hey, Famous Amos!’  

With her other two children, Wood went through the usual school-related worries, but having a child with special needs was another experience entirely. “Sending Amos to school was such a different path.  He was 3 when he started school. He was in diapers and he didn’t speak. But after Mr. Brown started saying hello to him and calling him Famous Amos,’ Amos started saying, ‘Hey Brown,’ when he saw him. He wasn’t even saying ‘Daddy,’ at that point, so it was really something” Wood said.

Brown’s affection for little Amos helped the now 7-year-old fit in with his fellow students.  “You have this man that everybody loves suddenly paying attention to this little boy,” Wood added, “Amos is a hard friend to have. He takes a lot more than he gives and that’s tough for children. But those kids saw that he was popular and loved and they started fighting over who would get to hold Amos’ hand on the way to the classroom. It meant so much to me for him to be so favored by the other children at school, and Mr. Brown had a big hand in that.”

When Brown was passed over for the NC Heroes Award, Wood admits to crying tears of frustration but she decided to find another means of honoring him.  She used her Facebook blog, Tales of an Educated Debutante, as a platform to right a wrong. Within a week, she’d raised $35,000 from nearly 2,000 people from around the globe and had a plan in the works to shower Brown with the kudos he deserved.

On March 20, in a surprise ceremony that coincided with Brown and his wife’s 38th wedding anniversary, the Browns’ grown children along with hundreds of well-wishers—including Edenton’s mayor, the chief of police, and Miss North Carolina—were on hand to sing their beloved custodian’s praises and present him with a $35,000 honorarium dubbed “The Famous Amos Award.” 

“I was very surprised,” said Mr. Brown, who wore a tuxedo to the event for his photo shoot. “I was caught off guard. To see all those people shouting and hollering ‘Mr. Brown, congratulations,’ it was beautiful and it’s hard to explain, but I know this community loves Mr. Brown.”

White Oak principal Michelle Newsome said “Mr. Brown is really, truly so deserving of all of this and then some,” said Newsome. “He’s our rock steady fella here at White Oak… he’s just a gem and we are so lucky to have him here. There isn’t a child in this building that doesn’t know who Mr. Brown is and that Mr. Brown cares for them and loves them.”

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2 months 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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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on New Zealand Nonprofit & Supermarket Chain Partner to Combat Food Insecurity

New Zealand Nonprofit & Supermarket Chain Partner to Combat Food Insecurity

A first of its kind supermarket opened in Wellington, New Zealand on March 16, 2021 thanks to the efforts of the Wellington City Mission and the supermarket chain New World.  The social supermarket is just like any other supermarket, with fruits and vegetables, sanitary products, pasta, cheese and baked beans lined up along the aisles.  While it has the look and feel of a regular supermarket, this store has no prices, all the food is free. 

This new market is a big shift from the traditional model of people who are food insecure receiving ready-made parcels because it gives people the dignity of being able to choose their own food.  In a time when food insecurity is on the rise in New Zealand, the new social supermarket will go a long way in reducing the stigma of people who cannot afford to purchase food on their own.

The Wellington City Mission’s blog post explained “We can only imagine how hard it must be for someone to ask for food support. The concept of the Social Supermarket is about providing dignity, self-respect and encouragement to those who are vulnerable in our local community. We wanted to make a positive change to our Foodbank model.  We already had a close working relationship with New World across Wellington, they’re always hugely supportive with donations and through their annual Family2Family Foodbank Appeal, so when we started to develop the Social Supermarket concept, we picked the phone up and asked for their help.”

Chris Quin, CEO of Foodstuffs North Island who operate New World, says the partnership is a natural extension of a long-standing relationship between New World, it’s local owner operators and Wellington City Mission. Working together on the Social Supermarket, which is a first of its kind in New Zealand, provided an opportunity to extend the co-operative’s commitment to helping ensure all New Zealanders have access to healthy food.

The supermarket will be open for anyone in need in the Wellington region. This includes people who are already receiving help from the mission or who are referred from other social service agencies.  People do not have to prove that they are in need to shop at the supermarket but appointments are necessary. The super is open Monday – Friday from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm with social workers on hand to help the shoppers.  People are allocated points depending on their individual situations. A single adult is allocated $55 in points and families receive more. There are also special bins that include items that do not come out of the point system.

The market stocks almost anything you can find in a grocery store except alcohol or tobacco products and already has 3,000 different products. Even though the new store is being supported by a large chain, food donations are still needed and wanted.

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3 months 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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3 months 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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3 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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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on California Mom Delivers Food to the Hungry During Pandemic

California Mom Delivers Food to the Hungry During Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic was in its early stages but Heather Ochoa already had noticed the need for food was growing.  She began laying out food from her pantry and extra groceries on a table in her driveway in Oakley, California to help feed those in need.  Social media posts and word-of-mouth helped spread the word that Ochoa, a mother of four, who had been laid off from her job at a local school, almost always had food to spare.

When her homeowners association cited her for having food on the porch, almost 1,850 community members signed a petition supporting her work. Ochoa now has a shorter, less visible table and at an HOA hearing set for later this month she intends to request a humanitarian exception so she can keep her pantry during the pandemic.

“Heather Ochoa has selflessly volunteered to organize a food pantry at her home for those in need during these unprecedented times of this pandemic,” Jeanne Reeves wrote in the petition she launched three months ago. “We support Heather in this act of selfless kindness 100% and we do not want her cited or asked to change her set up for providing this food to our community.”

Realizing many of the city’s older residents did not drive or have the means to get to the church, and others could not make it during giveaway hours, the young mom began a delivery service to distribute the food.  Ochoa’s pantry and her food deliveries to those who couldn’t come to her has been so successful, that she now has her own Facebook group, “The pantry … Where God guides, He provides,” to share news about her daily food giveaways. A nonprofit by the same name is also in the works and friends have started a GoFundMe page to help with legal expenses.

Every day Ochoa picks up donations of food that is about to expire from stores and bakeries, which she either delivers to those who need it or adds to her porch pantry, open daily from 1 to 8 p.m. She has regular stops on different days, bringing food to elderly families in Brentwood and Bethel Island and to families with children.  In addition to delivering to individuals, Ochoa often visits area homeless encampments to give out leftover food and, sometimes, can openers.

Ochoa said she and others, including churches and nonprofits, “work in unity with each other.” So when the others have leftovers, she often picks them up to add to her pantry, and when they’re out of food they may send clients to her.

“Driving around to Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Pittsburg, Antioch and Concord — that’s what I do,” she said. “I love going to their houses and meeting them and giving them food. Not everyone can afford a car…. I help a lot of families that are cancer-stricken or have an illness, are disabled or elderly. Some can’t afford groceries for a week or they can’t apply for food stamps or government help.  There are so many outlets out there,” Ochoa said. “There is no reason for anyone to be hungry anymore.”

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