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2 days ago · by · Comments Off on “Thanksgiving Grandma” Wanda and Jamal Celebrate Thanksgiving for Sixth Year

“Thanksgiving Grandma” Wanda and Jamal Celebrate Thanksgiving for Sixth Year

Thursday marked the sixth Thanksgiving for Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench – the pair who met after a Thanksgiving Day invite was accidentally sent to the wrong number over text message. The two first met in 2016 when Dench, from Mesa, Az., sent a text inviting Hinton over for dinner. It was meant for her grandson, who had changed his phone number. Instead, Hinton, who was 17 at the time, got the message while sitting in class at Desert Vista High School.

Hinton replied” You’re not my grandma,” with a laughing emoji. He then sent back a selfie so Dench knew he was not her grandson and asked if he could stop by for dinner anyway. Dench welcomed him with open arms. “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do … feed everyone” Dench texted. The former strangers have been sharing the holiday ever since with Hinton documenting the holiday each year on his social media.

Hinton had told his social media followers last week that the two would be celebrating the day together again. “We are all set for year 6!” he wrote, alongside a picture of a text message from Dench inviting him, his girlfriend Mikaela and his family over. He also included a photo of himself, Dench, Mikaela and Dench’s late husband Lonnie, who died in April 2020 after a battle with Covid-19.

Last year, Hinton posted a video on YouTube documenting the 2020 dinner he and Mikaela shared with Dench – months after Dench’s husband Lonnie died. “I want to say thank you to all of the people that sent their blessings and their condolences and their well wishes for me,” Dench said in the video. It’s still going to take a lot of time…but when I get visits from these guys, it really perks me up,” she said.

Since their story went viral in 2016 Dench gets recognized as “Thanksgiving Grandma.” The two have celebrated more than just Thanksgiving together; Christmas, birthdays, and exciting new opportunities have come their way. They also shared their losses together. Wanda credits social media for helping her through the loss of her husband as well. “I get so many people giving condolences, and they’re so genuine and so uplifting,” she said.

Dench said it’s been an amazing journey. “I would have missed out on a wonderful relationship,” Dench said, when asked what would have happened if she hadn’t invited Hinton over years ago. “I’ve changed my view so much on the younger generation, and now that I’ve reflected back on all these years, I didn’t change their life; they changed mine.”
Hinton said Dench is an amazing person and he is blessed to have met her.

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on 13-year-old Uses His Make-A-Wish To Feed Homeless

13-year-old Uses His Make-A-Wish To Feed Homeless

A 13-year-old boy in Jackson, Mississippi used his Make-A-Wish to feed homeless people.
Abraham Olagbegi was born with a rare blood disorder and needed a bone marrow transplant.
His transplant was successful and he was later contacted by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which gifts children with life-threatening illnesses a granted wish. Despite the allure of getting something epic for himself, he thought the money and opportunity would be better spent on other people.

Abraham decided he wanted a long-lasting wish. “I remember we were coming home from one of his doctor appointments and he said, ‘Mom, I thought about it, and I really want to feed the homeless,” Abraham’s mom, Miriam Olagbegi said. The Foundation was more than happy to oblige Abraham in his wish and they set up a stall in Jackson, Mississippi to hand out free food to homeless people as well as supplies donated from local businesses.

In September, Make-A-Wish helped Abraham organize a day to hand out free food in Jackson, Mississippi. Abraham’s wish is still not fulfilled. Make-A-Wish will help Abraham feed the homeless once a month for one year. Abraham and his family are scheduled to host the event every third Saturday of each month. The Mississippi chapter has pledged to help Abraham by seeking out local businesses that can offer assistance and food to serve up to 80 people.

After Make-A-Wish finishes his wish in August 2022, Abraham plans to continue helping the homeless. He already has a name for the nonprofit, “Abraham’s Table.” “We’re just very excited to be able to continue on this endeavor. It’s just so rewarding,” his mom said. “If I was out there on the streets, homeless, I would want somebody at some point to think of me and to do something special for me. So, that’s what I try to instill in my kids and we just try to pay it forward, by doing what we were raised to do.”

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Dads Join Forces to Quell School Violence

Dads Join Forces to Quell School Violence

When a troubled Louisiana high school needed help, a group of dads answered the call. When tensions flared among students attending Southwood High School in Shreveport, Louisiana, a series of disturbing fights broke out over the course of a week. Twenty-three arrests were made in just 24 hours. Southwood’s campus security and officials say they tried everything to help tame the sudden uptick of violent confrontations, but to no avail.

A coalition of concerned fathers stepped up to help stop the violence. About 40 fathers came together and formed a support group called “Dads on Duty”. Together, they take turns spending time at the school greeting students in the morning and giving them words of encouragement. They also walk the halls and make sure students are getting to class on time. They say they are not a security force, but just fathers hoping to maintain a positive environment for learning, rather than fighting on campus. So far, the effort is working and there hasn’t been a single incident on campus since the dads showed up.

Michael R. La’Fitte II formed the Dads on Duty coalition to keep the halls of Southwood High safe. “We’re dads. We decided the best people who can take care of our kids are who? Are us,” La’Fitte said of the group’s mission. Another member of the group said not everybody has a father figure at home – or a male, period, in their life so just to be here makes a big difference. When La’Fitte isn’t patrolling the halls of Southwood High, he extends his passion for community service to the city’s NAACP chapter, where he serves as president.

Students say they feel much safer now that the Dads on Duty have been deployed throughout the campus. They may show a bit of tough love to students, but the group of fathers have also provided a little source of entertainment. One student said they tell alot of “Dad Jokes” and the atmosphere feels more positive. The group started with five men and has now grown to a group of 40 fathers wanting to make an impact. The Dads on Duty hope to continue spreading positivity at Southwood and said they would eventually like to expand the initiative with other chapters across the state and maybe nationwide someday.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Virginia-Based Driving Rehabilitation Program Helps Wounded Warriors Get Back On The Road

Virginia-Based Driving Rehabilitation Program Helps Wounded Warriors Get Back On The Road

A veteran who was severely injured in Afghanistan teamed up with his occupational therapist and driving rehab specialist to help people with disabilities get back into the driver’s seat. Marine veteran Josh Himan and Tammy Phipps developed the Driver Rehabilitation Center of Excellence (DRCE) in 2016. DRCE is the first driving rehabilitation program offering a full suite of services aimed at helping people who are either injured or physically challenged get back behind the wheel.

The pair first met at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where Phipps had developed the first and only driver rehab program in the Department of Defense. Himan, one of her patients, was left paralyzed from the waist down after his vehicle drove over an IED during the last month of his deployment in 2009.

Himan said “During my time in the hospital, you know, one of their things was, what can I do back in society again? They told me that I had the ability to drive…but the problem was trying to put the whole package together.” He recalled thinking: “OK, so I have the capability of driving. But how do I find the type of vehicle? How do I know about all the things that are available for people with my disability to drive?”

Himan said trying to figure out the Veteran Affairs paperwork proved to be very distressing so he called Phipps for help in 2013. He said she helped him with the entire process, including the paperwork and actually got him driving back on the road. Phipps recalled getting multiple calls from veterans that had just transitioned into veteran status across the nation and needed help but didn’t have the right customized vehicle or resources to find one. Part of the problem is there are only around 400 occupational therapists that do driving rehabilitation and that number gets smaller and smaller, the more complex the cases become.

Himan said being able to drive again was a life changing moment for him and he knew that people like him were all over the world. The two decided to address the huge gap in services for veterans and for all people with disabilities in the area. Based in Fairfax County, Virginia, DRCE offers a full suite of services. DRCE staff will evaluate a driver and help them find auto-adaptive equipment that’s best suited to their unique needs. They will properly install the equipment for the driver and, through their driving rehabilitation programs, will get them comfortably back on the road. Veterans are not the only ones benefiting from these services, over the past five years, DRCE has helped hundreds of people who are severely injured get back out on the road and transition back into the world of mobility.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on New Jersey Brothers Raise $70K for Restaurant Workers

New Jersey Brothers Raise $70K for Restaurant Workers

Two New Jersey brothers, Aiden and Louis Ardine set out to walk 3,200 miles across America to raise money for restaurant workers stuck at home during COVID. The two, who are former bartenders, hoped to raise $30,000 for some charities that were helping restaurant workers waiting for restrictions to end, but ended up making $70,000—which they distributed to the COCO Fund and the Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation.

Both experienced the stresses of working in a bar during the pandemic firsthand. While they had the privilege of being able to provide for themselves after being laid off, many of their friends and family did not find themselves in the same situation. They decided to give back to the industry that they loved being a part of by shining a light on an issue important to them by sharing stories of individuals they meet along the road to raise awareness and funds for restaurant workers across the country.

They have now completed their five-month walkabout which started on the Asbury Park boardwalk in New Jersey on May 1st. “It’s been an extremely difficult year and a half, and you don’t know the obstacles people have faced and the challenges they’re still dealing with,” Aiden says. “We realized that we could walk across America and sort of pursue this challenge for ourselves, learning about America and helping people in the service industry. It was super important for us.”

At every step of the journey, they were meeting the people they’re helping and hearing their stories of strength and resilience. Verizon heard about the endeavor and launched a donation drive in support of the Ardines, who passed through 11 states over the course of 162 days, 12,000 feet in various elevation changes, and about 80 degrees in temperature variation before the job was done.

“This would not have been possible without the help of a huge community of people, whether people were donating or helping us navigate our way across the United States.” Aiden Ardine said. “This was definitely an adventure founded in a very hopeful notion about America, and it confirmed our suspicion that people are inherently good and want to help their neighbors.”

Their trip, which was documented on social media, was filled with stunning scenery, long roads, and helpful strangers. From the man who passed them in the searing heat of summer in Iowa, before doubling back and giving them a cold Gatorade to a Nevada campground manager who let them stay for free. When they reached San Francisco, their supporters were waiting for them on the beach. Afterwards they flew home along with their mom who had been in San Francisco to meet them at the end of their trek.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Homecoming Queen Gives Crown To Friend Who Just Lost Mom To Cancer

Homecoming Queen Gives Crown To Friend Who Just Lost Mom To Cancer

An emotional moment has gone viral of a homecoming queen giving her crown away to a classmate who lost her mother to cancer. Nyla Covington, a senior at Forrest County Agricultural High School, was voted homecoming queen by fellow students in late September. But after receiving the honor, Nyla decided to give the crown to another student, Brittany Walters, after her mother reportedly passed away from cancer that day.

Nyla is given the crown and then she gave the crown to Brittany Walters, another nominee on the homecoming court, who just hours prior had lost her mother to cancer. Photos show Brittany Walters dissolving into tears as Covington turned to her to place the crown on her friend. “The entire crowd was shocked and crying. I just felt like it was something that was put on my heart. It was really just for her, to bring up her day a little bit, and she’d rather have her mom than a crown… but the point was, I was telling her that she was her mom’s queen and I was just letting her know that she was loved by many and especially me” Covington said.

Brittany’s mother was not only a parent at the school but was also a part of the school staff, working in the office as secretary. It was an emotional day for the entire community. The community rallied to get Brittany there even though her mother died hours before because it was her mother, A.J. ‘s last wish to cheer for her daughter on the field. Brittany said her mother A.J. Walters didn’t want her to miss the special day of homecoming, despite the circumstances.

Her father, Sean Walters, also accompanied her to homecoming. He said he made a promise to his wife he would be by Brittany’s side. “A.J. made me promise her that I was going to come out here with Brittany because she didn’t want to ruin her day, her homecoming day. She said that’s something she’ll remember for the rest of her life,” Sean said.

After the story gained attention on social media, both Nyla and Brittany said they have received countless support. The school principal said he hopes Nyla’s beautiful notion on homecoming night inspires others. “We hope that Nyla’s selfless act will be a light for the rest of society,” Wheat said. “So, we’re very proud of her and her giving nature.”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Community Comes Together to Get Neighborhood Handyman’s Roof Replaced

Community Comes Together to Get Neighborhood Handyman’s Roof Replaced

For decades, James “Mac” McWhorter of Waco, TX has been working on the homes of his neighbors as a handyman so when it came time for his house to receive some TLC, they were ready to return the favor. McWhorter, a veteran, started doing odd jobs here and there, and as word spread that he did good work, he became the trusted neighborhood handyman.

Neighbor Carmen Merritt said no job was too big or too small and anything you needed, he could do. McWhorter was so busy helping others take care of their houses that his own home was falling into disrepair. Merritt noticed he needed a new roof and said knew she had to do something. “This is not OK. He has helped me with so much and I didn’t feel right just going back inside and doing nothing,” Merritt said. She reached out to neighbors on the NextDoor app about ways to assist McWhorter. “Almost immediately there were people offering to donate,” Merritt said.

Eighty-seven year old neighbor Millie Woods, an interior designer who owns MLW Real Estate Holdings took the lead on the project. Woods said she got involved because he was known to make some repairs for poor people without charging the going rate. He was just a good man and has been robbed of those skills because he has dementia. She asked one of her contractors if he would be willing to take a look at the house and volunteer one Saturday to fix it.

What she thought would be a simple roof repair turned out to be a lot more. Donations for repairs started pouring in after the initial post in early May and neighbors also raised enough money for a year of pest control. In addition, Clayton Homes is donating all the shingles and Lowe’s is furnishing the rest of the materials. Woods made sure McWhorter was able to enjoy the experience without doing any work. “The thing about Mac, twice I had to stop him from getting on a ladder to get up on that roof,” Woods said. “I said, ‘Mac, you can’t help with this job, you don’t need to do this anymore. This is something that you deserve because you’ve done this for other people for so many years and you need it and now it’s your turn.”

McWhorter said he’s grateful for the unexpected blessing. “It shows me that there are still those kinds of people that are willing to help others,” McWhorter said. Woods, who’s done a lot for military veterans in the past, said no one who served should have to live with a roof in the state of McWhorter’s. “We don’t want anyone to live that way, but our veterans that served our country need better care than that and we are blessed to have found out about him and it’s an opportunity for us to give something back,” Woods said.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Bezos Pledges Another $1 Billion to Conservation

Bezos Pledges Another $1 Billion to Conservation

Jeff Bezos has placed an additional $1 billion into the Bezos Earth Fund to be spent on creating, expanding, managing, and monitoring protected and conserved areas of wilderness. Bezos announced the establishment of the Bezos Earth Fund on February 17, 2020 as a philanthropic initiative that would see him hand out $10 billion in donations to environmental groups to address the climate crisis.

The Bezos Earth Fund is Jeff Bezos’s $10 billion commitment to fund scientists, activists, NGOs, and other actors that will drive climate and nature solutions. By allocating funds creatively, wisely, and boldly, the Bezos Earth Fund has the potential for transformative influence in this decisive decade. Funds will be fully allocated by 2030—the date by which the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals must be achieved.

The Amazon founder had offered few details on how exactly the money would be distributed last year but he’s offered up more information on the leadership, structure, and timeline of the Earth Fund, such as that for the next decade it will award about $1 billion a year. The money will take the form of grants to organizations working to preserve lands and secure Indigenous people’s rights in the Congo, tropical Andes Mountains, and across Oceania.

The first round of grant money went mostly to large, well-organized global conservation organizations. In November 2020 he announced the first 16 recipients who received a total of $791 million donations. The top donations went to The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, World Resources Institute and the World Wildlife Fund, which each received $100 million. Many of the grantees received funds for specific projects, while other recipients were able to re-grant the funds and donate to other nonprofits.

Earlier this month, the fund said it would give away $203.7 million by the end of 2021 to organizations advancing climate justice, supporting climate-oriented economic recovery projects and spurring innovation in pathways to decarbonization. Recipients of this round of donations include organizations such as Science Based Targets, Climate Power, Partnership for Southern Equity and WE ACT for Environmental Justice among others.

“Conservation is one of the most effective anti-poverty strategies we have,” said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. “I warmly welcome this generous commitment, which will help deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.” We can and must reverse this anomaly,” Bezos added. “By coming together with the right focus and ingenuity, we can have both the benefits of our modern lives and a thriving natural world. I hope this commitment inspires others to make their own pledges to protect and conserve nature and help in the fight against climate change.”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Denver Father Delivers RVs to Wildfire Victims

Denver Father Delivers RVs to Wildfire Victims

A Denver father of four has given 95 families who have lost everything in California wildfires a place to call home. Woody Faircloth started the nonprofit EmergencyRV.org which pairs folks who are willing to donate their campers to a worthy cause with those in need. Faircloth first got the idea for the charity in 2018 while watching news coverage of California’s deadly Camp Fire that incinerated 153,336 acres and destroyed hundreds of homes during Thanksgiving week.

Inspired by how blessed he felt just to have a place to spend the holiday, he asked his 9 year old daughter Luna what she thought about finding an RV and delivering it to a family so they could have a place to call home for Christmas. She was 100 percent on board so Fairchild launched a GoFundMe campaign to finance the first RV that he and Luna delivered.

Within three days, with Luna riding shotgun, Faircloth steered west from Denver in a $2,500 motorhome he found on Craigslist. They celebrated Thanksgiving on the road and delivered the vehicle the next day to a victim of the CampFire, which nearly destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

As word of their journey spread, people started reaching out to him via social media, offering to donate their motorhomes—and from there, EmergencyRV soon took shape. Some offered to deliver the vehicles themselves, but Faircloth makes many of the drops personally. Many of the mobile home recipients are firefighters and other first responders whose tireless efforts battling the blazes did not prevent their own homes from going up in flames.

To date, Faircloth—often with Luna along for the ride—has delivered 95 motorhomes to California area wildfire victims who otherwise might wait months for emergency housing. He tries to schedule the trips on weekends but often dips into vacation time from his full-time job at telecom company Comcast. Faircloth has traversed thousands of miles over the past three years, often with Luna at his side. Last year, she joined him more often as COVID-19 precautions had her going to school remotely.

While those who are given RVs own them outright, Faircloth estimates 5% to 10% return them once they’re on their feet so they can be donated to other fire victims. The organization currently has 100 families on its waiting list. Although Faircloth said it’s challenging to balance work, family and his nonprofit, he hopes to expand the volunteer effort. He envisions staging RVs in hurricane and fire zones in the future to respond even faster during disasters. The organization continues to grow and evolve but the original sentiments behind Faircloth’s humanitarian efforts remain constant. He’s grateful for the many blessings he has—and blessed to be in a position to help others.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on School Faculty Raise Funds To Surprise Custodian With Car

School Faculty Raise Funds To Surprise Custodian With Car

Two teachers at Unity Grove Elementary in Locust Grove, GA found out the head custodian Chris Jackson had fallen on hard times over the summer and decided to help. Megan MacDonald and Jodi Combs noticed that the reliable fixture and smiling face known as Mr. Chris had been walking to work so they set out to help find him an affordable car. They found one but it was more that the $1,500 Jackson had saved for a new car.

MacDonald and Combs secretly got to work and were able to raise enough funds for Mr. Chris within minutes thanks to the generosity of the faculty of their school. On an unsuspecting August day, Jackson, who is always willing to help, was escorted to the school parking lot to help a teacher with her car but was given the shock of a lifetime instead. The heartwarming moment was shared to the school’s Facebook page where it quickly went viral.

In the video, MacDonald and Combs are seen leading Jackson to the parking lot where they put the car keys in his hand. His grateful reaction as he realized the car was for him garnered thousands of comments and unbeknownst to MacDonald and Combs, they happened to buy his dream car, a Chevrolet Impala. “There is a God,” Chris says with his hands extended in the air.

Jackson said he didn’t let his financial situation deter him despite feeling defeated. “I’m not going to just quit and run away. I put my pride aside and just come to work, smile, be me.”
He decided to trek to work because using public transportation added an hour and 40 minutes to his morning commute. But his dedication and work ethnic had not gone unnoticed by the faculty.

Combs said there has never been a day that he came to work without a smile on his face and the kids adore him so the staff pulled together to help with his most immediate need which was transportation. Jackson said “I never would have dreamt of something like this. This is mind-blowing to me.” Since the happy moment went viral, people from all over the country have contacted him and he says it was one of the greatest moments of his life.

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