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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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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Chef David Hertz Is Using Food to Inspire Social Change

Chef David Hertz Is Using Food to Inspire Social Change

Chef David Hertz is a world leader in turning food into social change. For David Hertz, food is more than sustenance, it’s a social-bonding tool. Through his non-profit, Gastromotiva, he’s found a way to empower the world’s poorest citizens. Gastromotiva provides free courses in restaurant cooking, kitchen-assistant training and food entrepreneurship, all with a focus on nutrition. Students apply online, and after they finish the program, they not only find jobs, but often start their own restaurants and soup kitchens.

Hertz was 18 when he started his journey, travelling to the Hatzerim kibbutz to live among native Israelis and Jews from all over the world. “I discovered myself and then I hit the world. Israel was my freedom,” he said. “I had the first vision that there was a bigger world and that I could search for my story, whatever it was. What was supposed to be a one-year trip abroad turned into seven.”

Between the ages of 18 and 25, he visited Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, England and Canada. He took his first cooking lesson in Thailand and discovered the ritual side of cooking in India. When he hit Toronto and started to work in the food delivery industry, he became inspired to become a chef, so he moved back to Brazil to attend a college of gastronomy in Sao Paulo.

In 2004, he was invited to design a kitchen project inside the Jaguare favela — one of Brazil’s many low-income shantytowns plagued with urban violence and drug trafficking, and historically neglected by the government. “When I stepped into that kitchen, I saw a new world,” Hertz said. “I was inspired to do something to contribute to the reduction of violence and to share my knowledge with the young people there, who at many times felt lost, with no relation of belonging to the space. It became my life project, my mission.”

The next year, he decided to create a school focused on training upcoming chefs from low-income areas, which are often plagued by malnutrition and food shortages. His organization, called Gastromotiva, runs a network of what they call Solidarity Kitchens, of which there are now 55 across Brazil and three in Mexico. He won the 2019 Charles Bronfman Prize, which honors innovative work grounded in Jewish values. He’s also worked closely with the United Nations’ World Food Program, which won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize. They have been partners in many efforts to combat global hunger, with the latest focused on alleviating the hunger crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many of the Solidarity Kitchens are based out of the homes of alumni, as well as partnerships with local homeless charities and food banks. Together, they have distributed almost 80,000 free meals to hungry families. By the end of 2021, the number of Solidarity Kitchens will nearly double to 108, including some in other countries in Latin America. “Combating hunger and food waste are global challenges that require joint action. Collaborating with each other, we multiply our impact on the world. I wonder how to feed humanity with humanity,” he said

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Plastic Surgeon Has Performed Over 32,000 Free Surgeries

Plastic Surgeon Has Performed Over 32,000 Free Surgeries

A world renowned plastic surgeon and his team have performed over 32,000 free cleft-palate surgeries to help children smile again. Dr. Subodh Kumar Singh established GS Memorial Plastic Surgery Hospital in the memory of his father to provide state of the art reconstructive plastic surgery to the needy patients at a very affordable cost. The hospital partnered with Smile Train, a charity providing corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates.

Dr Singh came from humble beginnings and lost his father when he was 13 years old. After his father’s death, his family lived in extreme poverty. He and his older siblings sold homemade soaps to help support the family. In 1982 his older brothers pitched in to pay for Singh’s medical entrance exams. He went on to earn an M.B.B.S (an international medical degree equivalent to an M.D. in the US) from Banaras Hindu University in 1988, a Master of Surgery in 1991 and a Master of Chirurgiae in plastic surgery in 1994.

Dr. Singh said since around 2008-2009 they have performed over 4,000 free cleft surgeries under the Smile Train initiative. Thousands of other cleft surgeries have been performed at his center under his leadership. Cleft palate is a common birth condition. It can occur alone or as part of a genetic condition/syndrome. Symptoms arise from the opening in the mouth, causing difficulty in speaking and eating. Repairing a cleft lip or palate can sometimes require multiple surgeries depending on the patient.

Dr Singh is a global trainer and speaker under the Smile Train initiative. His hospital in Varanasi has become a major centre where surgeons across the world come to train in cleft lip-palate surgeries. Dr. Singh and his team have also performed 6,000 free extensive burn surgeries. His efforts inspired the making of Burned Girl (2015), the National Geographic documentary that won international awards for detailing the life of nine-year-old Ragini, whose childhood burns were treated surgically by Dr. Singh.

Singh said every child he has operated on reminds him of himself when he was a child. His service to the poor has earned him wide recognition. He was among celebrated guests at the 2009 Academy Awards and the central court for the 2013 Wimbledon Men Singles Final. “My father Gyan Singh and mother Giriraj Kumari (she died last year) taught me to serve the poor and live ethically. I feel God made me a plastic surgeon and not a businessman to serve a divine cause.”

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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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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Steelers Rookie Najee Harris Helps Renovate Homeless Shelter

Steelers Rookie Najee Harris Helps Renovate Homeless Shelter

Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Najee Harris returned to the California homeless shelter where he stayed at times when he was a child to help renovate the building and the grounds. Harris partnered with the Lowe’s Home Team and Hands On Bay Area group to bring new life to the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program in Richmond – located about 12 miles north of Oakland. The shelter serves 15,000 homeless, hungry, and low-income individuals annually.

On Oct 5th, Harris, his family and more than 100 volunteers removed the floors, walls, fences, gardens, play areas and veterans’ housing. When Harris was 12 years old, his mother and four siblings were homeless and moved from shelter to shelter around the Bay Area at one point even living in a car. Harris spent a lot of time in homeless shelters but he especially remembers the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program so every time he’s in the area, he makes sure to pay his respects.

The Martinez, California, native would eventually attend Alabama where he would star as running back, helping the Crimson Tide to a national championship and then get drafted 24th overall by the Steelers. “In Alabama, I didn’t really go there because I didn’t really have time to do that. Ever since I’ve been out of college … I’m not going to say all the time but a good amount. I planned my draft there, I came back again after the draft to see some of the stuff they need done. I came back again to take some of the kids to a Giants game. “It was good to go back. Obviously, some of the people there are still working. I went back with my mom too and my family. It was good to renovate some of the things that needed updating,” he said.

Harris remembers his time at the shelter and continues to pay his success forward whenever he can. While visiting the shelter, Harris says he just tries to keep the kids’ minds off their struggles. “I tell them the basic stuff, it’s not like I give some grand speech or something but you know. I just tell them you can always change around the situation and sometimes I’m not even speaking to them about the situations they’re in because they all know where they’re at. I just try to take their minds off other things.”

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Army Veteran Donated 36 Acres For Veterans Treatment

Army Veteran Donated 36 Acres For Veterans Treatment

US Army veteran Marty Weber donated 36 rural acres to help veterans with PTSD and addiction issues. The land bordering New Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve will be used as a rehabilitation center/retreat for mental illness and addiction. Up to 30 percent of American veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 14 percent suicides in the U.S. every year are vets. Many veterans also struggle with homelessness and addiction.

Weber lost his longtime partner Jeff Poissant, who was also an Army Veteran, to bladder cancer in 2017. They had purchased the property in October 1994 and had always envisioned somehow using their Ocean County Ponderosa to help fellow veterans. Weber felt compelled to realize that dream following Poissant’s death to honor their 30 year union. “We thought about a cemetery for the vets but this is going to keep them alive,” he said.

Working with two already-established homeless outreach programs—Just Believe and New Life Addiction Services—Jeff’s Camp will feature an 8,000-square-foot facility incorporating a thrift store and a sober living residence providing treatment, rehabilitation, and vocational training—all in a serene, wooded setting. As New Life does at its existing facility, it would provide initial week-long detoxification care, followed by an intensive outpatient recovery program of three hours a day once the veterans move into the residence elsewhere on the property, said the company’s co-founder and administrator Joel Albano.

Just Believe director Paul Hulse said “While New Life is working with them on the medical side, we can work on the rehabilitative/vocation side, getting them back into society, touching people, getting back into that public eye, and getting people what they need. That’s what the store is going to do. The thrift store, like one already operated by Just Believe in Toms River, would employ the veterans living on the property, stocking and selling the donated clothing and other merchandise, as a means of reintegrating them into society through regular work and interaction with the public” Hulse said. The estimated cost of the project is $2.5 million, which Hulse hopes to raise through private contributions and grants.

Weber attributes Poissant’s death to delays in receiving medical care from the Veterans Administration. He said he and Poissant both experienced firsthand some of the challenges military veterans can face. “Our government is not taking good enough care of our vets,” said Weber. “I have to do what I can in Jeff’s memory to help make things right. Weber turned down a $3 million offer for the commercially and residentially zoned property by a developer in order to make Jeff’s Camp a reality.

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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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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Michael J. Fox Foundation Has Raised Over $1 Billion To Find Cure For Parkinson’s

Michael J. Fox Foundation Has Raised Over $1 Billion To Find Cure For Parkinson’s

Twenty years ago Michael J. Fox launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation ( MJFF) for Parkinson’s Research to help fund research for therapies and cures. The charity has raised more than $1 billion. His foundation has played an important role in developing therapies. The foundation has funded research that resulted in more than 20 early-stage therapeutic programs and sponsored scores of clinical trials in partnership with both academic and industry teams.

Today, more than 15 disease-modifying interventions are in clinical trials and multiple improved symptomatic therapies have achieved regulatory approval or are poised to do so. The landmark MJFF-sponsored Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative has built the most robust dataset and biosample library in the history of Parkinson’s research. Although therapies have been successful, the foundation’s single goal is to eliminate Parkinson’s completely.

While they have been leading the charge toward a world without Parkinson’s disease, the foundation says since their inception they have operated with one single-minded goal: putting ourselves out of business by finding the cure for Parkinson’s. “While we have made progress, much remains to be discovered,” the foundation’s website states. “Our relentless pursuit of a cure requires a dedicated and significant supply of human and financial capital.”

Fox was already well known for his role on “Family Ties” and the star of the “Back To The Future” movies and was working on his fifth film in three years when the first symptom of early-onset Parkinson’s disease revealed itself. He was in North Central Florida filming “Doc Hollywood” when he woke to find his pinky dancing on its own. A few days later he began having issues with his arm and saw a UF neurological specialist, Dr. Robert Watson, but the examination turned up nothing more telling than the tingling pinky finger.

Fox was just 29 years old in 1991 when he was diagnosed with the long-term degenerative disorder. Though he would not share the news with the public for another seven years, upon disclosing his condition in 1998, he committed himself to the campaign for increased Parkinson’s research. Fox said “Now there are therapies that have made life a lot better for a lot of people. I enjoy life more. I’m more comfortable in my skin than I was 20 years ago. I can sit down and be calm. I couldn’t do that 25 years ago.”

Fox is hopeful that biomarkers will be the next big step in possibly preventing the disease. “We are not just looking for a cure, we are looking for a cause, and different ways to deal with the side effects of the medication. I want people with Parkinson’s to wake up knowing that there is someone trying to get this done. I just want to get this done. I’m committed to this. I won’t stop until it happens” he said.

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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 Navy Veteran Becomes Unlikely Tiktok Star When His Scooter Breaks Down

Navy Veteran Becomes Unlikely Tiktok Star When His Scooter Breaks Down

A 79-year-old Navy veteran, Kenny Jary, known for riding a patriotic scooter around Mahtomedi, MN has become very popular on TikTok. His neighbor Amanda Kline helped him set up a tiktok account, @patrioticKenny and he posted a few videos. Just a week later, his mobility scooter broke down leaving him heart broken. Kline posted a video of him talking about how sad he was that his scooter broke down but the two were about to find out just how wonderful his new community is.

“He was so sad and upset, I just decided to post a little video,” Kline said. “Honestly, I was thinking, if we got lucky, maybe he’d get like a hundred dollars off a scooter or something.”
In the video Jary explains “You know I met some beautiful people on this scooter by traveling around, the coffee shop and Veteran’s Park and I met Amanda, Jenny, and Jerry and that’s when I start to cry… because that’s how I met them,” Kenny says in the video. The video garnered millions of views on TikTok so Amanda launched a GoFundMe page to buy Kenny a new scooter.

Within hours, his newfound social media community raised $5,000, enough to pay for two new scooters. When Amanda told Kenny the good news, he broke down in tears. She posted another video of Kenny’s reaction. “I didn’t think it would get $1,000,” Jary said. “Look what happened? I am so honored. My angels took care of me. I could not believe it,” Jary said. “I laid on the floor and just bawled because I’m an emotional person, so I’m so happy.” And the love just keeps coming. Kenny now has more than 650,000 followers on TikTok, and his GoFundMe fundraiser has surpassed $111,000.

In addition to a new scooter, the donations will help Kenny get some new teeth, move into a safer home, and pay off debt. But Kenny also wanted to pay it forward to other vets in need. Using the extra money raised by his fundraiser, he’s purchasing scooters for other veterans in need. But when he invited people to nominate a veteran to receive a scooter, he received more than 500 submissions.

So, with Amanda’s help, Kenny launched a GoFundMe page to raise more money to meet the demand. The fundraiser states “Every donation made here will go directly to purchasing free scooters for veterans. You’ve seen how happy Kenny’s new scooter made him. We want to be able to put that type of smile on the faces of even more of those who have served our country with such dedication and honor.”

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