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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 Veterans United Gives Homes To Veterans

Veterans United Gives Homes To Veterans

The nation’s top Veterans Administration-affiliated home lender launched a national campaign to highlight vets and their service. With the help of actor, comedian and retired U.S. Marine Rob Riggle, Veterans United Home Loans has been giving thanks to veterans across the country by surprising them with new houses—completely paid off.

As the initiative’s first expression of gratitude, the Missouri-based lending company and its charitable foundation surprised 10 deserving Veterans with a new house each. Veterans United teamed up with Marine veteran and comedian Rob Riggle to select 10 veterans making a difference in their communities for 10 home giveaways and is donating one more to any veteran who enters for a chance to win at ThanksToVeterans.com.

Pam Swan, vice president of military relations for Veterans United Home Loans and a military spouse, got involved in efforts to support service members after getting married in 1987 and becoming aware of what “military families are lacking” and joined Veterans United in 2011. “We as a company work on improving the lives of service members, their families and their communities, and that is the core of every decision we make,” Swan said. “…Last year, we made a big statement in trying to say thank you on Veterans Day in a more spectacular way.”

The donations were a complete surprise to those selected, who were all in the process of applying for home loans and were just recently approved. Winning recipients were Army Veteran Jonathon Brown, eight-year U.S. Navy veteran and single dad Andre H. from North Carolina; Vietnam Army vet Jim L. from New Mexico, who needed a wheelchair-accessible home; U.S. Army veteran and father of three Daniel G. from New York; U.S. Navy veteran, widow and mother of three Regina L. from Georgia; and Marine Corps veteran Iraq vet Samuel T. from California, who teaches local self-defense classes.

“Our #ThanksToVeterans campaign underscores the daily commitment of veterans as local leaders, dedicated volunteers, and exemplary neighbors. And what better way to thank these deserving individuals than by giving them houses of their very own in the communities they call home?” said Swan

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on NYC 11 Year Old Is Helping Shelter Dogs Get Adopted

NYC 11 Year Old Is Helping Shelter Dogs Get Adopted

An 11-year-old boy in Bronx, NY, is this year’s ASPCA Kid of the Year because of his efforts to help socialize shelter dogs at Animal Care Centers of NYC (ACC). Evan Bisnauth leads a busy life in the Bronx, but he doesn’t let his many interests — or even a pandemic — deter him from his primary passion: helping socialize adoptable dogs by reading to them regularly.

In the summer of 2019 Evan’s mom, Amanda Persaud, heard about Books With Boroughbreds, an Animal Care Center program that encourages children to enhance their reading skills by reading to abandoned dogs. She took the bus with her son the following weekend from their home in the Bronx to the shelter in Manhattan. “I spent five hours reading to every dog on the first day,” said Evan, who is now in sixth grade. “After that, I wanted to go every weekend.”

He also creates amusing animations of ACC’s adoptable animals to help them get attention and ultimately be placed in safe and loving homes. When the coronavirus pandemic put his Saturday visits on hold last year, Evan decided to start a Facebook page, EB and the Pets, where he could post short videos he’d made of dogs that needed homes. The shelter supplied Evan with photos of dogs that were most in need of adoption and he got to work making videos with help from an app.

Evan also came up with the idea of interviewing shelter dogs to show their personality to potential adopters. “During COVID, I was not able to go in person and I needed to find a fun way to showcase the dogs and put them in a positive light. It’s like a little show. I’d ask them questions about themselves so people could see how they behave, what they like…information about them,” he said. “So I couldn’t be there, but I could get them the exposure they need.”

The ASPCA announced the recipients of the 2021 Humane Awards, an event to honor people and pets from across the nation who have made outstanding contributions to animal welfare. Evan was named Kid of the Year and was among other ASPCA award winners at a virtual luncheon to celebrate their commitment to animal welfare. “It makes me feel really good … but it also makes me want to do so much more,” he said. He said he hopes the award might inspire other people his age to help shelter animals in their own communities. “Helping dogs has brought me a lot of happiness. If everybody would read to dogs and try to get them adopted, think how much difference that would make in the world.”

Adoptions of shelter animals increased during the pandemic as more people stayed home, and in some cities, there was actually a shortage of adoptable dogs for a time. Some 90 percent of dogs adopted during the pandemic have remained in their adoptive homes. Evan’s crusade to help dogs in New York City has helped raise awareness and make older or unsociable dogs more adoptable, said Risa Weinstock, president and CEO of Animal Care Center.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Anti Food Waste App Too Good To Go Now Serves Los Angeles

Anti Food Waste App Too Good To Go Now Serves Los Angeles

Too Good To Go, the company behind its namesake app for reducing food waste added Los Angeles to its list of cities in the US over the summer. Founded in 2016 in Copenhagen, and now in 15 countries, Too Good To Go saves more than 200,000 meals every day. Since the US launch 10 months ago, the app has amassed more than one million users and over 6,000 partners in cities across the US, including, New York City, Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Austin, and Atlanta.

Co founder Lucie Basch said “We throw away one-third of the food we produce each year. That’s $1.3 trillion worth of food that gets tossed. Food waste is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions. It has great consequences both on the environment and the economy. And socially speaking, it’s absurd to throw away the food we produce when we know today that 870 million people are underfed.”

The app connects consumers to surplus food from restaurants, bakeries, cafes and grocery stores at the end of each business day. Customers browse participating locations and can reserve and pay for a “surprise bag” on the app and head to the store during the pick-up window, which is based on each location’s closing time. There’s no fee to use the app on either end.

Basch said “Most stores do not want to run out of fresh food, so they over produce and then have waste. The app allows stores to update the amount of surplus they have in real-time, based on how sales are going throughout the day. The contents of the bag vary daily, but the consumer has an idea of what the bag will contain based on the type of food sold at the location. It’s really this win-win concept where the store doesn’t throw away food anymore and people can save food while getting three times the value of what they paid for,” Ms. Basch said. “I believe the best way to fight big causes like food waste is to make everyone part of the solution.”

The small volumes of food that stores have at the end of the day cannot effectively be redistributed to food banks or homeless shelters. The food is safe and ready for eating, but not sellable the next day. Too Good To Go fills the gap in high-density, urban areas by making it easy for consumers to pick up this surplus. The app is very straightforward, the buyer pays $4 to $6 for the bag and the store fills it with products valued at three times the price. The app takes a commission of $1.79 on every transaction, with the rest paid to the seller.

Now in 15 international markets including France, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. Too Good To Go has quickly become the go-to for conscious consumers and businesses around the world, resulting in more than 37 million app downloads and over 72 million meals saved to date. Plans are to be in many of the largest US cities by the end of 2021.

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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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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 Parents Magazine Names America’s Kindest Family

Parents Magazine Names America’s Kindest Family

Parents magazine held a contest that began last April looking for the kindest family in America as a way to inspire “families to continue to do good and to share their stories.” The winners of the America’s Kindest Families contest are the Barrons’ family. Luke and Holly Barrón, who live in Oklahoma, lost their 8-year-old son, Keaton, to acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2018. Ever since, the couple and their children, Reid, 7, Holden, 5, and Conley, 2, have worked tirelessly to continue Keaton’s legacy by helping others through their foundation, the K Club.

Towards the end of his life, Keaton was visited by a volunteer at the hospital named Kay and the two started the K Club. The foundation, which was Keaton’s idea, primarily helps children fighting cancer and their families. It is also committed to doing random acts of kindness. While in the hospital, founding member Keaton wrote that the club’s mission is “to be kind to others, be courageous, compassionate, and caring.”

The club raised money by selling clubhouse dues for just $1 and has grown to have a significant impact on the lives of countless families. The K Club helps kids with cancer and their families by throwing several fundraisers a year, including a golf tournament and a Christmas celebration where they sell baked goods. The club also makes K Packs that allow parents to remember the children they’ve lost to a terminal illness. They include recordings of the child’s voice and artwork.

The K Club also collects diapers, wipes, and clothes for a pregnancy resource center, makes hygiene packs for those experiencing homelessness, and donates funds to build wells in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Holly and Luke have also created “K Cares” to help pay for funerals. The list of good deeds goes on and on.

“Even though he lived a life of suffering, he looked out for other people first, that was Keaton.
It’s an honor to provide a tiny bit of hope or peace in the most unimaginable time in a family’s life. We feel for every parent who may lose a child and will do anything we can to be there for them” Holly said.

Every month, the Barrons host a party at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, where Keaton was treated. Marie Janne Lopez, who nominated the Barrons for America’s Kindest Family, recalled how Keaton would often choose a toy for his younger sibling instead of himself. “He realized his brother’s life had been turned upside down by his treatment. How many 6-year-olds do that kind of thing?” Lopez asked.

The Barróns think that the K Club is a great way for Keaton’s younger brothers to keep his spirit alive. “I think Keaton would be pleased with it all, but I don’t think he’d be like, ‘Whoa, this is unbelievable!'” Holly said. “I think he’d just say, ‘Yeah, this is what I’d planned. Good job.'”

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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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