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4 days ago · by · Comments Off on Missouri Woman Turned Grief Into Hope During Pandemic

Missouri Woman Turned Grief Into Hope During Pandemic

A Missouri woman turned her grief into hope after she lost 11 of her family members and friends to COVID-19.  Shana Jones, of Maplewood, sets up dozens of tables outside her home six days a week with hundreds of free items for those in need.  Jones lost the first eight of her friends and relatives in her home town of  Albany, Georgia, in the week before and after her March 25, 2020 birthday.  “I cried, and I felt weak.  It just became so overwhelming that I became numb” she said.  But soon after, Jones wanted to use her grief to do something good for her community, and she began putting a collection of tables on her front lawn, each one full of food and supplies for anyone to take — free of charge. 

The tables were stocked with paper products, snacks, canned goods and cleaning supplies — things that a struggling family may have a hard time affording if they have fallen on hard times.  Residents only have to drive by and take what they need from the “Grab-N-Go” tables.  Although she remains heartbroken from the losses, she wanted the tragedy to be a stepping stone and decided to give back to her community.  Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has given away food to more than 300 families a week.

“A lot of people cannot go back to work full time, they’re part-time and they’re still trying to make it, but they are struggling because, you know, they’re home. They can’t work” Jones said.  Jones’ generous actions meant so much to her neighborhood that many left notes expressing their appreciation. “Every time I get a note,I feel that the angel of one of my family members or friends is saying, ‘Well done” Jones said.

I have elderly people who come by and say, ‘I’m scared to go to the store, can I get some cabbage off your table?’ People come by and donate. They just put stuff on the table to help the community. That’s all I’m trying to do,” Jones said.  The St. Louis County Council awarded Shana Jones with a special resolution “for making a difference in Maplewood.”

Lisa Clancy, the Chairperson of the St. Louis County Council said “I see Shana as an inspiration.  “We just wanted to honor her for what she’s doing. I think it’s great.”  While some items are donated, Jones has purchased many of the items herself, costing her hundreds of dollars. “Her main focus is improving the lives of those around her,” according to the GoFundMe page set up to accept donations for the effort.

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1 week 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 weeks 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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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on California Couple Adopts Seven Children Orphaned In Deadly Crash

California Couple Adopts Seven Children Orphaned In Deadly Crash

California husband and wife adopted seven children after the children’s mother and father perished in a car accident a year earlier. The siblings had been placed in foster care when Pam Willis came across a post about their story. Pam, 50, and her husband Gary, who have five biological adult children, had fostered before, but they had never discussed adoption. She tagged him in the post, not knowing if he would feel the same but by the end of the day the both wanted to adopt them all.


“We knew deep inside that this mission was being placed before us,” Pam wrote. “If not us, then who? Who would keep them all together? Who would have the space for them? Who would have the time, and the love, and the patience for their trauma? We would. Why else did we have a six-bedroom house that was about to have its last child’s bedroom vacated? Why else would our nest that had raised our first five babies be empty just in time? It was only to make room for our new babies.”


Two months after making initial contact with the foster care agency, Adelino, 15, Ruby, 13, Aleecia, 9, Anthony, 8, Aubriella, 7, Leo, 5, and Xander, 4 were placed with Pam and Gary. The Willises knew it would take time for them to earn the children’s trust but they were willing to do whatever it took. Last August, Pam and Gary made the adoption official. The virtual ceremony was attended by the couple’s biological children, Matthew, Andrew, Alexa, Sophia, and Sam—whose ages range from 20 to 32.


The couple learned that the children had experienced quite a bit of trauma in their lives. Their mother and father were sometimes indigent and also struggled with substance abuse. As a result, they were sometimes unable to provide a stable environment for their kids. The family left their home with all their belongings in tow, headed to a new life in Texas when the deadly rollover crash occurred. All seven children had been ejected from the vehicle, suffering minor to critical injuries. They ranged in ages of 1 to 12 at the time. The children were treated for their injuries and placed in foster care.


Pam revealed that connecting with the older ones was tough. “I think it’s so hard to trust when so much has been taken from your life,” she told the outlet. “Ruby didn’t know how to be a kid. She had to be a mother figure at a very young age.”


Though a second family hadn’t been in their plans, Pam said “They were ours from the minute we saw their faces on the news story. If you ask my friends, one moment we were reposting their heart-wrenching news story and calling attention to their plight, the next minute we were meeting them, falling in love, and starting the adoption process… WE are their forever home, and this is our second chance with SEVEN!”

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1 month 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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2 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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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Mercy Chefs Serves 10 Millionth Meal

Mercy Chefs Serves 10 Millionth Meal

In February, the Virginia-based disaster relief and humanitarian aid group, Mercy Chefs, reached the milestone of serving its 10 millionth meal. Founded after Hurricane Katrina, the nonprofit organization has served professionally prepared restaurant-quality meals to victims and first responders in 27 states and 10 countries, responding to more than 134 disasters.


Since the start of the Covid 19 pandemic in March 2020, they have distributed 7 million meals with the help of 10,000 community volunteers. The group uses coronavirus response distribution locations it has established across the US, where Mercy Chefs works with food distributors and volunteers to supplement the USDA Family Farmers Food Box Program with more meals.


Mercy Chefs has also deployed to locations in 2020 following natural disasters, including Hurricanes Hanna and Laura; and the recent tornado in Alabama. They have repeatedly returned to Panama City to serve those still affected by Hurricane Michael. Just after reaching their milestone, they headed to Dallas Texas when the call for help came as severe cold weather left millions without electricity, water or food.


They served thousands of hot meals to Texans during the unprecedented storms from a large mobile kitchen at Gateway Church North Fort Worth Campus. The team served both lunch and dinner to the community, distributing food from multiple locations. Mercy Chefs utilized several kitchens in order to prepare meals to distribute to citizens and also. They also have been working to provide clean drinking water to those who need it throughout Texas.


Founder Gary LeBlanc said he was driven to help with disaster relief on a broader scale when he volunteered in his hometown of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “The devastation was so intense and widespread. I saw firsthand the incredible difference a hot meal could make. I was inspired to the point of distraction by the idea of serving high-quality food in a disaster area. Little did I know how far that distraction would lead and Mercy Chefs now has three mobile kitchens and two refrigerated trailers. “


LeBlanc founded the non-profit in 2006 to help with disaster relief and they are often one of the first organizations to arrive following a major weather event. His teams are capable of providing 15,000 meals daily to meet the needs of devastated communities. When the pandemic started Mercy Chefs delivered millions of meals through grocery box distribution in places like Texas, Florida, Virginia, Puerto Rico, Oklahoma and others. They are also working toward ways to support people in food insecure communities with job skills training, single mothers cooking classes, and budget recipe creation.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Toyota Replaces TX EMT’s Truck After Heroic Actions During Pile Up

Toyota Replaces TX EMT’s Truck After Heroic Actions During Pile Up

The Texas pile up on February 11th took the lives of 6 people as Winter storm Shirley bared down on many states across the country. Rare wintery conditions had iced over highways all across Texas, including Interstate 35 in Fort Worth. In the early morning hours, 133 vehicles, including dozens of semis, some of them loaded with cars, were involved in the mass accident.


A video of the pileup as it happened is included below. At one point, a white truck is seen crashing into the ever-growing mass of vehicles. Moments later, a semi comes barreling down, smashes into it and the force of the impact sends the now-crumpled vehicle into the opposite lane, over the barrier. The man in the truck, MedStar paramedic, Trey McDaniel, survived. McDaniel said he saw the semi barreling at him at full speed and there was nothing he could do.


But he not only survived both crashes, once he got out of his now crumpled 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser, as he puts it himself, he went into “emergency mode” and started helping out other victims. McDaniel said he started helping other victims as soon as he got his bearings. He was dizzy and in pain but he was able to help out. In fact, he was already in his uniform, since he was driving to work when the accident happened so he was assisting crash victims for quite some time before other medics on the scene realized he was a victim himself.


McDaniel posted about his experience on Reddit, leaving out the details of his heroic behavior afterwards and explaining how his off road tires, as well as the car itself saved his life. “I was launched over the center barrier into the Northbound lanes while still inside. If you slow the video down, I made a full rotation, my roof rack came off, and the FJ landed on top of it, fortunately wheels down. Every airbag deployed, and the cab was a safe cocoon,” he writes. “I was alive. I oriented myself and crawled out of my driver window.”


A friend launched a GoFundMe in his name, in the hope that he might be able to replace the vehicle – an essential item for him, since he needs it for his daily work commute. Toyotausa caught wind of his posting and commented “We’re just glad you’re safe and inspired that you chose to help others in need. We’re happy you’re part of the Toyota family. So, don’t worry about replacing your vehicle – it would be an honor for us to get you a new one!” Toyota doesn’t offer the FJ Cruisers in the US anymore so they offered McDaniel a vehicle of his choice and he opted for a brand new 4Runner TRD Pro.


This isn’t the first time Toyota has offered to reward heroes for their heroic actions. In 2018, the automaker provided a new Tundra to Allyn Pierce, a nurse who burnt his old truck to a crisp helping to evacuate patients and staff in the Paradise, California wildfires before attempting to leave the area himself.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on San Antonio Community Rallies To Repair WWII Veteran’s Home

San Antonio Community Rallies To Repair WWII Veteran’s Home

A San Antonio TX community has rallied behind a 94 year old veteran, Alfred Guerra, after his home fell into disrepair.  Guerra’s son and daughter had been able to keep up with home repairs but it became uninhabitable after his son, who had torn out much of the interior during the remodel, suddenly passed away from cancer last summer.  Hoping to harness the power of social media, his daughter, Maria, reached out via Facebook to ask for help. It wasn’t long before a variety of veterans groups heard about the man who had earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for acts of bravery in World War II. 

First to answer the call was the Military Order of the Purple Heart, followed soon after by Broken Warriors’ Angels, a local nonprofit serving San Antonio veterans and their families, along with the VFW Post 76, and the city’s Department of Human Services and Department of Military Affairs.  “As combat warriors, we leave nobody behind. And as veterans, we leave no veteran behind,” Tony Roman, of the Military Order of the Purple Heart.

Mr. Guerra had moved in with Maria and was thrilled that the repairs were underway once again—but then the COVID-19 lockdown put the project on hold.  Thankfully, this month, work on the house has resumed.  Veteran volunteers who had served in three foreign conflicts—Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam—arrived on the scene and worked as a team to gut the home’s interior and prep it for the next phase of the home makeover.

A new roof had been donated by the SRS Raise the Roof Foundation, and the electrical and plumbing systems are on their way to being updated.  They are still in need of an HVAC system and the family is hoping for another guardian angel to come through there as well.  They’ve set up a GoFundMe page with a modest $5,000 goal to help finance the much-needed repairs.

It may take another month or so to complete the project but more than anything else, Guerra yearns to move back into his home. He longs to tend the roses he named in honor of his late wife, Emma, in their garden.  “It’s a wonderful thing,” said Maria Guerra, his daughter. “It’s a mission of mercy.”  She said her father, who has been living with her for the past several months, has missed his home so much that at times, he cries.

Tony Roman said what’s been done has taken the generosity of all those who donated their time and skills to the effort, and he hopes that a company will do the same by donating heating and air conditioning for the small home. 

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on Fourteen Year Old Named America’s Top Young Scientist For Work On Potential Covid 19 Cure

Fourteen Year Old Named America’s Top Young Scientist For Work On Potential Covid 19 Cure

A 14-year-old girl from Texas has discovered a molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2. Eighth grader Anika Chebrolu has been named the winner of the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge—America’s premier middle school science competition. She received a $25,000 gift for her award-winning work and a one-of-a-kind 2 day/1-night destination trip.

The Young Scientist Challenge is a youth science and engineering competition administered by Discovery Education and 3M for middle school students in the United States. Students apply by creating a 1-2 minute video detailing their idea for a new invention intended to solve an everyday problem. Ten finalists are chosen annually to work alongside a 3M scientist during a summer mentorship and receive a trip to the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, to compete for $25,000 and the title of America’s Top Young Scientist.

Anika’s winning invention uses in-silico methodology to discover a lead molecule that can selectively bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Binding and inhibiting this viral protein would potentially stop the virus entry into the cell, creating a viable drug target. As part of her research, Anika screened millions of small molecules for drug-likeness properties, ADMET properties, and binding affinities against the spike protein using numerous software tools. The one molecule with the best pharmacological and biological activity towards the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was chosen as the lead molecule that can be a potential drug for the effective treatment of COVID-19.

Initially, her goal was to use in-silico methods to identify a lead compound that could bind to a protein of the influenza virus. She was inspired to find potential cures to viruses after learning about the 1918 flu pandemic and finding out how many people die every year in the United States despite annual vaccinations and anti-influenza drugs on the market.

“After spending so much time researching about pandemics, viruses and drug discovery, it was crazy to think that I was actually living through something like this,” Anika said. “Because of the immense severity of the Covid-19 pandemic and the drastic impact it had made on the world in such a short time, I, with the help of my mentor, Dr. Mahfuza Ali, changed directions to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Anika said winning the prize and title of top young scientist is an honor, but her work isn’t done. Her next goal, she says, is to work alongside scientists and researchers who are fighting to “control the morbidity and mortality” of the pandemic by developing her findings into an actual cure for the virus. Chebrolu also received the “Improving Lives Award,” according to a release from Frisco ISD.

“I am extremely humbled at being selected America’s Top Young Scientist as all of the finalists had amazing projects and were extremely well-rounded individuals,” Anika said in the Frisco release. “Science is the basis of life and the entire universe and we have a long way to go to understand it fully.” While she hopes to be a medical researcher and professor in the future, she is already doing grown-up work and inspiring a generation to reach for the stars.

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