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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Schmidt Baking Company Hands Out Bread to Drivers Stranded Over 24 Hours In Gridlock

Schmidt Baking Company Hands Out Bread to Drivers Stranded Over 24 Hours In Gridlock

The CEO of Schmidt Baking Company came to the rescue for drivers struck in the I95 backup. Thousands of drivers were gridlocked on a 50-mile stretch of road running through Virginia for over 24 hours after a winter storm dropped around a foot of snow on Virginia and other eastern states. The CEO ordered one of his drivers also stuck to pass bread and rolls out to the stranded cars.

A Maryland couple, Casey Holihan and John Noe, had not moved for more than 20 hours in the southbound lane of I-95 thanks to a combination of jack-knifed tractor trailers, heavy snowfall and four inches of ice that hindered rescue vehicles from clearing the road. Like many others, they had spent the night in their car in temperatures that had dipped into the 20s. After not having eaten in over 30 hours, they noticed the bread truck from Schmidt Baking Company stuck just ahead of them.

Not thinking it would work, they called the company’s customer service line and left a message asking if it was possible for the driver to open the truck and give some loaves of bread to them and others. Holihan received a phone call 20 minutes later from the owner of Baltimore-based H&S Bakery, which owns Schmidt Baking Company. Chuck Paterakis told her he was instructing the truck’s driver, Ron Hill, to open up the back and pass out some food.

The couple said they helped pass out about 300 packages of rolls and loaves of bread to people in surrounding vehicles over the course of an hour. Holihan said “We just kept giving it out until we couldn’t walk anymore because it was so freezing. It felt incredible just hearing people say thank you and hearing people just so relieved to finally have food in their car, food in their system and in their kids’ system. It was a really incredible feeling.”

Chuck Paterakis said “It was an easy decision. I’m so pleased that the people who were hungry, that hadn’t eaten for the past 24 hours, had a chance, even if it was bread, had the chance to fill their stomachs up. It was very gratifying to me. It was something I will always remember. I’m very humbled and grateful that we could help.”

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on App Promotes Small Business Shopping

App Promotes Small Business Shopping

The city of Akron, Ohio, launched a program designed to help support the local businesses. The program rewards shoppers for shopping locally through a city-sponsored app called Akronite, from which shoppers receive reward points for every purchase they make. James Hardy, Akron’s deputy mayor of integrated development, says that the app is “encouraging citizens to spend money locally while putting cash back into their pockets.”

The reward points are called “blimps” after the Goodyear Blimp, which is based in Akron. Blimps can be redeemed at any of the participating stores for discounted or even free services. At the end of the month, the city reimburses the businesses for these redeemed values. The more you shop, the more rewards you earn.

Michael Mazur, vice president of business development at Colu, the entity responsible for building the app used to run Akronite, says that constantly rewarding people for doing something they were going to do anyway makes them want to come back for more. He also says that collecting rewards becomes a conversation point among social circles, and that “it becomes a game, a friendly competition.”

While shoppers enjoy the savings, the main goal is to support local business owners by creating loyalty and giving them a new way of attracting new customers. Business owners get to announce events and promotions in the app as well. Since the launch of the app, businesses are reporting that regular customers are visiting more frequently and spending more money.

In addition to this, the app is designed to accommodate advertising space for nonprofits so that their stories can reach their target audiences. There are plans to add ways to reward front-line workers, disabled merchants, and other underprivileged communities who need the support. The success of the app in Akron inspired the Colu team to expand the initiative to include other cities such as Youngstown, Oh, Boston, MA and several regions in California.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Michigan Pastor Wins USA TODAY’s Best of Humankind Award

Michigan Pastor Wins USA TODAY’s Best of Humankind Award

USA TODAY’s Best of Humankind Awards honor everyday people who have showcased the highest level of kindness, compassion, and perseverance in 2021. Each Humankind award celebrates an everyday person who is making a difference in their community. Winner of this award, Pastor Heather Boone, has shown a dedication to helping those who need it most in the Monroe community and her efforts are well-documented.

Boone moved to Monroe from Detroit and immediately went to work. She and her husband decided they wanted to stay in Monroe and start their own church, Oaks of Righteousness.
She made the Miracle on E. Second Street a reality by convincing the Detroit Archdiocese to sell her the historic St. Joseph Catholic Church at far below the asking price. It started as a homeless shelter and learning center known as Oaks Village.

She then further developed Oaks Village and formed a nonprofit grocery store, a clothes closet, soup kitchen, free childcare center and a free medical clinic. Her ministry serves as a village in the community. “I’m an unpaid pastor. We’re not a wealthy church and so we just wanted to change our community,” says Boone.

When the winner was announced, Boone was quick to point out none of it would be possible without the efforts of their volunteers. Boone, who lived in the homeless shelter for 2 years until they could afford to expand, said “There is no one road to homelessness. These are people just like you. We are all just a few paychecks away from being in this same predicament.”

When asked about winning the award Boone said “I mean it’s still surreal. When you think about it, across the whole United States, it’s all over the country. And so to be the person of the year… out of the whole country. It feels amazing.” But she says things are really just getting started. Next, Pastor Boone wants to build a tiny house village for those who are ready for permanent housing. This award puts her on the map, which is what she’s been praying for. “I had a lady call me from Chicago who saw it and she was asking me questions because she wants to do something similar in her community and that’s what we’re here for,” said Boone.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Orlando’s Night of A Million Lights Holiday Tour is Back

Orlando’s Night of A Million Lights Holiday Tour is Back

The Night of A Million Lights is a holiday light show spectacular that delights thousands of visitors and raises millions to give sick children and their weary families a vacation. ‘Give Kids The World Village’ has launched their second annual holiday lights extravaganza, running until Jan. 2. The show began as an innovative pandemic pivot for raising funds but has become a holiday tradition.

More than 92,000 guests attended Night of a Million Lights in 2020, named by USA TODAY the “Number One Thing To Do In Orlando In December.” The display features 1.25M linear feet of lights, including 3.2 million lights that were donated by Walt Disney World. Last year’s event grossed $2.8 million to make wishes come true for children struggling with illness and their families.

Since 1986, Give Kids The World Village has welcomed nearly 177,000 families from all 50 states and more than 76 countries. When wish-granting organizations receive a request from a critically ill child who wants to visit Central Florida (or Disney World), Give Kids The World fulfills the wish – providing every child and his/her family with an all-inclusive dream vacation that includes transportation; accommodations in one of the Village’s 166 storybook villas; all meals and snacks; donated theme park tickets; nightly entertainment; daily gifts; and priceless experiences at the Village, featuring accessible rides and attractions.

For 52 nights the open house will once again provide the public with a rare glimpse inside Give Kids The World Village, an 89-acre, whimsical nonprofit resort that provides critically ill children with magical weeklong wish vacations at no cost. Tickets, which start at $25 but vary depending on the date and special add-ons, such as dessert parties, enable guests to immerse themselves in an exquisitely decorated fairytale neighborhood—the place where wish families call home during their stays. All proceeds from Night of a Million Lights will support Give Kids The World, rated Four Stars by Charity Navigator 15 years in a row.

Guests can explore a sparkling tree trail, take photos at one-of-a-kind step-in frames and backdrops, and enjoy a guided storytelling tour of 100 magnificently lit villas from the comfort of a tram—all of which are included in the price of the ticket.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on PA Nonprofit Donates Food to Philadelphia Area

PA Nonprofit Donates Food to Philadelphia Area

Amy and Tony D’Orazio have been serving their community with their 300 acre farm by giving away nearly everything they grow. Their non-profit Carversville Farm Foundation (CFF) runs a certified organic farm raising top-quality vegetables, poultry, beef and eggs. Located in Mechanicsville, PA- the farm has given away 74, 143 pounds of meat, 431,424 pounds of vegetables and 97, 417 cartons of eggs since 2015.

The farm grows vegetables, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys and bees. The animals feed unfettered on fresh grass and forage from the fields. They are moved from field to field every day, clearing and fertilizing with their manure as they go and building healthy soil. CFF donates over ninety percent of their harvests to Philadelphia-area soup kitchens and food pantries. Their partnerships include Rolling Harvest Food Rescue, Broad Street Ministry, Bucks County Audubon Society, Cathedral Kitchen, Coalition Against Hunger, Manna and Urban Creators, among others. Together, they are dedicated to feeding low income families throughout the area.

In 2020, CFF gave more than 120,000 pounds of food, including pastured poultry and grass-fed beef and a wide variety of fresh produce to the Philadelphia area community. They’re on track to donate even more this year. They’ve committed to donating fifty thousand pounds of organic vegetables to low-income residents through the Bucks County Opportunity Council (BCOC) this year. Carversville Farm Foundation has been donating to the Bucks County Opportunity Council since 2016 and helps feed over 10,000 families each year.

Carversville Farm Foundation also offers an apprenticeship program to train future farmers with apprenticeships in Farm Management and Livestock. Volunteers are welcome every Wednesday and Saturday to harvest carrots and kale, pull weeds, and otherwise support their mission to grow top-quality food to donate to neighbors in need.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on GoFundMe for Kevin Strickland Raises Over $1.6 Million

GoFundMe for Kevin Strickland Raises Over $1.6 Million

A GoFundMe set up for Kevin Strickland, the Missouri man freed after serving 43 years in prison for a triple murder he did not commit, has raised over $1.6 million dollars. Missouri law states that only DNA evidence can lead to someone wrongfully imprisoned receiving $50 per day of post-conviction confinement but Kevin Strickland was not freed through DNA evidence so a GoFundMe was launched.

Strickland was sent to prison in 1979 but has maintained his innocence for four decades stating he was home watching television at the time. No physical evidence ever linked him to the crime scene and Cynthia Douglas, the sole witness to the crime, said detectives pressured her to pick Strickland out of a lineup. Two suspects, Kim Adkins and Vincent Bell, were later arrested. Bell was a childhood friend of Strickland’s, and lived at a house nearby. Police found a fingerprint belonging to Strickland on Bell’s car; Strickland says this was because he had driven the car before, but the last time he had seen Adkins and Bell was at 5 or 6 p.m. on the night of the murders. Both Adkins and Bell confessed to the murders and said Strickland was not involved.

Cynthia Douglas attempted several times to recant her testimony before her death in 2015. In 2009, she emailed the Midwest Innocence Project, saying, “I am seeking info on how to help someone that was wrongfully accused. I was the only eyewitness and things were not clear back then, but now I know more and would like to help this person if I can.” Douglas said police told her, “Just pick Strickland out of the lineup and we’ll be done, it will all go away, you can go on and you don’t have to worry about these guys no more.”

The Kansas City Star did an investigation into Strickland’s case in September 2020 which prompted prosecutors to review the case. Former prosecutors in Strickland’s case then said they thought he was innocent as well, along with federal prosecutors for the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the Mayor of Kansas City Quinton Lucas and more than a dozen state lawmakers.

On November 23, 2021, Judge James Welsh overturned Strickland’s conviction “since it was not based on physical evidence but on eye-witness testimony, who later recanted her account”. Strickland was released on the same day and exonerated after more than 42 years in prison, making his case the longest confirmed wrongful-conviction case in Missouri’s history.

Strickland, now 62 and confined to a wheelchair, said the first thing he did when released was visit his mother’s grave, who passed away in August 2021. Strickland said he plans to find a place to live where he can be alone, have some pets and make arrangements to try to unite his family who he says are spread out in Florida, California and Michigan. “I’d like to spend my final days trying to get everybody together and have a big family get-together where we all get together and see who’s who.”

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Former Grocer Has Organized Community Thanksgiving Dinner for 51 Years

Former Grocer Has Organized Community Thanksgiving Dinner for 51 Years

Bob Vogelbaugh is known around Moline, Illinois, as “Mr. Thanksgiving,” and for good reason — since 1970, he has organized community dinners on Thanksgiving for anyone who wants to break bread and celebrate the holiday. Vogelbaugh used to own a grocery store called Bob’s Market, and when he learned that 91-year-old customer Rose Hanson had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, he quickly set up a dinner for her and eight other elderly people he knew, serving turkey and the trimmings in the back of his store.

Hanson died just a few weeks later, and Vogelbaugh said he initially thought it would be a one-time only thing, but Rose changed that. “I didn’t want people to be alone” he said. The dinner grew every year, and has changed venues to accommodate more people. For the last 30 years, Vogelbaugh and volunteers have been holding the feast at SouthPark Mall, with thousands of people typically showing up.

Every year, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, Vogelbaugh hosts a free Thanksgiving dinner. “It’s not a charity dinner, it’s a community dinner” he said. “It’s just a Thanksgiving gathering of friends and people you don’t know and some people have become friends through this over the years.” Vogelbaugh is retired from the grocery business, and now focuses on fundraising throughout the year to pay for the dinner. “I used to have a live band and then there was dancing. Then I went to a DJ, and so it was really a Thanksgiving party,” he said of previous years.

The past two years with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Vogelbaugh kept his tradition going but switched things up. Instead of hosting a seated dinner, Vogelbaugh and his volunteers set enough for people last year with many families not getting together because of the COVID outbrup tables outside so people could drive over and pick up meals. “I figured that it was hard eak and stuff, and so I thought we’re gonna go ahead and we’ll do a drive by,” he said.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Florida Man Takes Children Without Father Figures On Fishing Excursions

Florida Man Takes Children Without Father Figures On Fishing Excursions

Eleven years ago, William “Big Will” Dunn set out on a mission to help a young child growing up without a father figure. He turned to the one thing that brought him peace as a kid: fishing. Since then, Dunn has dedicated his life to helping foster children and those who are growing up without a father figure by taking them on fishing excursions in Clearwater, Florida, through his nonprofit Take a Kid Fishing Inc.

Dunn has worked with thousands of children as part of the fishing program, but it all started with one very important child: Cameron Delong, who was 8 years old at the time. “I saw this young boy that was frustrated and showed anger. I didn’t know why until I found out his father was not in his life.” Eventually, Dunn approached Delong’s mom and asked if he could take him fishing.

“I knew how special it was when my dad took me,” Dunn said. “Just being out on the water is like being out on another world. I can’t explain it.” Dunn admitted that he had a “rough upbringing in Miami,” but saw fishing as an escape. It was the very thing that “relieved all anxiety and stress that I had built up through the day,” he said. Suddenly, Dunn started to see a positive change in Delong. He started doing better in school, showing more respect to his mom, and “just becoming more of a man of the household because his dad was still not in his life,” Dunn said. “I’d get off of work at 5 and he’d be over the house loading fishing rods in the back of my truck,” Dunn said. “We fished a lot. Two to three days a week plus the weekends.”

After seeing the change in Delong’s life, Dunn said it became his life calling to help other kids that are fatherless. He began reaching out to foster homes and started taking groups of 20 to 25 kids on a fishing charter out of Clearwater, Florida, every Saturday. He did so out of his own pocket. “We take them out, show them a good day and spend time with them and everything,” he said. “Just to get out of the boat you see the difference in them.”

Three years ago, Take a Kid Fishing Inc. formally became a nonprofit, allowing Dunn to accept donations. According to Dunn’s website, the excursions teach children “life skills and responsibility inside and outside of the classroom” such as learning patience, teamwork, and how to relax and avoid making harsh and rash decisions.

The program uses social media and a media campaign to raise awareness of the program on local and statewide levels, and to organize fundraising events to provide funds necessary for operations of the program. “Fishing also teaches them to support each other whether they win or lose (catch a fish or not),” his website says. Over the past 11 years, Dunn says these children have become a part of his family and he continues to go out on the water with Delong, who is now 19 and views Dunn as a father figure.

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3 months 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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3 months 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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