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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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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Jersey Mike’s Raises $15 Million for Charities Nationwide

Jersey Mike’s Raises $15 Million for Charities Nationwide

Every March, Jersey Mike’s Subs holds their annual month of giving in all franchise locations nationwide.  Customers are invited to come in and donate to a local charity partner then on the last day in March, known as the all Jersey Mike’s locations across America donate 100 percent of sales—not just profits—to local charities. They set a company goal this year of raising $8 million but thanks to the generosity of their customers, blew past that mark to raise an incredible $15 million.  The money raised will help more than 200 charities nationwide.

More than 1,900 restaurants that are known for their in-store freshly-baked bread donated every penny of their sales on the 31st to hospitals, youth organizations, and food banks.  The fundraising total is double the amount raised in 2019 when the New Jersey-based company gave away $7.3 million to their communities.  Peter Cancro, Jersey Mike’s Founder & CEO said  “We really hoped to do well this year after the disappointment of having to cancel last year’s Day of Giving and the outpouring of support from across the country is truly inspiring.  We are filled with gratitude and admiration for our customers, franchise owners, and team members who have helped these charities in such a big way, now, when they need it more than ever.”

Jersey Mike’s began the practice in 2011, and over the years has raised more than $47 million for local charities and distributed more than 1.5 million free sub sandwiches to help numerous causes.

The company’s mission has always been: “Giving…making a difference in someone’s life”.  The company says their culture of giving at Jersey Mike’s is as much a part of their heritage as oil and vinegar. Every franchise store that is opened starts by partnering with a charity in the local community.

The next nationwide fundraising campaign is “Christmas in July” for Wreaths Across America.  From June 27 through July 11, Jersey Mike’s stores throughout the nation collect donations for this non-profit organization, which lays thousands of wreaths at the graves of the nation’s veterans in the Christmas season.

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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 NC Mother Raises $35K For School Custodian Who Helped Her Son

NC Mother Raises $35K For School Custodian Who Helped Her Son

After the head custodian at Edenton’s White Oak Elementary, Raymond Brown, didn’t take home the North Carolina School Hero Award he’d been nominated for last year, an entire community—led by one determined mom—got together to let him know just how much they appreciated him.  Adrian Wood, whose autistic son Amos has formed a special bond with Brown said Brown welcomed her son and when the most popular man in the school gives her son a nice nickname, it drew other children in, leaving Amos with no trouble fitting in.  “As a mom of a child with a disability, there’s nothing more I want in the world to others to include him” Wood said.

When the kids at his school realized there was something special going on between the 7-year-old and the school’s favorite grownup, it helped them see Amos in a way they hadn’t before.  All the kids started talking to him. Even now, if you walk down the hall, you’ll hear children say, “There’s Famous Amos! Hey, Famous Amos!’  

With her other two children, Wood went through the usual school-related worries, but having a child with special needs was another experience entirely. “Sending Amos to school was such a different path.  He was 3 when he started school. He was in diapers and he didn’t speak. But after Mr. Brown started saying hello to him and calling him Famous Amos,’ Amos started saying, ‘Hey Brown,’ when he saw him. He wasn’t even saying ‘Daddy,’ at that point, so it was really something” Wood said.

Brown’s affection for little Amos helped the now 7-year-old fit in with his fellow students.  “You have this man that everybody loves suddenly paying attention to this little boy,” Wood added, “Amos is a hard friend to have. He takes a lot more than he gives and that’s tough for children. But those kids saw that he was popular and loved and they started fighting over who would get to hold Amos’ hand on the way to the classroom. It meant so much to me for him to be so favored by the other children at school, and Mr. Brown had a big hand in that.”

When Brown was passed over for the NC Heroes Award, Wood admits to crying tears of frustration but she decided to find another means of honoring him.  She used her Facebook blog, Tales of an Educated Debutante, as a platform to right a wrong. Within a week, she’d raised $35,000 from nearly 2,000 people from around the globe and had a plan in the works to shower Brown with the kudos he deserved.

On March 20, in a surprise ceremony that coincided with Brown and his wife’s 38th wedding anniversary, the Browns’ grown children along with hundreds of well-wishers—including Edenton’s mayor, the chief of police, and Miss North Carolina—were on hand to sing their beloved custodian’s praises and present him with a $35,000 honorarium dubbed “The Famous Amos Award.” 

“I was very surprised,” said Mr. Brown, who wore a tuxedo to the event for his photo shoot. “I was caught off guard. To see all those people shouting and hollering ‘Mr. Brown, congratulations,’ it was beautiful and it’s hard to explain, but I know this community loves Mr. Brown.”

White Oak principal Michelle Newsome said “Mr. Brown is really, truly so deserving of all of this and then some,” said Newsome. “He’s our rock steady fella here at White Oak… he’s just a gem and we are so lucky to have him here. There isn’t a child in this building that doesn’t know who Mr. Brown is and that Mr. Brown cares for them and loves them.”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Edmunton Restaurant Has Served 32000 Free Meals During Pandemic

Edmunton Restaurant Has Served 32000 Free Meals During Pandemic

When the pandemic caused businesses across the globe to shut their doors, it thrusted millions into food insecurity but many people of all walks of life did not hesitate to help in any way they could.  Canada Restaurant owner ​​​​​Imran Javaid sprang into action within weeks, offering meals to anyone who was hungry.  He began with about 35 free meals a day and now hands out 100 meals daily.  Over the last year he has provided over 32,000 meals with the only request that people wanting a free meal let the restaurant know in advance.

Javaid partnered with local businessman Varinder Bhullar, whom he met through mutual friends and his Edmonton restaurant, Dil-E-Punjab, had catered some of his business events.  Bhullar is president of Green Scholars of Alberta, an Edmonton non-profit organization that runs summer camps for kids to learn more about their Punjabi and Gujarati cultural roots.  He reached out to Javaid when he saw people struggling with the COVID-19 lockdown early in April 2020, especially people who didn’t have enough money for food while they waited for financial help from the government.

“It’s heartbreaking when someone says, ‘I just could not afford to eat.  We all have to hang in there together and make sure we stick together and help each other” Bhullar said.  Javaid’s restaurant was initially closed during the lockdown for renovations but after hearing Bhullar’s idea, he finished the work and served the first free meals on April 10. 

Now, the cost of the meals are partially covered by community donations and provincial government assistance.  The giving goes beyond the restaurant as many who were helped have found jobs and make donations to help.  Bhullar said other organizations, restaurants and community members have reached out to help. 

Christina Usborne met Bhullar while volunteering at the Old Strathcona Peace Camp last summer. After it was closed, she wanted to continue to help, so the two partnered together.  Through donations from residents and other restaurants, she now delivers over 100 meals a week to people who are experiencing homelessness.

The hope is one day there will no longer be a need, but as long as people are hungry, Bhullar wants to help.  “It tells me there is a lot of poverty out there, a lot of hunger. A lot of people working that are on benefits but not enough to survive,” he said.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on NJ Moving Company Sparked Initiative to Help End Hunger

NJ Moving Company Sparked Initiative to Help End Hunger

A simple question asked by a New Jersey moving company in 2009 has sparked an initiative capitalizing on the amount of food left behind in clients’ fridges in order to help increase supply to local food banks. Over 1,050 moving companies and 22 million pounds of food later, Adam Lowy—founder of Move for Hunger—has turned unwanted food items into enterprise-level charity.


Lowy said “When people move, they throw away a whole bunch of stuff: food, clothing, furniture, you name it. And what bothered us was the perfectly good, nonperishable food that was getting left behind in the pantry, or simply thrown in the trash. So we started by asking a very simple question: ‘Do you want to donate your food when you move?’” In the first month of Lowy’s idea, he managed to collect 300 pounds of food. He wondered if one moving company could make this kind of impact in their local community, what an entire network of moving companies could do.


That question, led to the creation of Move for Hunger, which links moving companies with food banks in their area, and these pairings with apartment offices, corporate housing, relocation management companies, real estate agents, and other entities to reach as many tenants and homeowners as possible about the impact they can make by donating their food before they change addresses.


Once one of these partners gets word that someone wants to move, Move for Hunger provides a pamphlet about local hunger problems, a large plastic bag, and a cardboard box—all to help people donate any food they don’t feel like bringing along with them. Then a local moving company will bring those packed-up pantry staples to a local food bank, helping ensure nothing gets wasted.


Hunger affects one in six American children, and it’s only gotten worse during the pandemic as government-mandated business closures have ravaged the economy, destroyed jobs, and disrupted supply chains. Move for Hunger operates across the USA and Canada. They try to hold special events—such as food drives and holiday-themed collections as well. Their February 2021 Spread the Love event received 16,000 meals donated across 300 separate food drives, and 20,000 pounds of peanut butter and jelly being used.


Rental property owners or managers, moving companies and real estate agents can help by signing up on the moveforhunger.org website and encouraging others to do so too. Anyone with an upcoming move can also find moving companies in their area on the website who will deliver their donated food. Move For Hunger’s mission is to mobilize the relocation industry to reduce food waste and fight hunger. Rescuing and donating meals for communities in need is so important because millions of people need help today.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Go Fund Me for Atlanta Shooting Victim’s Children Raises Millions

Go Fund Me for Atlanta Shooting Victim’s Children Raises Millions

A GoFundMe page established by the son of one of the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings has garnered millions of dollars in donations from tens of thousands of people in just days. Hyun Jung Grant, 51, was one of the eight people killed when a gunman opened fire inside three Asian spas in the Atlanta area. Following the deadly incident, the victim’s son launched a crowdfunding page asking for $20,000 to pay for funeral costs and other expenses.


On the page he wrote “My mother, Hyun Jung Grant( maiden name Kim), was one of the victims of the shootings in Atlanta, Georgia at Gold Spa. This is something that should never happen to anyone. She was a single mother who dedicated her whole life to providing for my brother and I. It is only my brother and I in the United States. The rest of my family is in South Korea and are unable to come. She was one of my best friends and the strongest influence on who we are today. Losing her has put a new lens on my eyes on the amount of hate that exists in our world.


As much as I want to grieve and process the reality that she is gone, I have a younger brother to take care of and matters to resolve as a result of this tragedy. Frankly, I have no time to grieve for long. I will need to figure out the living situation for my brother and I for the next few months, possibly year. As of now I have been advised to move out of my current home within the end of March to save money and find a new place to live. My biggest priority right now is to put my mother to rest and plan out the funeral but due to some legal complications, I am unable to obtain my mother’s body. I don’t think I’ll be able to figure out this whole situation along with legal matters if given 2 weeks to move out. Any donation will be used as funds for basic living necessities for my brother and I such as food, bills, and other expenses. I wish to stay in my current home for at least one more month to sort everything out. Any amount would be forever appreciated. Please everyone just stay safe and check up on your friends and loved ones that may feel endangered”


The GoFundMe has received over $2.8 million dollars in donations from people around the world. Hyan has posted updates expressing how grateful he is for the support and acknowledged he has never had a good understanding of money but will only use the funds for pure necessity. He also said he can’t help but feel selfish for all the attention this has garnered and encouraged people to share the same care and kindness people have shown him to anyone that feels scared or unsure about the world we live in.

To date, no central fund had been created to aid families of the victims — a contrast with some other mass shootings where groups were set up to collect and distribute money to those directly affected. Several individual GoFundMe accounts have been set up for other victims of the shooting, all surpassing their goals but none to the extent of Hyun Jung Grant’s. Perhaps it’s because her young sons are now alone in the US amid the pandemic.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Million Gardens Movement is Growing Seeds of Hope

Million Gardens Movement is Growing Seeds of Hope

Million Gardens Movement (MGM) is a charitable and educational initiative that hopes to put a garden in every household—whether that’s on a fire escape, in a window box, or as part of a community garden initiative—and fresh fruit and vegetables on every plate.  The brain child of Frank Giustra and Elon Musk’s brother Kimbal, MGM puts Little Green Garden units in homes and classrooms for just a $10 donation.

The Little Green Gardens are ready-to-use fruit and vegetable garden beds—and over 5,000 of them have already been distributed.  Kimbal Musk explains that each garden bed comes with a customized growing plan and online lessons and activities to support the growing of culturally relevant at-home veggie gardens.

If you’re a gardener, sign up to join the community. Donate $10 to give a garden to a family that can’t afford it, or that lives in a food desert, read and contribute to the blog, and then tell other gardeners about it.  With thousands of gardeners already joining up with the movement, celebrities like Harrison Ford, Zooey Deschanel, Nicole Scherzinger, and Kimbal’s brother Elon—are helping spread the word.   

We’ve been so humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response and the passion surrounding our mission,” says Frank Giustra. “When Warwick Saint was photographing gardening activists for our launch, activists like Salma Hayek and Jonathan Scott were asking us “What more can I do for the Movement? What else can I do to help get more people involved? That’s a real sign of how dedicated people are to making a difference.”

7,300 gardens in total have been started, including some done out-of-pocket, while 632 have gone into schools to teach kids about gardening and grow a new generation of gardening-savvy adults.  “We’ve been able to deliver garden kits to Denver, Detroit, Memphis, and Indianapolis so far,” Giustra said. “We’re working to deliver 5,000 kits in Denver alone in April for Earth Month, and we’re working on delivery plans for cities after that drop.  The most successful aspect of the Million Gardens Movement has been the continual growth of an online gardening community,” says Giustra.  “Our Movement, just like gardening, is about developing our best aspects slowly and steadily as we grow in numbers towards one million gardeners. Seeing people donate is wonderful because they are helping others garden, and those who donate might also take up gardening.”

Food insecurity was a problem in America long before the pandemic began. One study from 2017 found that 5.6% of Americans don’t have adequate access to fresh food.  The benefits of a home garden can significantly reduce these impacts—even something the size of the Little Green Gardens given out by MGM can help.  “Our hope is to quickly expand to Canada this year with sights on Vancouver and Toronto,” says Musk. “We hope to expand to Mexico and beyond to make this a worldwide movement to encourage millions of people to grow their own food.”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Wheel of Fortune Winner Donates 100% of Winnings of Charity

Wheel of Fortune Winner Donates 100% of Winnings of Charity

Scott Kolbrenner of Encino, California, a contestant on Wheel of Fortune, donated his $145,000 in winnings to be split between two charities.  Kolbrenner won approximately $45,000 in cash and prizes during the regular rounds of play, before correctly guessing the bonus puzzle and collecting the $100,000 Grand Prize.  He pledged $72,500 each to Uplift Family Services at Hollygrove and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Kolbrenner has worked with Uplift Family Services, one of the most comprehensive behavioral health treatment providers in California, for the last 20 years.  He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors and volunteers his time.  The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank sources and acquires food and other essential products to distribute to those experiencing food insecurity.

Kolbrenner has been watching Wheel of Fortune “his whole life” and watches religiously with his wife and kids. He was selected to be a contestant after applying with a video at WheelOfFortune.com and participating in a virtual audition.  When asked he said the COVID-19 pandemic and current economic downturn is why he knew he wanted to help the community if he won.  “It’s been a dark time,” Kolbrenner said. “When I went on the show, I was doing it for the fun of it, and I said to my wife … ‘If I do OK here, anything that I get, let’s give it to charity. We’re very fortunate. Let’s see if we can support some others who aren’t as fortunate as we are.”

He added “I got lucky that day and knew right away that I wanted to share my good fortune. So, I decided to contribute all of my winnings to Uplift Family Services and Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, whose services support thousands of families. The fun and memories from the day will stay with me forever, but the urgent need in our community cannot wait.  My wife was the only person that knew what happened that night of the taping. It was complete and utter shock for everybody in our lives, and they were elated about it.”

Both organizations thanked Kobrenner for his generosity on Facebook.  Uplift Family Services, which helps children and their families manage and recover from trauma and related challenges wrote “We are so honored and grateful that Scott chose to play for us while advocating for our agency’s Los Angeles-based Hollygrove programs!”

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank said in a Facebook post said “It takes the whole community to fight food insecurity and the critical work that we do is possible with the help of people like Scott Kolbrenner.”

Kolbrenner said that Hollywood, despite being known for its “glitz and glamor,” also has struggling communities that are underrepresented. “What I was hoping with the ‘Wheel’ is to shine a light on them,” Kolbrenner said.  The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank serves more than 300,000 people every month.  They estimate one-quarter of the food they distribute goes to children, and roughly one-fifth to senior citizens in LA County. 

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Minneapolis Coffee Shop Expanding To Help Homeless Youth

Minneapolis Coffee Shop Expanding To Help Homeless Youth

As of 2019, there were more than 35,000 homeless youth in the U.S., with an additional 550,000 young people between 18 and 24 experiencing homelessness for longer than a week. Most often this is a result of family conflict coupled with poverty, mental health, substance abuse, and other contributing factors. The pandemic hit the homeless youth especially hard, as already limited access to hygiene and shelter resources became further strained by social distancing measures and school closures. 

Despite these dreary facts, a Minneapolis woman is determined to make a difference in her community.  Carley Kammerer, the executive director of Wildflyer Coffee, provides skills training and support—as well as an income—for young people experiencing homelessness.  When Kammerer first established Wildflyer, the organization employed four to six young people to sell simple pour-over and iced Dogwood Coffee drinks at local farmers’ markets each season.  It now expanded to a brick and mortar location and is in the process of expanding both its coffee service and its training program.

Before starting Wildflyer Coffee, Kammerer had been working youth experiencing homelessness for about eight years in different capacities.  Since Kammerer’s parents owned a coffee shop when she was growing up in Wisconsin and she had roughly 10 years of barista experience herself, she decided to start a coffee business to help address the problems she was seeing in the youth with whom she worked.

She spoke with other social workers and case managers to understand what was working and what wasn’t when homeless youth tried to get and maintain jobs, and she used their insights to develop Wildflyer’s six-month program. By offering extensive training and real-time coaching when issues on the job arise, the program is designed to help bridge the gap between life on the street and entry-level positions.

 “I saw the same youth cycling through drop-in centers and outreach programs and there wasn’t a lot of traction to get them out of that cycle.  Youth don’t always know how to do well at time management, customer service and dealing with managers professionally” Kammerer said. 

Her goal was to run a business that would meet homeless youth where they are, offering flexibility and understanding while fostering the soft skills and customer service-focused development that would help them meet the demands of the job market.  When she founded the café she said “What if we knew what we were getting into and planned ways to handle skill development rather than fire them?”  When challenges arise, Kammerer and her team talk through them with the youth employees, focusing on causes and potential future solutions. With her social work background and contacts, she’s also able to connect youth to services and resources to help stabilize their situations.

Kammerer is now able to increase Wildflyer’s available employment hours from 200 per year to a minimum of 3,000 per year. She expects to employ roughly two six-month groups of 10 to 12 young people.  Moving forward, Kammerer plans to focus on what she calls Phase Two of Wildflyer’s work: partnering with local businesses to hire its graduates. So far, another local business, Butter Bakery Café has come on board as the first Phase Two partner dedicated to hiring graduates with an understanding of their situation.  Kammerer’s business had to adapt to the pandemic but those challenges haven’t seemed to deter her from making a difference in the lives of people in her community.

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