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3 days ago · by · Comments Off on East Idaho News Secret Santa Giving Away $500,000 In Gifts This Year

East Idaho News Secret Santa Giving Away $500,000 In Gifts This Year

Every year, a Secret Santa brings joy to people in need in East Idaho through an anonymous donation and with the help of East Idaho News. The anonymous “secret Santa” has been giving out gifts to people in the East Idaho community for the last five years. This year, more than $500,000 will be given to area families. The news station created a program to nominate people that are in need. They are still seeking nominations for this year and they still have about $150,000 along with several cars left to give away.

It all started in 2015 when Nate Eaton, news director of East Idaho News, received a call from a person wanting to give away $100,000 in gifts to local people in need and the Secret Santa just needed the news site to find the people first. The idea was an immediate hit and their email server almost crashed from the number of nominations they received the first year. The program has grown rapidly since then and people love watching the gifting every year. They now have more than 33,000 followers on their YouTube channel.

Eaton wanted to be sure people know it’s not an organization or business giving the money away but a very generous individual. “Secret Santa looks for people that just need a break,” Eaton said. “They’ve run out of luck, they’ve run out of money, they don’t ask for a handout, they’re working hard, they have specific needs, [and] they just need something to get ahead in life.”

Families across the Eastern Idaho region have been fortunate to be the recipients of gifts from the mysterious and generous “Secret Santa,” who for the past six years has worked in secrecy. Since the “Secret Santa” is anonymous, Eaton has become the face of the entire operation. He’s the one showing up on doorsteps handing out the presents. “It is a local person here. I think if you were to meet him on the street, he might deny it,” said Eaton, who is the only one on his team who knows Santa’s true identity.

This year some gifts will be bigger than ever and will include money towards a prosthetic leg, a pickup truck and a 15-seat passenger van. “The key is you don’t want to have somebody receive a large gift and then [they] have to pay the taxes on it or any fees or things like that,” he explained of how it works. “So Secret Santa covers all of that. If somebody gets a car, the taxes have been paid for. The only thing the person has to pay is the registration and he gives them a check to take care of that.”

Film and production crews will go out to sometimes several places each day during November and December to hand out gifts. Sometimes those situations can be so heartbreaking or personal that East Idaho News elects to not air the footage from giving the gift away.

“The people that maybe you haven’t read about in the news, but have quietly suffered for years and years that don’t think they’ll ever get a break—this might be their year when they can know someone is thinking about them and they can get a gift that will actually change their life,” the news director explained. To nominate someone (you can’t nominate yourself) for the Secret Santa program, you just need to fill out an application on their website.

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Barbershop Employees Step In to Help Jersey City Eatery During Covid Quarantine

Barbershop Employees Step In to Help Jersey City Eatery During Covid Quarantine

There is no denying the restaurant industry has been hard hit during the pandemic. One Jersey City eatery saw their neighbors step in when they were dealt with another blow. Würstbar had a staff member exposed to the virus and rather than running risk of spreading the disease, the management decided the best course of action was to shut down—at least temporarily. But their neighbors at Virile Barber Shop swooped in to help after seeing their post about the temporary close.

They posted on their Instagram page “No, we are not randomly closed for ‘renovations!’ We unfortunately, had an exposure to COVID-19 at Würstbar. Würstbar is a small team run by an extremely hardworking and loyal staff. Running the restaurant with only non-exposed employees isn’t an option for us at the moment. We decided as a team that we would close until every employee exposed or not has been tested and can return to work confident in their safety, and equally as important, our guests’ safety. Thank you to @hdsid_jc and Prestige Health Mobile for getting the entire staff tested so quickly. We look forward to serving you soon.”

Word of Würstbar’s crew quarantine quickly made the rounds of the tight-knit community and in less than 24 hours, workers from Virile Barber Shop just up the street stepped up, offering to lend a hand by taking shifts to keep Würstbar open for business until the impacted staff members could all be tested and cleared.
“The weather is too nice out to let our neighbors at Würstbar stay closed!” Virile Barber Shop owner Andre Fersa posted. “I’ve taken over the bar and am selling PRETZELS, beer, wine and cider for outdoor seating only. Come on by and support this great staff.”

As expected, the grateful Würstbar staff was soon singing the praises of the generous community volunteers who’d pitched in to keep their doors open. “A big thank you to the crew at @virile for taking over Würstbar yesterday, that was a blast! We love this community and couldn’t ask for better neighbors. Let’s not forget barbershops and salons were hit just as hard as restaurants during the shutdown. With so many people home from the office and big events not happening it’s easy to skip a cut here and there. If you have the means, please get that extra cut and look your best for your Zoom call or socially distanced gathering.”

Fersa and his friend, Joe Mercurio, got a quick crash course and soon enough Wurstbar was open for business. There were no tables inside, no cocktails, and their typically large menu of brats, sausages, hot dogs and poutine was pared down to just hot pretzels. But from noon until around 6 p.m. on Saturday, Fersa and Mercurio ran the show with Kahn supervising. Neighborhood locals got word that Virile was taking over Wurstbar for the day and came out to support the business, with outdoor tables packed throughout the day. The Kitchen Step, another Jersey Avenue restaurant, offered to send help if they needed it and bought a bunch of hot pretzels to feed their staff.

Kahn has tried to be optimistic as possible throughout the pandemic, but admits the positive COVID-19 test knocked him down. The bar was closed from Nov. 8 until Nov. 12, until all the employees tested negative. But Fersa stepping up to help out, even for just one day, rejuvenated him. “I didn’t feel that feeling of defeat anymore. I felt like, ‘I’ve got this.’ It kind of revived me, like we’ll get through this closure. I felt like I needed that,” Kahn said. “Andre stepping in and helping me out really just brought me back.”

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Couple Loans Cottage To Single Dad During Pandemic

Couple Loans Cottage To Single Dad During Pandemic

Families around the globe have had to adjust to the stresses of the pandemic and it’s always comforting to hear of instances of people helping one another during this unprecedented time. When a single dad in England, Sam Smith, appeared on the BBC Breakfast Show to talk about what it’s like to be confined in a very small living area during the pandemic, Ken and Sheila Sims decided to help.

Everyone has faced challenges during the pandemic but many don’t realize there are families with children out there who are living in small spaces with little to no space to run around. Since lockdown began in England, Sam Smith, 6-year-old Lysander and 3-year-old Zenduel, have been confined to their one-bed apartment on the 15th floor of a high-rise in East London. During the interview, Smith described what it was like sometimes being confined in the apartment 23 hours a day with just 12 steps from one side of the main room to the other—and with local parks closed.

Ken and Sheila Sims were watching the interview from their home on the Devon coast. Ken grew up in a high-rise apartment building as a young boy, and felt especially saddened seeing the difficulties the Smiths were going through. Ken knew all too well the challenges of growing up in a small apartment but he didn’t have to live through a pandemic. Luckily, he knew just how to help and he wasted no time in offering the Smiths a week at their cottage on the English seaside so the family would have some space to play, explore and run.

Sam immediately said yes to the offer and he was touched by the kindness of strangers. “I can’t find the words… ” Sam said at the beach on his family’s Devon vacation. Motioning at the sky and water all around him, at his young sons making sandcastles, he exclaimed, “It’s beautiful!”

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on TX Animal Sanctuary Connects Children & Animals With Special Needs

TX Animal Sanctuary Connects Children & Animals With Special Needs

A family owned Texas animal sanctuary has launched a program for children with special needs to visit and bond with rescued animals who are also special needs. Safe in Austin is the brainchild of Jamie Wallace-Griner after she observed the interaction between her autistic son and his service dog, Angel. The current menagerie numbers 20 dogs, 14 cats, eight horses, 32 goats, four rabbits, three tortoises, one parrot, four turkeys, numerous chickens, 18 pigs, and four cows.

Over the years, as the ranch has been rehabbed, the population has grown to include chickens, pigs, and goats, many of whom have special needs. “We have animals that are blind or deaf, have diabetes, cerebral palsy, deformities, missing limbs, broken spines … they all become part of our family. Once they are healthy enough and we have earned their trust; we introduce our rescues to children that come from similar backgrounds of abuse, neglect, and/or special needs. Our animals provide healing to trauma, at-risk, and/or special needs children by way of unconditional friendship and a clear, loving, example of what they are looking for most… hope” said Wallace-Griner.

As with their rescued animals, humans of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions are welcome at the sanctuary. “We don’t care about the choices you made in the past, what you look like, who you love, or what you eat. We concentrate on no judgment at all. Our goal is to offer a place of healing and happiness that is available to everyone. Visits and events are affordable, fun, worry free, and are guaranteed to touch your heart! Safe in Austin is a judgment free zone! Autism has taught us that nothing is black and white, and everyone has a story. We just want you to meet our babies, take some of their love, and share it with others!” Wallace-Griner said.

Prior to COVID-19, Safe in Austin was open to members of the public who toured the sanctuary led by volunteer guides. The pandemic meant enacting safety restrictions, which limited the number of guests that could be safely accommodated. The sanctuary has since made the switch to pre-arranged private family and small-group tours. Having to adapt to change and challenge is all part of the process and Wallace-Griner remains positive. She sees Safe in Austin as a work in progress, never losing sight of the sanctuary’s ultimate goals of healing, acceptance, and unconditional love.
Having to adapt to change and challenge is all part of the process and Wallace-Griner remains positive. She sees Safe in Austin as a work in progress, never losing sight of the sanctuary’s ultimate goals of healing, acceptance, and unconditional love.

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Single Foster Dad Adopts 5 Siblings To Keep Them Together

Single Foster Dad Adopts 5 Siblings To Keep Them Together

Single foster dad Robert Carter decided to adopt an entire brood of five siblings to keep them together. Carter, 29, spent years in the Ohio foster care system himself so he knew only too well what it was like to lose touch with loved ones. He entered the system at age 12 and wasn’t reunited with his younger sister and brother until years later when they were teens. Carter was emancipated and granted custody of a younger sister and guardianship of a younger brother, he said. The emotional trauma of the experience fueled his desire to shield other kids from similar distress and provide them with a safe home.

Prior to the adoption, Carter was already fostering the three brothers and the two sisters were each being fostered in separate homes. When he arranged for the girls and their foster moms to meet up so the children wouldn’t lose touch with one another, he realized how distressed they all were at the end of the visit and he knew there was only one course of action. The children Carter adopted are Marionna, 10, Robert, 9, Makayla, 8, Giovanni, 5, and Kiontae, 4.

Carter became a licensed foster parent in 2017 and the three boys, Robert, Giovanni and Kiontae were placed with him in December 2018. The siblings, who he said came from a neglectful home, were reunited after not seeing each other for six months. “Once I did find out they had sisters, that’s when I started to advocate to set up visitations.” Carter said. Marionna and Makayla were later placed in Carter’s home with their brothers.

Caseworker Stacey Barton said “Mr. Carter was the only foster parent willing and able to adopt all of the children and his childhood background has made him aware of the importance of keeping siblings together. He says that he enjoys being their father and that parenting them is easier than he could have ever imagined. His life is busy, with a lot of love, laughter and loudness. I have enjoyed working with him and witnessing the children bond as siblings.”

Carter said he was the third oldest of the nine kids in his own family and he took on a parenting role before he entered foster care. “I was the parent figure and was the one trying to feed my siblings and going out trying to find food to eat.” Carter said he sees a lot of himself in Marionna, the oldest, “She’s the mother figure to the kids,” he explained. “But I won’t even let her make them a bowl of cereal now because that’s not her responsibility. She’s done it for too long when she shouldn’t have had to in the first place.”

With all the attention his family’s story is getting, he wants people to know how important fostering and adoption are. “Just the fact that they’re together, the fact that they have something that will help them remember their past… It’s beautiful to watch them grow up together and make memories together. As long as you have the means and love to give to kids, then anybody can do it,” he said. Right now, Carter is concentrating on earning his children’s trust and assuring them. “Every night, I talk to them and let them know, ‘I’m your dad forever. I know what it’s like, and I’m always here for you.’”

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Iconic Strand Bookstore Sounds Call For Help

Iconic Strand Bookstore Sounds Call For Help

Like many independent businesses across the country, the beloved NYC book store the Strand is in trouble. A Greenwich Village fixture since 1927, known worldwide for its “18 miles of books,” the Strand is the single remaining establishment out of 48 bookstores that once ran the length of 4th Avenue’s famous Book Row. Unfortunately, with the Covid-19 pandemic reducing crucial foot-traffic, store proprietor Nancy Bass Wyden, granddaughter of the store’s original owner, posted a cry for help on Twitter.

In a last-ditch effort to save her beloved family business, Bass Wyden reached out to her customer base with a plea for help. “I’m going to pull out all the stops,” she tweeted, “to keep sharing our mutual love of the printed word. But for the first time in the Strand’s 93-year history, we need to mobilize the community to buy from us so we can keep our doors open until there’s a vaccine.”

The response from the Strand’s loyal clientele came in the form of an avalanche of 25,000 orders over the course of a single weekend that crashed the store’s website and brought in approximately $200,000 in sales. One patron ordered 197 books. That was followed up by round-the-block lines at the store’s flagship location on Broadway and East 12th Street in lower Manhattan when the store opened.

Having suffered heavy financial losses earlier in the year, even with the amazing outpouring of love and a much-needed boost in revenue, the Strand isn’t out of the woods just yet, but Bass Wyden is determined not to give up. Revenue was down 70% since this time last year, the business’ cash reserves had depleted, and the $1 million to $2 million loan the Strand received in government emergency relief in April is running dry.

Bass Wyden started working at the Strand in the mid-’70s, when she was 16, and inherited full ownership of the business, including the building at 828 Broadway, from her father, Fred Bass, after his death in 2017. The bookstore has withstood the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the 9/11 terror attacks, but the pandemic could be its downfall. “As the 3rd generation owner,” she said, “I have tried to imagine what my dad and grandfather would do right now after they spent their entire lives—6 days a week—working at the store. I don’t believe they would want me to give up without a fight.” Bass Wyden said.

“Never did I imagine that the store’s financial situation would become so dire that I would have to write friends and devoted customers for help,” owner Nancy Bass Wyden said in an open letter. “It hurts to write this, but that is the predicament that we are in now.” For the first time since her grandfather founded the store 93 years ago, Bass Wyden said, the time had come to ask customers for help. She’s asking all loyal lovers of the written word to start the holidays early and Shop the Strand to save the Strand.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Texas Mom Starts GoFundMe For Man Who Saved Her Daughter

Texas Mom Starts GoFundMe For Man Who Saved Her Daughter

A family out of Texas is hoping to repay a California man who they say helped save their 10-year-old child after she was caught in a rip current. On August 15th, ten-year-old Hayley Whiting and her family were enjoying a day at the beach on the last day of their vacation. Hayley was playing in the waves when she got caught in a riptide and was quickly being pulled deeper out to sea.

Her mother Samantha tried swimming out to save her daughter “I had her on my back, but it was slowly taking both of us down.” The two started screaming for help, which is when Kevin Cozzi, who was at the beach with his fiance, came to the rescue. “I’ve been swimming since I was three years old competitively, so I felt like I could get to them. I ran out there and as soon as I got to the mom, I knew she was struggling,” Cozzi said. Cozzi was able to reach Haylee and brought her closer to shore until a lifeguard jumped in.

After the heroic rescue, the parted ways. Months went by and Samantha only knew Cozzi’s first name and that he lived in Merced but she never stopped looking for the heroic bystander. It was only when she posted about the rescue in a local California Facebook group called Merced Neighborhood Watch that the two were reconnected within hours. Samantha set up a GoFundMe account and is now working to raise $50,000 to give Cozzi and his fiancé their dream wedding.
Cozzi and his fiancée had to postpone their wedding because of the coronavirus pandemic, so the Whitings decided to launch the GoFundMe to help them. So far, they are halfway there in just over a week. He is thankful for their fundraiser, but told ABC30, “That girl being saved was enough for me.”

Samantha and Haylee are grateful for Cozzi and plan to thank him again in person as they attend his wedding next fall. “If it wasn’t for him risking his life in such a selfless act, I would have lost not only my own life but my baby girl,” Samantha wrote on the fundraiser. “I want to raise money for Kevin and his fiancé to have their dream wedding and honeymoon… Lord knows he deserves so much more than this.” Hayley has one message for her rescuer. “Thank you so much and you were really brave to come out there,” she told KFSN. “He’s probably one of the biggest heroes I’ve ever met.” Cozzi happened to be in the right place at the right time to help the Whiting’s avoid tragedy and now their efforts along with the kindness of strangers is helping pay forward his bravery.

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3 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Michael Jordan Opens 2nd Clinic In Charlotte NC

Michael Jordan Opens 2nd Clinic In Charlotte NC

One year after the first Michael Jordan Family Medical Clinic opened its doors in Charlotte, North Carolina, Jordan and his partner Novant Health have opened a second facility. The North End facility has the same goal of providing vital access to primary and preventive care to individuals who are uninsured or underinsured. Like with the original medical clinic in west Charlotte, which was built with a generous $7 million grant from Michael Jordan, the new one also offers behavioral health and social support services—addressing health equity gaps further exacerbated by COVID-19.
Carl Armato, CEO and president of Novant Health said “Michael Jordan’s commitment to improving the health of our communities, and society, is deep-rooted. The impact of the first clinic has been measurable and if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is the importance of having accessible, safe, and quality care in communities that need it most.”

In its first year, the first clinic on Freedom Drive had seen more than 3,350 patients, including more than 450 children. Of those, nearly 700 patients were assisted by the clinic’s full-time social worker with nearly 80 patients being referred for additional behavioral health care. In April, when the clinic transitioned into a respiratory assessment center to meet the communities’ needs for accessible coronavirus screening, testing, treatment and education, they completed 12,584 appointments and performed nearly 14,000 COVID-19 tests.

Jordan said “When we came together to mark the first clinic’s opening last fall, no one could have predicted we would be facing a global pandemic just five months later. I’m so proud of the positive impact our clinic has had on the community so far, especially during COVID-19. Our second clinic will provide critical services to improve the health and lives of more Charlotteans, which is so important to me and to Novant Health.”

Both clinics provide integrative services that includes primary care, behavioral health and social support services. Every patient is screened based on social determinants of health such as how a patient’s socioeconomic status and environment affect their overall health. The 6,800-square-foot clinic at 2701 Statesville Ave. in Charlotte is the same size as the first clinic with 12 exam rooms, an X-ray room and physical therapy space. Both clinics service patients of all ages and thousands of uninsured have already been helped by his efforts, and thousands more will be in the years to come.

Jordan grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been the majority owner of the Charlotte Hornets since 2010. A lack of health care is a major issue affecting millions of people in this country, and Jordan is doing his part to directly address the needs of those less fortunate than him.

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Recovered Addict Donates Kidney To Officer Who Arrested Her 8 Years Ago

Recovered Addict Donates Kidney To Officer Who Arrested Her 8 Years Ago

Los Angeles woman, Jocelynn James-a recovered drug addict, donated one of her kidneys to save the life of Officer Terrell Potter, who had arrested her nearly a decade ago. James said Potter saved her life by arresting her and leading her to turn her life around. Potter learned that his kidney was only functioning at 5% last November. Doctors told Potter that he would face a 7 to 8 year waiting period for a kidney.

Potter said they began praying and looking all over the Southeast, little did he know the perfect match was just two miles away. “If you asked me 100 names of who may give me a kidney, her name would have not been on the list,” Potter said. “It’s just unbelievable that she was willing to do that.”

After scrolling on her phone on Facebook, James learned that Potter needed a kidney. After a series of hospital tests, James learned that they were a perfect match. On July 21, Potter received a successful kidney transplant. “All the numbers were great. It started working from the time it was put in,” Potter said. Potter now considers James like another daughter. “It’s made a great relationship and a bond between us that can go forever. There’s no doubt about that,” Potter said. “Her giving me a kidney, it extended my life.

No one knew that when their paths crossed several times between 2007 and 2012, that they would end up saving each other’s lives. Jocelynn fell into opioid addiction after being prescribed pain medication. James was arrested 16 times for theft and drug charges, landing a spot on the Franklin County’s Most Wanted List. It was a time she describes as being in a very dark place and not knowing if she would survive. “I was just living a really bad life, doing a lot of really bad things that I had no business doing and I was just a really lost person,” James said.

Terrell Potter, a former officer with Phil Campbell Police Department, said James was going through a difficult place in her life. “She was out running crazy, stealing and doing drugs and things she shouldn’t be doing,” Potter said. “I locked her up a couple of times.”

James said she reached a point where she lost all she had and finally decided she wanted help. She turned herself in to local law enforcement and was incarcerated and in rehab for a year. It was then that she was finally able to get her life straightened out, and on Nov. 5, she will celebrate eight years being sober. “I was sick of living that life, and I wanted to do something different,” James said.

James currently runs a non-profit organization called The Place of Grace, where she helps get women treatment. “I want people to realize that there is help out there for them,” James said. “It doesn’t matter what happens in your life. You can always turn it around.” She also has an active jail ministry at the Franklin County Jail in Franklin County, Alabama that she started 5 years ago.

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Mazda To Gift Fifty 100th Anniversary Edition Miatas to Hometown Heroes

Mazda To Gift Fifty 100th Anniversary Edition Miatas to Hometown Heroes

Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) is giving away the 100th Anniversary Special Edition Mazda MX-5 Miata cars to 50 hometown heroes who have made a lasting impact on their respective communities. MNAO’s “Mazda Heroes-Honoring the Human Spirit spotlights first responders and others across the country who have selflessly uplifted those around them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Mazda is taking submissions now through October 25.

To nominate someone you know, visit the Mazda Heroes website, where you’ll be asked to make a short 1 minute video explaining how your nominee has selflessly uplifted the community. Upload the video to YouTube and set it to public or unlisted. Complete the entry form and provide a link to the video to enter. Mazda will choose the 50 most outstanding examples and the honorees will be announced starting Dec. 2. All nominees must be 18 years or older.

“From teachers going the extra mile to enhance distance learning, to community activists sourcing PPE for others, there are countless examples of people across the country going above and beyond to support others without expecting anything in return. Mazda wants to honor these important acts of kindness, resilience and empathy,” Mazda’s announcement said.
In April, the car maker launched their Essential Car Care Program to give free oil changes and car cleaning to healthcare workers across the U.S. The program ran from April through June 2020. Throughout the initiative their dealers and employees were grateful to be a part of giving back to those selflessly giving back every day. The feedback that received inspired them to develop the Mazda Heroes program, which will honor individuals supporting communities and share their stories in a moment when people desire inspiration in their lives. Mazda North America President Jeff Guyton said he hopes the Miata giveaway will lift spirits during a time when good news seems scarce.

“We had hoped this time would be filled with moments of celebration and appreciation for our fans, employees and partners for the 100th Year Anniversary. But given the many tragic events of 2020, we decided to express, in another way, our brand’s unique heritage of trying to make things better” he said. “Mazda is looking for people who have demonstrated “selfless acts, creative approaches, and contributions to community.”

The Miata 100th Anniversary Special Edition features many cosmetic upgrades including a white paint job paired with red accents, including a red interior. Special badging can be found on the front fenders, key fob, floor mats, and headrests. Normally, starting prices for this special edition are a good deal higher than the top Grand Touring trim. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic, as well as the soft top and RF variants.

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