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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 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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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Nation’s Largest Hunger Relief Organization Needs Volunteers

Nation’s Largest Hunger Relief Organization Needs Volunteers

Feeding America is the largest hunger-relief organization in the United States. Through a network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs, they provide meals to more than 40 million people each year.  During the first months of the pandemic, roughly 4 in 10 people visiting food banks were seeking help for the first time.

Food banks have adapted to this new level of need with most food banks serving over 55% more people than before the pandemic began.  With the help of donations and volunteers, the Feeding America network provided nearly 6 billion meals to throughout the US from March 2020 to January 2021.  Member food banks received more than $326 million in emergency funding for their COVID response efforts.

Many people of all walks of life have helped make this all possible whether it was money or their time they donated.  Tiller & Hatch co-founders Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams Paisley pledged a donation of 1 million meals in partnership with Feeding America. The brand made stops in 15 cities to give out frozen, chef-crafted Tiller & Hatch meals to local communities nationwide.

Impossible Foods teamed up with Colin Kaepernick and Know Your Rights Camp to distribute more than 1 million meals in 2020.  Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Disney Springs Chef José Andrés teamed up with Coca-Cola to donate $1 million to José’s World Central Kitchen to distribute 100,000 meals.  The initiative also helped 150 local restaurants in communities hit hardest by COVID-19 by enabling them to rehire up to 1,400 employees. 

Kanye West and Chick-fil-A both sponsored the Dream Center in Los Angeles, helping them to provide 300,000 meals to people in the area, including meal delivery to high-risk seniors in the community.  Tan France donated to Frontline Foods, an organization that’s still supporting local restaurants and frontline workers by delivering meals to hospitals. Frontline Foods is feeding healthcare providers and has helped local restaurants in 38 cities stay afloat.

Over a year into the pandemic, 42 million people, including 13 million children, may still be at risk of hunger.  Food banks are now accustomed to the increased number of people they are serving and Feeding America’s network of food banks are on pace to distribute 6.5 billion meals in 2021.  But none of this would have been possible without donations and volunteers stepping up to get food into the hands of those at risk. 

The pandemic reversed the last decade’s progress towards ending hunger in the United States. Sixty-five percent of network food banks working with Feeding America are accepting and still in need of volunteers.  Unfortunately, many people continue to face unemployment and families still struggle to pay bills like housing, utilities, and medical care.  Many people who had never volunteered before did so for the first time during the pandemic. The generosity many have shown and determination of everyday people to create solutions to the social distancing obstacles through the pandemic has kept millions of families going and the need is still there. 

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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 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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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 New Zealand Nonprofit & Supermarket Chain Partner to Combat Food Insecurity

New Zealand Nonprofit & Supermarket Chain Partner to Combat Food Insecurity

A first of its kind supermarket opened in Wellington, New Zealand on March 16, 2021 thanks to the efforts of the Wellington City Mission and the supermarket chain New World.  The social supermarket is just like any other supermarket, with fruits and vegetables, sanitary products, pasta, cheese and baked beans lined up along the aisles.  While it has the look and feel of a regular supermarket, this store has no prices, all the food is free. 

This new market is a big shift from the traditional model of people who are food insecure receiving ready-made parcels because it gives people the dignity of being able to choose their own food.  In a time when food insecurity is on the rise in New Zealand, the new social supermarket will go a long way in reducing the stigma of people who cannot afford to purchase food on their own.

The Wellington City Mission’s blog post explained “We can only imagine how hard it must be for someone to ask for food support. The concept of the Social Supermarket is about providing dignity, self-respect and encouragement to those who are vulnerable in our local community. We wanted to make a positive change to our Foodbank model.  We already had a close working relationship with New World across Wellington, they’re always hugely supportive with donations and through their annual Family2Family Foodbank Appeal, so when we started to develop the Social Supermarket concept, we picked the phone up and asked for their help.”

Chris Quin, CEO of Foodstuffs North Island who operate New World, says the partnership is a natural extension of a long-standing relationship between New World, it’s local owner operators and Wellington City Mission. Working together on the Social Supermarket, which is a first of its kind in New Zealand, provided an opportunity to extend the co-operative’s commitment to helping ensure all New Zealanders have access to healthy food.

The supermarket will be open for anyone in need in the Wellington region. This includes people who are already receiving help from the mission or who are referred from other social service agencies.  People do not have to prove that they are in need to shop at the supermarket but appointments are necessary. The super is open Monday – Friday from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm with social workers on hand to help the shoppers.  People are allocated points depending on their individual situations. A single adult is allocated $55 in points and families receive more. There are also special bins that include items that do not come out of the point system.

The market stocks almost anything you can find in a grocery store except alcohol or tobacco products and already has 3,000 different products. Even though the new store is being supported by a large chain, food donations are still needed and wanted.

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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 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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