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3 days ago · by · Comments Off on New Orleans Music Venue Feeding Thousands After Hurricane Ida

New Orleans Music Venue Feeding Thousands After Hurricane Ida

The New Orleans music venue that fed thousands in the pandemic served free meals to residents who have been without power since Hurricane Ida swept through the city. The Howlin’ Wolf partnered with local restaurants and markets that were unable to keep their food cold and got cooking. Volunteers and paid workers were producing thousands of meals, using food donated by different local restaurants, bound to be distributed for free across the city or dished out right there on the sidewalk.

Restaurants all over gave away fresh ingredients from their kitchens, eager to see people put them to use before they spoil. The Howlin’ Wolf rapidly emerged as a central collection point for many with the same instinct. Truckloads of food were donated to the cause and cooked on the sidewalk just outside the music club. Using wood-fired barbecue smokers and propane-fueled seafood boiling rigs, thousands of families were fed. While a majority of the city was without power in the aftermath of the hurricane, music played on a portable speaker that doubled as a phone charging station. Local families, National Guard troops, police officers, utility workers and people from elder care facilities filled the food lines.

Club owner Howie Kaplan had led a similar effort in the early phases of the coronavirus crisis to feed people in need, working with a broad network of other organizations and volunteers. Kaplan said “This is literally putting the pieces together. We are so tight-knit in this city. This was just people talking with each other, and the support started up.”

This network snapped back into action after Ida. Donations ranged from 700 pounds of shrimp, cases of chicken for the smoker, cold cuts for sandwiches, gumbo in five-gallon buckets and bushels of fresh bread. Supplies soon lined the surface of the bar and were packed into the corners of the club. On the second day after the storm, the effort produced some 2,000 meals. The following day it hit 3,000 and kept growing.

Community volunteer group Culture Aid NOLA coordinated volunteers and donations through its website. Culture Aid NOLA founder Erica Chomsky-Adelson said she put out an urgent call for some essential supplies, including propane, ice, outdoor grills and also people who can come help cook. Kaplan said “We take care of each other, I think, in a way nobody else does. Right now, it’s not about the money. It’s about making sure folks are taken care of and making sure that we can get the word out … and make sure that people recognize how important New Orleans really is.”

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6 days ago · by · Comments Off on Rhode Island Partnership Renovates 30 Apartments For Homeless

Rhode Island Partnership Renovates 30 Apartments For Homeless

A partnership in Providence RI between Crossroads Rhode Island, R.I. Housing, and the Providence Housing Authority has unveiled 30 newly-renovated housing units for formerly homeless families. The 30 apartments are located in 14 different buildings in Providence. The new renovations are said to include new interiors, appliances, insulation, heating, exterior renovations, and handicap accessibility.

President and CEO of Crossroads Rhode Island Karen Santilli said “There’s nothing more heart-breaking than seeing a child have to pick up the school bus outside of a homeless shelter because of a housing shortage. Ending family homelessness in Rhode Island is entirely possible given adequate funding and the creation of more housing like this that families can actually afford.”
The COVID pandemic heightened and highlighted an already-dire affordable housing crisis in Rhode Island. The number of families experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island has grown by 12% over the last year, according to advocates. They attribute the increase to the financial hardship brought on by the pandemic, combined with an existing shortage statewide of housing that families with low incomes can afford.

The project was paid for by a combination of federal and state funding. A total of $4 million came from the federal Housing Trust Fund and the Capital Magnet Fund programs. Another $2.5 million came through the state bond program Building Homes RI. The Preservation Revitalization Deferred Loan Program, which provides funding to address capital repairs, covered $627,378.

The homes are intended to provide permanent, safe, affordable housing for families with very low incomes who were homeless or at risk of homelessness. In addition, case management and other services will be available as needed to help the families excel. The apartments will be affordable to households earning less than 30% of area median income, or $29,950 for a family of four. Crossroads said they secured support from the Providence Housing Authority to ensure the tenants’ rent will not exceed 30% of their income.

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on Houston’s Mattress Mack Opens Showrooms and Raises Donations for Hurricane Ida Relief

Houston’s Mattress Mack Opens Showrooms and Raises Donations for Hurricane Ida Relief

Houston’s legendary philanthropist, Jim McIngvale, who also goes by Mattress Mack, stepped up yet again to help during a natural disaster. McIngvale quickly transformed his three Gallery Furniture showrooms in Houston into shelters for people displaced by the hurricane. Mattress Mack said he wanted to assist those who came to Houston after Ida damaged their homes and about 50 families and individuals sought shelter at Gallery Furniture.

Gallery Furniture, Kroger and the City of Houston asked Houstonians to step up this week with donations to help its neighboring state. Mattress Mack also headed the gathering of supplies to send to New Orleans, loading up dozens of his trucks with donations of non-perishable food, bottled water, diapers, baby wipes, pet food, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, hairbrushes, shampoo, feminine care products, socks, books, games, puzzles, generators and activities for families with children.

A convoy of box trucks and 18-wheelers, escorted by Houston police then hit the road to help families displaced by the storm. McIngvale said the loaded trucks are a testament to the generosity of Houstonians, many of whom have been impacted by past hurricanes. A total of forty trucks brought supplies to hard hit areas in Louisiana. He also set up a GoFundMe, Mattress Mack’s Hurricane Ida Relief Fund that has raised over $79,000 of it’s $100,000 goal.

Mattress Mack said the relief effort is the first of others to come. “We’re gonna do this today and next week and probably going to keep doing it until the effort’s done because certainly during our hardships during Hurricane Harvey people rallied to help Houston.,” he said. “So now it’s our turn to rally and help the people of Louisiana. They’ve had their lives turned upside down, and we’re going to do all we can to help them.”

For Houston residents, Mattress Mack’s kindness is well known. He opened his showrooms to displaced families after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, Hurricane Harvey in 2017,
during Tropical Storm Imelda in 2019 and again last year after a deadly winter storm left more than three million people in Texas without power. Displaced families have been welcomed to use the beds, sofas and recliners in his showrooms. Additionally, the business owner invites them to take in a movie or basketball game on his big screen televisions and even sit down for a hot meal.

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1 week ago · by · Comments Off on North Carolina Man Opens Home to Foster Kids During Pandemic

North Carolina Man Opens Home to Foster Kids During Pandemic

A North Carolina dad, Peter Mutabazi understands what it means to be given a second chance.
Born in Uganda to an abusive father, Mutabazi ran away at 10 years old until a Good Samaritan took him in. Mutabazi says his difficult childhood gave him empathy and he wanted to help those that have been forgotten. Since 2017, he has fostered more than a dozen children.

After attending college in the U.K. he moved to the United States to work for World Vision, a nonprofit that helps children. Mutabazi knew he wanted to create a safe home for children, something he didn’t have when he was a child, so he began serving as a foster parent. Soon after, he fostered his now adopted son, Anthony, who was placed with him in 2018 after being abandoned by his adoptive parents at age 11.

Upon placement, Anthony asked whether he could call Mutabazi dad. “I just wanted somewhere that I could feel safe and secure and I knew that I could stay there without worrying about moving somewhere else” Anthony said. More than anything, Mutabazi wanted to make Anthony his son. “Anthony would always ask me, ‘Hey Dad, when will I be officially adopted? And of course, with foster care you never know when” Mutabazi said.

On Nov. 12, 2019, Anthony’s adoption was made official. As the coronavirus began to spread rapidly around the world, Mutabazi knew he needed to help. He said “Most homes have been closed, so I knew there were not many places to go.” In March 2020, the father-son duo welcomed another foster child, Kai, into their home. “With foster care, they are overloaded with kids and I could not imagine a kid wanting a safe place to be loved in the midst of this. … I could not say no. I had to find a way to give him a safe place, a safe home” Mutabazi said.

Mutabazi said helping children is his calling and has since welcomed two more children into his home, for a total of four kids at the Mutabazi house. My goal is to lift up those who have been forgotten and to say you’re special, you matter,” he said. Mutabazi said he knows how it feels to be a child who is facing abandonment and fear. He said the man who took him in years ago had been a complete stranger who became a mentor and changed his life.

Peter said he knew that teens had lower adoption rates than younger children, and they often wait longer to be adopted, if ever, putting them at much greater risk for a troubled future—so he became a licensed foster dad and hosted 12 different placements over the years. While many people focus on what can go wrong, Peter focuses on the benefits and rewards of giving a teen a chance, just like the chance he was given. “Most of all, I can give them the love and attention they deserve. To let them know they belong. I couldn’t ignore my history or the opportunities that had been given to me by strangers…and I know just how many kids out there have no one. I know what it feels like to have no dreams, no hope.”

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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on PAWS Act Passed to Connect More Veterans With Service Animals

PAWS Act Passed to Connect More Veterans With Service Animals

A bill to connect more veterans with service dogs trained to support mental health conditions has passed the Senate. The Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members for Veterans Therapy Act, or PAWS Act for short, will require the Department of Veterans Affairs to create a pilot program for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to train service dogs. Once signed into law, the $10 million, five-year pilot program will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

The PAWS ACT authorizes the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to create a pilot program to connect service dogs with veterans dealing with post-deployment mental health needs by awarding grants to nonprofit organizations that would provide veterans with puppies to become therapeutic service dogs, as well as cover the cost of training the puppies.

Additionally, the bill will amend title 38, United States Code, and authorize the Secretary of VA to provide service dogs to veterans with mental illnesses who do not have mobility impairments. The American Legion testified in support of a previous version of this bill in 2017. “Service dogs can act as an effective complementary therapy treatment component, especially for those veterans who suffer on a daily basis from the physical and psychological wounds of war,” wrote The American Legion.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will work with organizations like K9s for Warriors, a Florida nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to veterans. Rory Diamond, the CEO of K9s for Warriors said that of the more than 700 veterans who have been through the K9s for Warriors program, 72 percent had attempted suicide before being paired with their service dogs. Jeremy Van Beek, the founder of Get Your Six K9′s Service Dogs said veterans with PTSD had been left out to dry. “They would ask, our well-being isn’t enough? And now a lot of veterans didn’t come forward that probably needed this and unfortunately are not with us today because it wasn’t a well respected idea.” Van Beek said.

Michael Thorpe, a veteran and dog trainer for Elite Canines said he is living proof that service dogs can make a difference for those with PTSD. “I had tons of panic attacks, I had tons of nightmares and before I got my dog Fecto, I would just stay in all the time and it was a nightmare for me.”

Senator Kevin Cramer, who helped get the bill passed said “Many veterans with mobility impairments have had their lives changed — in some cases, saved — by service dogs. Our bill would expand this treatment by launching a pilot program to make veterans with mental health issues such as depression eligible to receive service dogs. It’s a big deal for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. I think it’ll lower the suicide rate and give these veterans their lives back.”

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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Starlight Nintendo Gaming Stations Making Their Way To Hospitals Nationwide

Starlight Nintendo Gaming Stations Making Their Way To Hospitals Nationwide

Nintendo of America and the Starlight Children’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to bring happiness to seriously ill children and their families have had a partnership for 28 years. Through this partnership, they have delivered Gaming stations to over 800 hospitals and healthcare facilities all over the country—bringing smiles to an estimated 11.6 million seriously ill children.

Their latest endeavor is bringing the Starlight Nintendo Switch Gaming stations to even more hospitals and health care facilities across the country. Starlight announced earlier this month that this newest gaming station would soon be available to more children, after it debuted in December 2019 at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma, Washington. Adam Garone, CEO of Starlight, said. “We’re so grateful to Nintendo and their employees for such a long and continuing partnership fueled by innovation, impact, and generous support.”

Julie Hertzog, child life supervisor at Mary Bridge said “The gaming stations are important distraction tools that normalize the healthcare environment and help kids through difficult experiences. They provide choices for kids, motivate them, and give them the opportunity to have fun when it is needed most.”

Each station comes preloaded with more than 25 games from Super Mario Party to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The station is specially designed and manufactured by Nintendo for use in hospitals. The device can be completely cleaned with disinfectant to meet a hospital’s strict safety infection protocols and includes a mounted playback monitor that can roll anywhere in a hospital allowing children to enjoy some of their favorite Nintendo video games from the comfort of their own hospital beds or in a playroom with a group of other children.

Doctors, nurses, clinicians, and child life specialists are able to use a single Starlight Gaming station in a variety of settings, from entertaining children during a relative’s visit to the emergency room, to distracting kids during an otherwise painful medical treatment, to giving kids something fun to do during long periods of isolation or with a group of other kids, or helping them to relax and feel comfortable when communicating with caregivers about their diagnosis.

Gaming delivers happiness to kids stuck in the hospital by providing entertainment and much-needed distraction from stressful situations. Studies show gaming can provide emotional support, resulting in reduced anxiety and stress which improves overall mood. Don James, Nintendo of America’s Executive Vice President of Operations said “It’s been our pleasure to work with Starlight and observe them bringing happiness to kids when they need it the most. As with everything we do, we hope the new Starlight Nintendo Switch gaming stations will put smiles on the faces of children and their families.”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Texas 5th Grader Leading Another Kindness Campaign

Texas 5th Grader Leading Another Kindness Campaign

Orion Jean, the then 10-year-old Fort Worth Texas boy who won a student kindness contest in 2020 where he pitched a campaign of compassion, is still spreading kindness. Last year, he used his $500 prize to buy toys that he donated to a children’s hospital in Dallas. After that, he partnered with a relief group to organize food drives and helped distribute 100,000 meals to families in Texas.


An avid reader, Jean has moved on to a new effort of collecting books to give out to children who might not have any at home. So far, he has 120,000 books but his goal is to have 500,000 books to pass out by the end of August. “I want to be able to share my love of literacy with as many people as possible,” he said. Jean said he’s participating in “the race to kindness,” because “It’s all about my moral duty to help people. You know, it’s my responsibility to be able to see these people who need help and knowing that I have the resources to help them.”


The children’s literacy non-profit, Reading Is Fundamental says 2 out of 3 children living in poverty do not have books at home and a recent survey reveals 94% of teachers’ biggest concern is their students do not have access to print books at home. Race to 500K books campaign runs until August 31st you can get involved by donating new or gently used children’s books to several drop off locations in Texas and Oklahoma. You can also make monetary donations through the website.


Last year, Orion worked quickly to record a video for the 2020 competition, held by Think Kindness, an organization that aims to inspire acts of kindness in schools and communities. In his speech, Orion focused on the idea that “kindness is easy, it can be free, and it can make someone’s day a whole lot better,” he said. Not only did Orion win the contest, but he also put his speech into action by creating the Race to Kindness, a series of events spreading kindness around the world.


Orion’s Race to Kindness previous campaigns of Race to 500 Toys for children at a local hospital and Race to 100K Meals were a success. For his efforts, the fifth grader was named one of America’s top 2021 youth volunteers by the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. Orion said organizing a donation drive is one way to practice kindness, but small, deliberate acts are just as important.


“It can start off with a positive thought or being kind to someone,” said Orion. He offered suggestions such as leaving a nice note for a neighbor or asking your parents how you can help them at home. “If you treat someone with a little kindness and with a little care, hopefully it will be returned back to you. And even if it doesn’t, it can make you feel better knowing that someone else feels better.”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on Dog Missing Nearly 2 Years Reunited With Family After Adopt-A-Pet News Segment

Dog Missing Nearly 2 Years Reunited With Family After Adopt-A-Pet News Segment

A Wisconsin family was reunited with their dog who was lost for nearly two years –after recognizing the beloved pup on a TV news segment. As fate would have it, the owner, only identified by his first name-Dwight, fell asleep with the TV on and woke up during the Wisconsin Humane Society’s “Adopt-a-Pet” segment the next morning. He woke up just as the volunteer started describing a little brown dog with the most adorable underbite.


Dwight told the group it only took one glance at the picture for him to recognize his family’s dog, named Payday. Dwight then contacted the news station, and they connected him with the animal group. Payday was originally brought home as a companion for Dwight’s now 12-year-old daughter, who was still distraught over the incredible loss of her best friend. Payday went missing nearly two years ago after getting loose during a walk at night.


An unknown woman found him and took him in as a stray but surrendered the 4-year-old dog in July saying he wasn’t a good fit for her family. Payday had trouble adjusting to his new environment. While he was full of energy, he was also fearful of new people and situations. When interest in Payday didn’t materialize, the shelter’s media coordinator hoped that some publicity might help the little dog find a loving adopter to help him with his behavioral challenges.


The group had no idea they would find so much more. Minutes after Payday was featured on FOX6 News Milwaukee’s Adopt-A-Pet segment, they received a call from the news organization that one of their viewers called in because he recognized the dog. Dwight’s mom, Melissa, rushed over to the shelter to pick up Payday, and as soon as the little dog spotted the familiar face, his whole demeanor changed.


The heartwarming reunion was shared on the Wisconsin Humane Society’s facebook page. Angela Speed, vice president of communications at the Wisconsin Humane Society said “You could tell he immediately recognized her, and it was such a joyous reunion. It was magical. Most people know animal shelters as places where you adopt animals, but reuniting lost animals with their families is a core part of our work. Every time we’re able to reunite an animal with their family, it’s a memorable occasion … It was a privilege to witness it.”

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1 month ago · by · Comments Off on High Schoolers Design Wheelchair Stroller for Teacher’s Husband

High Schoolers Design Wheelchair Stroller for Teacher’s Husband

A group of high school students at Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, recently won two international awards for inventing and designing a device enabling people in wheelchairs to push a baby stroller. They came up with the design to help one of their teachers. Chelsie King reached out to the head of the school’s technology lab Matt Zigler for ideas on ways to help make it easier for her disabled husband Jeremy to care for their 4 month old.

King’s husband had undergone brain surgery three years earlier, which left him with numerous physical challenges. Some of them affected his speech and his balance, which meant he would need to use a wheelchair. “ When we found out we were expecting, we kind of immediately jumped into ‘OK, how he is going to do certain things for our baby that normal parents don’t have to think about?’” King said. “And one of the things that we really couldn’t find was a way to enjoy walks with our son.” They scoured the internet and came up short. Then King remembered that Matt Zigler, head of the school’s Innovation and Technology Lab taught a class that made things for social good.

Zigler presented the challenge to his students. “It seemed like sort of the perfect challenge for this class. One, it was great to have it as a challenge, but two, it was great that it was somebody in our community that could benefit from it,” Zigler said. The class was also touched by the challenge and interviewed the Kings virtually to get a better understanding of their needs.

Over the course of several weeks, the teams refined their ideas. The students designed custom brackets and shaped aluminum maker pipe to secure a stroller and wheelchair together. Prototypes for the WheeStroll, as they call it, were made using a 3D printer. Jeremy said the device is a godsend because he’s now able to enjoy the simple pleasure of taking a stroll with his family. “I never thought I’d be able to do something like this safely,” he said. “I feel wonderful. I feel ecstatic.”

“The first time we were able to take it out into our neighborhood just the three of us, it was amazing,” King said. “So, it was a match made in heaven with what we needed and with what Matt does in his classes.” The WheeStroll not only helped change the Kings’ lives, but it also changed the students who created it because they were able to see the impact their design had on the King’s day to day life.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Missouri Teens Hailed Heroes For Saving Woman During Flash Flooding

Missouri Teens Hailed Heroes For Saving Woman During Flash Flooding

Two Missouri teens are being hailed heroes for saving a woman from drowning after a June storm dumped six inches of rain over Columbia, Missouri with little warning. The fast moving storm caused flash flooding with creek waters bursting their banks, causing overflow zones to turn into ponds.

Boyscouts Joseph Diener, 16, and Dominic Viet, 15, were exploring the scene of their hometown to survey the damage after the massive rainfall flooded parts of the city. The two, along with a few other friends, were biking past a basketball court when they heard someone calling for help. The group of teens saw a woman in a bathing suit, clinging to a basketball hoop that was nearly entirely submerged in the floodwaters. The young woman was desperately trying to keep her head above water under the force of a current.

The two took “about 30 seconds” to realize they had to take action, Joseph said. There was a small group of people gathered near the woman already, Dominic said. “We didn’t have time to think, her head was barely above the water and we could see her sinking more down every second. We didn’t think about the risks, we had to get her out.” The two teens hoisted her up onto their shoulders because her legs were cramping. “There were some currents trying to pull us down too, because — I don’t know —it’s not normal water,” Dominic said.

The two were able to get her to solid ground where she started throwing up water. Emergency services arriving at someone else’s call performed first aid and rushed her to the hospital. Assistant Fire Chief Jerry Jenkins described the boys’ act as heroic and brave, as did Dominic’s mother Monica Viet, who had been calling her son to warn him of another storm rolling through and was growing nervous. She sent her husband to where they were located and when he saw the ambulance and fire truck, she said her heart sank. “You know, my mind went to the place where he was the one who was injured,” she said. “I didn’t realize that he was out there saving somebody! But then he saw them on their bikes heading back to their friend’s house, and I got a text from Dominic saying ‘Coming home soon, just saved a woman’s life Mom.’”

The fire department honored the two boys with a “Citizen Life Safety Award” for their heroic rescue. Both teens are Life Scouts, which is the last level before Eagle Scout. Neither are working on any lifeguarding skills as part of their upcoming projects, but their scoutmaster, Morgan Dailey, that they might get badges for their honorary action. “There’s a heavy emphasis on being prepared and especially being prepared for emergency situations and this clearly was an emergency situation.”

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