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4 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on Army Veteran Donated 36 Acres For Veterans Treatment

Army Veteran Donated 36 Acres For Veterans Treatment

US Army veteran Marty Weber donated 36 rural acres to help veterans with PTSD and addiction issues. The land bordering New Jersey’s Pinelands National Reserve will be used as a rehabilitation center/retreat for mental illness and addiction. Up to 30 percent of American veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 14 percent suicides in the U.S. every year are vets. Many veterans also struggle with homelessness and addiction.

Weber lost his longtime partner Jeff Poissant, who was also an Army Veteran, to bladder cancer in 2017. They had purchased the property in October 1994 and had always envisioned somehow using their Ocean County Ponderosa to help fellow veterans. Weber felt compelled to realize that dream following Poissant’s death to honor their 30 year union. “We thought about a cemetery for the vets but this is going to keep them alive,” he said.

Working with two already-established homeless outreach programs—Just Believe and New Life Addiction Services—Jeff’s Camp will feature an 8,000-square-foot facility incorporating a thrift store and a sober living residence providing treatment, rehabilitation, and vocational training—all in a serene, wooded setting. As New Life does at its existing facility, it would provide initial week-long detoxification care, followed by an intensive outpatient recovery program of three hours a day once the veterans move into the residence elsewhere on the property, said the company’s co-founder and administrator Joel Albano.

Just Believe director Paul Hulse said “While New Life is working with them on the medical side, we can work on the rehabilitative/vocation side, getting them back into society, touching people, getting back into that public eye, and getting people what they need. That’s what the store is going to do. The thrift store, like one already operated by Just Believe in Toms River, would employ the veterans living on the property, stocking and selling the donated clothing and other merchandise, as a means of reintegrating them into society through regular work and interaction with the public” Hulse said. The estimated cost of the project is $2.5 million, which Hulse hopes to raise through private contributions and grants.

Weber attributes Poissant’s death to delays in receiving medical care from the Veterans Administration. He said he and Poissant both experienced firsthand some of the challenges military veterans can face. “Our government is not taking good enough care of our vets,” said Weber. “I have to do what I can in Jeff’s memory to help make things right. Weber turned down a $3 million offer for the commercially and residentially zoned property by a developer in order to make Jeff’s Camp a reality.

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2 months ago · by · Comments Off on Community Comes Together to Get Neighborhood Handyman’s Roof Replaced

Community Comes Together to Get Neighborhood Handyman’s Roof Replaced

For decades, James “Mac” McWhorter of Waco, TX has been working on the homes of his neighbors as a handyman so when it came time for his house to receive some TLC, they were ready to return the favor. McWhorter, a veteran, started doing odd jobs here and there, and as word spread that he did good work, he became the trusted neighborhood handyman.

Neighbor Carmen Merritt said no job was too big or too small and anything you needed, he could do. McWhorter was so busy helping others take care of their houses that his own home was falling into disrepair. Merritt noticed he needed a new roof and said knew she had to do something. “This is not OK. He has helped me with so much and I didn’t feel right just going back inside and doing nothing,” Merritt said. She reached out to neighbors on the NextDoor app about ways to assist McWhorter. “Almost immediately there were people offering to donate,” Merritt said.

Eighty-seven year old neighbor Millie Woods, an interior designer who owns MLW Real Estate Holdings took the lead on the project. Woods said she got involved because he was known to make some repairs for poor people without charging the going rate. He was just a good man and has been robbed of those skills because he has dementia. She asked one of her contractors if he would be willing to take a look at the house and volunteer one Saturday to fix it.

What she thought would be a simple roof repair turned out to be a lot more. Donations for repairs started pouring in after the initial post in early May and neighbors also raised enough money for a year of pest control. In addition, Clayton Homes is donating all the shingles and Lowe’s is furnishing the rest of the materials. Woods made sure McWhorter was able to enjoy the experience without doing any work. “The thing about Mac, twice I had to stop him from getting on a ladder to get up on that roof,” Woods said. “I said, ‘Mac, you can’t help with this job, you don’t need to do this anymore. This is something that you deserve because you’ve done this for other people for so many years and you need it and now it’s your turn.”

McWhorter said he’s grateful for the unexpected blessing. “It shows me that there are still those kinds of people that are willing to help others,” McWhorter said. Woods, who’s done a lot for military veterans in the past, said no one who served should have to live with a roof in the state of McWhorter’s. “We don’t want anyone to live that way, but our veterans that served our country need better care than that and we are blessed to have found out about him and it’s an opportunity for us to give something back,” Woods said.

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3 months 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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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on LaGrange Georgia Man Helps Community $1 At A Time

LaGrange Georgia Man Helps Community $1 At A Time

A Georgia man is proving $1 can go a long way in helping people.  Anthony Talley created a program where he collects just $1 from people all around his community to donate to someone in need, showing how small acts of kindness can add up.  Through his $1 Thursdays program, the LaGrange, Georgia, resident collects donations of $1 each, and then passes the money along to someone in the city who needs it.

Last year he raised roughly $8,000, which primarily went toward helping a man who lost his home in a fire. He also used some of it to give back to children, buying ice cream for every elementary school student in the Troup County cities of LaGrange, Hogansville and West Point.

Talley said “When I do stuff like this it’s an overwhelming joy.  People say, ‘well what do you plan to get out of this?’ And I tell them I plan to change the world, one life at a time, one dollar at a time.”

Talley lives in LaGrange, Georgia, a town with a high crime rate and high poverty rate of approximately 29.7%, so he knew he wanted to give back to his community.  Talley’s latest charitable effort through his $1 Thursdays program is to raise money to help a mother of 10 with the purchase of a new car after hers was lost in an accident involving her daughter and helping a family with the funeral expenses of a loved one after she passed in a car accident.

He collects the donations through a cash app with the username $AnthonyMauriceTalley and through Venmo at @Anthony-Talley-9.  He posts regular updates to his Facebook page to let everyone know how much has been raised and the current cause he is campaigning for. “Remember the goal is to change the lives of others $1.00 at a time,” he wrote in a Facebook post.  Aside from his fundraising campaign updates, his Facebook page is filled with inspirational updates revealing that just one man with a heart of gold is spreading kindness and hope throughout his community.

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4 months ago · by · Comments Off on Retail Giants Offering Debt Free Degrees to Employees

Retail Giants Offering Debt Free Degrees to Employees

Starting this fall, Target has made it easier for U.S.-based team members to get their degrees with a new debt-free education assistance benefit. More than 340,000 full-time and part-time employees at stores, distribution centers, and headquarters locations will have access to free undergraduate and associates degrees, certificates, bootcamp programs, textbooks, and fees with no out-of-pocket costs required.


Target’s partnership with Guild Education will provide easy access to more than 250 business-aligned programs from over 40 schools, colleges, and universities. The benefit means Target will provide direct payments to their employees academic institution of up to $5,250 for non-master’s degrees. It will also fund advanced degrees within the network of schools, paying up to $10,000 annually for master’s programs.


Target is investing $200 million into the program over the next four years to help eliminate student debt for its employees. The program is part of the company’s sustainability strategy commitment- Target Forward. They hope to promote access to education to build a team that equitably reflects the communities they serve.


Team members will have a range of options, including courses for high school completion, college prep, and English language learning as well as select certificates, certifications, bootcamps, associate, and undergraduate degrees. A few schools to choose from are University of Arizona, Oregon State University, Morehouse College and Paul Quinn College.
Another retail giant investing in their employees, Walmart will be investing nearly $1 billion over the next five years in career-driven training and development for its workers. The largest U.S. private employer, the company announced last week that it will pay 100% of college tuition and books for its associates through its Live Better U (LBU) education program. The corporation already had a program for continued education in place offered to employees for $1 a day but they are now doing away with the fee making all education programs paid for by Walmart.


The Live Better U Program will now pay for 100% of tuition and books and is available for all of their approximately 1.5 million part-time and full-time Walmart and Sam’s Club associates in the U.S. starting on their first day. Employees can earn college degrees or learn trade skills without the burden of student loans with over 50 schools to choose from. Walmart will add four more academic partners, including Johnson & Wales University, the University of Arizona, the University of Denver, and Pathstream. These complement the existing partners: Brandman University, Penn Foster, Purdue University Global, Southern New Hampshire University, Wilmington University, and Voxy EnGen.


Since launching LBU in 2018, more than 52,000 associates have participated in the program to date, and 8,000 have already graduated. Nearly 28,000 associates have been active in a LBU program this summer. Currently, cost is a leading barrier for earning a degree—with student loan debt in the U.S. topping $1.7 trillion.

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6 months ago · by · Comments Off on Jaden Smith to Expand on Initiative to Feed Homeless

Jaden Smith to Expand on Initiative to Feed Homeless

Two years ago, to commemorate his 21st birthday, actor Jaden Smith launched the I Love You Restaurant, a vegan food truck initiative to combat food insecurity for Los Angeles’ homeless. Smith’s vegan meals found their way to 8,000 of L.A. ‘s Skid Row residents. Eventually, I Love You’s efforts were expanded to serve at-risk residents in Harlem, New York City.

“Our mission is to spread love to communities experiencing food and/or housing insecurity by offering water along with fresh, high-quality, and delicious sustainable meal options,” his food website explains. When the pandemic hit Smith’s organization continued to donate vegan food but also distributed masks, clothes, hand sanitizer, and other essential items.

Smith is now pivoting his I Love You concept yet again with plans for a more permanent version of his restaurant on the table, bringing the success of his past efforts into the next phase. The “pay as you can” philosophy welcomes anyone to partake of the yet-to-be-announced location’s fare. Those who can afford the suggested menu prices will be in effect subsidizing meals for those who can’t.

The I Love You Restaurant is just one of Smith’s philanthropic projects. In 2019, through his company JUST Goods Inc., he led an initiative centered on bringing a water filtration system to Flint, Michigan. The company joined forces with Flint’s First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church to implement a system called “The Water Box” which helped reduce lead and other toxic chemicals in contaminated water.

In 2018, he also led an effort to donate water each month to the city’s schools until the water was safe to drink which led to thousands of bottles being donated to Flint schools. “I want to have something I can feel good about that I can feel like it’s changing the world. I’m not only being neutral with the world, I’m actually making the world a better place. I’ve just always wanted to be an advocate of humanity” Smith said.

Initiatives like Smith’s are instrumental in evoking change. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are over 500,000 people in the United States experiencing homelessness on a given night. Feeding America reported that in 2017 nearly 40 million Americans—including over 12 million youngsters—lacked access to food.

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7 months ago · by · Comments Off on Homeless Veteran Receives Home from HeroHomes Nonprofit

Homeless Veteran Receives Home from HeroHomes Nonprofit

HeroHomes, a non-profit organization, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday to hand over the keys to a finished home to U.S. Army Veteran Vainuupo “AV” Avegalio. Avegalio was a homeless retired U.S. Army Sergeant who spent his income helping other veterans battling post-traumatic stress.  The organization’s donation and help from contractors and local businesses made it possible to fund all of the building costs and furnishings for Avegalio’s new home in Purcellville, Virginia. 

Avegalio is an amateur poet and visual artist whose work deals with war experience and trauma. Art and poetry are his way of dealing with guilt, anger, depression, and suicidal ideation which coupled with multiple injuries sustained while serving overseas- ended his 12 year military career. He now travels the United States and its territories conducting art and poetry workshops with at risk youth, current and former inmates, first responders, veterans, and those suffering from mental illness in hope of bettering their quality of life.

He was sleeping in his car while traveling across the country to help veterans in need and even used his money from the Army for his workshops and supplies.  Avegalio has performed his readings across the United States and just recently hit the big screen in his debut in the HBO documentary, We Are Not Done Yet.

Avegalio, who served five tours of duty, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, moves into the 2,900-square-foot, 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom home custom-built by homebuilder Brookfield Residential.  Brookfield Residential, based in the mid-Atlantic region, donated 100 percent of their management time to the project.  The company also reached out to each vendor to find reduced costs, and in many cases labor and material were completely donated.

Avegalio said he hopes to use the basement in his new home, which has been renovated to his art studio, to continue his work helping others.  HeroHomes is a nonprofit established in 2017 that gives veterans the ability to live independently and to provide for their future.  Co-founders Jason Brownell and Matt Lowers met Avegalio through the third HeroHomes recipient William Slease. They said they hope that by providing Avegalio with permanent housing, it will help him expand his mission of helping others.

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8 months 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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8 months 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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8 months 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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