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2 weeks ago · by · Comments Off on McDonald’s Franchise Owner Pays Workers for 3 Months While Location Closed for Renovations

McDonald’s Franchise Owner Pays Workers for 3 Months While Location Closed for Renovations

A 90-year-old owner of multiple McDonald’s franchises did an extraordinary good deed for his employees, who were at risk of losing their livelihoods. Tony Philiou, needed to shut down the Mayfield Heights, OH location for renovations in March. His employees, however, had nothing to worry about.

Philiou had a meeting with his employees where he told them his plans to close, remodel and build the brand-new store. “As I’ve been in their shoes, I could sense their concern,” he said. “You’re going to sit home. You’re going to get paid,” said Philiou, recalling his words in the speech he delivered to workers. He said that he knew about a month before he closed for renovations that he would make the move to keep his workers’ jobs — and their wallets — safe under his umbrella.

Philiou flipped his first burger as an employee at this exact location 60 years ago; now he’s the boss who chose to continue paying all 90 employees, even though they would not be able to work for him during renovations.

He said of the decision “”I have people here that make a living here and go from week-to-week pay. How can I tolerate for them to not have a paycheck? “That was the thing to do.” Over his 60 years in the business he’s helped four employees become franchise owners, and some managers and employees have been around for decades.

Philiou says he values hard work and this has been the hardest time to retain employees but if you do the right thing, word gets out, and people stick around. The new building with the same old values of hard work and respect, reopened with a ribbon cutting ceremony on July 6th.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Chicago Neighborhood to Become Energy Efficient with Microgrid

Chicago Neighborhood to Become Energy Efficient with Microgrid

A Chicago neighborhood has created a microgrid to become energy efficient. The Bronzeville Community Microgrid combines rooftop solar, natural gas-fired generators and batteries to produce and store energy at a local level. Once fully operational, it will render the entire neighborhood “energy independent,” giving it the ability to disconnect from and reconnect to Chicago’s citywide grid at will.

The microgrid is part of a $25 million initiative, including $5 million in Department of Energy grants and is the first neighborhood microgrid in the US. ComEd plans to have the system up and running by early 2023, not just for emergencies but also to balance and optimize the interplay of distributed energy resources with the larger grid.

The microgrid also has become a blueprint for reducing communities’ contribution to climate change. This is due to the fact that the system gives its operators the ability, at scale, to introduce more renewables into its energy mix while reducing “line loss,” the electricity lost as it travels across power lines.

Along with the microgrid, ComEd has sponsored community-related activities, off-grid and solar-powered streetlights and free Wi-Fi throughout the service area. The community will also have freestanding digital kiosks providing community-related news and energy-related information.

The neighborhood also has an advisory council, The Bronzeville Community of the Future, which is composed of approximately two dozen individuals and organization leaders from a broad range of organizations. They have formal sessions quarterly and frequent informal meetings to keep stakeholders and residents informed about the initiative. The initiative has been years in the making and ComEd also hosted an Ideathon in 2018, 2019 and a virtual format in 2020 for Bronzeville-area high school students to design smart city and smart grid projects using STEM skills.

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3 months ago · by · Comments Off on Former Refugee Finally Finds Woman Who Gave Her $100 on a Plane Decades Ago

Former Refugee Finally Finds Woman Who Gave Her $100 on a Plane Decades Ago

One woman’s quest to find a stranger whose act of kindness years ago has helped shape who she is today, has finally come to an end. Ayda Zugay was an almost 12-year-old refugee fleeing the former Yugoslavia with her 17 year old sister when a stranger handed them the envelope on a flight to the United States in 1999. The woman made them promise not to open it until they got off the plane. Inside, the girls found dangly earrings and a $100 bill. A note in the envelope said “I am so sorry that the bombing of your country has caused your family any problems. I hope your stay in America will be a safe and happy one for you — Welcome to America — please use this to help you here. A friend from the plane — TRACY ”

Zugay says that money helped feed them for an entire summer. The two girls scraped by staying with their brother, who was a college student in Iowa at the time. And it’s still shaping the way both sisters live their lives 23 years later. She still remembers how she felt the first time she read the message on the envelope and how the word “safe” was underlined. “It was the first time that I felt, like, relief. This is a safe place, and we can build a future here,” she says. “I think that’s why the letter really resonated with me at that time, because we went from like this drastic horror into this beautiful act of kindness” she said.

Every year, on the anniversary of her arrival in the US, Zugay renewed her search to find her. Recently, Zugay’s video searching for Tracy was shared by Refugees International’s Twitter page and it went viral. She shared clues in the video such as “Tracy” was traveling with a friend and they both appeared to be in their late 30s or early 40s. One was a brunette with a ponytail and the other had mid-length blonde hair. Both women toted tennis rackets and they both spoke about playing tennis in Paris. She believed they may have lived in Minnesota, possibly within a few hours of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. The flight they met on was from Amsterdam to Minnesota on May 31, 1999.

Her years-long search finally came to an end when Tracy Peck, a 70-year-old massage therapist living in Minneapolis received a series of texts and calls — first from her tennis coach, then from her best friend. “Have you seen the CNN story?” both of them asked. “That has to be you.” Peck had no idea what they were talking about but she pulled over and opened the link they’d sent. A picture of a letter popped onto Peck’s iPhone screen. As soon as she saw it, she says, memories from a plane ride 23 years ago came rushing back and how frightened the sisters seemed. She said they reminded her of her own daughters and their experience fleeing war was heartbreaking, unlike anything she’d ever dealt with.

She cried as she read how the gift had changed their lives. With the help of friends and family with a whirlwind of tweets, emails and texts- less than a day later, Peck and the sisters reunited on an emotional Zoom call. Peck said she’s forever changed by hearing this latest chapter in their story. “It warms my heart beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in my life,” she said. Peck says she’d worked to teach her children to be kind, telling them you never know how your actions might affect others but she never imagined she’d experience such a stunning example of how truly important an act of kindness can be.

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4 months ago · by · Comments Off on Brother of Boston Bombing’s Youngest Victim Runs Marathon

Brother of Boston Bombing’s Youngest Victim Runs Marathon

Henry Richard, the brother of the youngest victim in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, has completed the Boston Marathon in honor of his brother. He was emotional as he completed his first Boston Marathon. As he neared the end of the race, an emotional Richard stopped at the Boston Marathon memorial on Boylston Street for several moments. He then turned and ran to the finish, pumping both fists in the air as he crossed the line.

Henry ran with Team MR8, to raise money for the Martin Richard Foundation, which promotes inclusion, kindness, and peace in Martin’s legacy. The foundation invests in community programs that broaden horizons for young people and encourage them to celebrate diversity and engage in positive civic action.

Henry was 10 years old when his 8-year-old brother Martin was one of three people killed that day. Hundreds of people were injured that day including his 6 year old sister Jane who lost her left leg in the bombing. Jane survived that day after Matthew Patterson, from Lynn Fire Department, grabbed a stranger’s belt and made a tourniquet for her. Patterson then lifted her into his arms and raced through the devastation carrying her with her father, Bill Richard, by his side.

His sister, Jane, his parents and other family members were there at the finish line. “It’s great to get here finally. It’s been years in the making for me so I’m just so happy I could finally be here. I know Martin would have been doing it with me — so happy to finish it, that’s all I can think about. So many people were out there for me, all my friends, my family. Motivation was the least of my worries. There were so many people there to support me. It was wonderful and I couldn’t believe it. It meant the world to me that they were here waiting.” Henry said.

Finishing the Boston Marathon is an incredible achievement by itself, but crossing the finish line meant even more to Henry Richard. It also brought back a lot of emotions for the entire Richard family. Henry plans on running the marathon again in the future. “I love this city and I couldn’t be more grateful to them and everything they’ve done for me,” he said.

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4 months ago · by · Comments Off on Wounded Army Veteran Receives Smart Home

Wounded Army Veteran Receives Smart Home

Army Sgt. Christopher Kurtz, was serving in the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan in 2010 when an IED went off nearby. Kurtz, who lives in TN, lost both of his legs and two fingers. After many surgeries, Sgt. Kurtz returned to active duty before medically retiring from the Army in 2013. He was recently honored with the keys to his new specially adapted smart home, courtesy of the Gary Sinise Foundation.

He received a brand new “smart home” that has been customized to make living easier for Kurtz. The foundation built him a four bedroom, three bath home with an open floor plan, wide hallways, low counter tops, and smart technology to control everything in the home with the touch of an iPad. The house was provided to the Kurtz family mortgage free by the Gary Sinise Foundation program R.I.S.E. (Restoring Independence, Supporting Endowment), which builds specially adapted smart homes for our nation’s most severely wounded veterans and first responders, their caregivers and families.

A “Walls of Honor” ceremony was held at the site of the house in Adam, TN to celebrate handing the keys to Kurtz. In a video prepared for the event, Sinise said “The house that stands before you today is a small symbol of appreciation and respect from a grateful nation.” Mike Thirtle, CEO of the Gary Sinise Foundation said “We want to make it as customizable and tailorable for them and their family. So when you go inside the home you’re going to see countertops lowered and you’re going to see a Dutch oven that opens a certain way. You’re going to see a sink where they can wheel up with their wheelchair to have access. You go to the bathroom and you see how it’s easier for them to get around because there’s a lot of wheelchair considerations.”

Sinise, who played wounded war veteran Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump, said that experience opened a whole new world for him. For the past 10 years, Sinese has been providing mortgage-free homes for veterans through his foundation. “Shortly after the movie opened, I was contacted by the Disabled American Veterans Organization inviting me to their national convention where they wanted to present me with an award,” Sinise said. “I met hundreds if not thousands of people who were not playing a part in a movie.”

Sgt. Kurtz said the home has changed his life. “I am incredibly grateful to the Gary Sinise Foundation, not only for what they do for the military community, but for changing my life with this home that will help restore my independence and make life easier for our family. This place is awesome, it’s going to be a great place to grow the family, my kids are going to be in great schools, this entire community is very supportive. I can’t ask for more, this is an incredible opportunity, and I can’t be more thankful, it’s just a blessing,” Kurtz said.

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4 months ago · by · Comments Off on Vanderbilt University Announces Bonuses For Working Through Pandemic

Vanderbilt University Announces Bonuses For Working Through Pandemic

The Chancellor of Vanderbilt University is recognizing all the school’s employees for their diligent work over the past two years with a surprise bonus in their paychecks. As part of the Chancellor’s Recognition Award, all eligible staff, faculty and postdocs will get a one-time payment of $1,500 added to their paychecks at the end of March, according to the university.

Around 9,000 workers, including part-time employees, are getting the generous bonus. While announcing the award on March 17, Chancellor Daniel Diermeier expressed appreciation for staff members’ “extraordinary efforts” during the tumultuous time, saying they are “at the heart of Vanderbilt’s educational mission.”

Diermeier said “It has not been easy, especially during the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic. However, your dedication to our vision and goals enables our university to operate at its highest level. I am indeed grateful as we approach Vanderbilt’s 150th anniversary in a position of strength and with optimism about our path forward.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across America suffered from a national teacher shortage. Every year teachers leave the profession and fewer people are entering the field each year. According to the National Education Association, the pandemic has exacerbated a challenge that has seen massive staff shortages in public schools in every state. The shortage has left teachers increasingly burnt out, with an alarming 55 percent now saying they’re ready to leave the profession they love earlier than planned.

There are over 50 million US public school students and about 3.5 million teachers. The shortage is particularly acute in areas like maths, science, languages and special education. Throughout the pandemic, administrators have been struggling to fill vacancies for teachers, substitutes and other vital school staff positions in order to keep operations going.

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9 months 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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10 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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12 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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12 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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