Kind gestures are often extra special when received from a stranger. Do-gooders like Brennon Jones, a barber for the homeless, can probably vouch for that. A little always goes a long way, sometimes even saving a life. Such was the case for Glen Oliver, who inspired an anonymous suicidal coffeegoer to live by paying for his drink.
“I wondered why someone would buy coffee for a stranger for no reason. Why me? Why today? If I was a religious sort I would take this as a sign. This random act of kindness was directed at me on this day for a purpose,” [read a letter sent to a local column.]
Oliver, who had once shouldered a needy shopper’s tab, claimed paying it forward had simply become a habit. Giving out a free beverage and even picking up a bill was just an everyday routine.
“It’s exponential now, you know? Like such a small, insignificant thing to most people just turned out to be … the planets align for somebody.” [said Oliver.]
The going may get tough, but the tough often bounce back — kind gestures are always welcome!
Charity vending machines in Nottingham and Salt Lake are indubitably the beginning of a giving revolution. Now that consumers can donate food, clothing, and even cattle with the push of a button, the trend is taking flight in various other forms. Plagued by homelessness, Los Angeles is giving back to its transients via charity meters.
All six of the meters will be located in Downtown Los Angeles, and revenue will go toward the Skid Row-based C3 program, a cooperation between the city, county, and local service providers that provides outreach to homeless residents and helps them find housing.
Sure, parking meters aren’t a particularly welcoming machine, but the principle behind these ones is. Alongside cash donations, sponsors will also generate as much as $3,500 a year.
The meters look similar to ones already up-and-running in Pasadena: virtually identical to a run-of-the-mill parking meter, but colored bright orange and set back from the street to avoid confusion about their purpose. Donations can be made using both coins and credit cards.
The machines, sporting a bright yellow smiling emoji help donors avoid panhandling. With four more yet to rise across the city, hopefully other states catch onto the meter fever.
Athletes have a long history of charitable acts, donating medals and paychecks to those in need. While most have the means to make monetary pledges, others make more personal contributions. When local Kansas man Roy Coe grew sick with lymphoma, an anonymous NFL player donated bone marrow.
“That was a pretty good day,” he explained. “It was good to know that there was somebody out there.”
Doctors revealed only two years later that Coe’s donor was, in fact, a famous athlete. Though his identity will remain a secret to the public, Coe will soon get to meet his mystery savior.
“He probably saved my life,” Coe explained. “I owe him a big old ‘thank you’ for that.”
Not only did Coe go into remission — he got to witness a once-in-a-lifetime Super Bowl. I guess modern-day fairytales do come true.
For street-dwellers, a single blanket or free meal often goes a long way. What often makes the greatest impact is an occasional resting place, be it in a shelter or elsewhere. Still, this remains unlikely for most, but do-gooder Xavier Van der Stappen is revising that statistic. With the help of local factories, Van der Stappen designed portable origami tents for the homeless in Brussels.
“There are homeless people everywhere. When I saw them, it made me remember refugee camps in Africa,” said Van der Stappen, the man behind the ORIG-AMI project.
“It is a shame that in the 21st century there are still people living in streets in a very rich country like Belgium.”
The cardboard creations (ORIG-AMI), easy to dismantle, combat a ban against canvas tents and city camping. They will also provide temporary shelter to those rejected by overbooked hostels. Despite their early success, Van der Stappen continues to vie for a long-term solution to homelessness.
“I‘m not the person who is trying to solve it. I just try to find a solution for today, not for tomorrow,” he said.
For those not quite anticipating a tomorrow, ORIG-AMI makes a good contender for an interim home.
In an age of pervading poverty, food titans do what they can to give back. In the absence of a refrigerator-mishap-gone-right, market chains usually distribute leftovers. But for a noble Texas couple, giving back is a full-time job. Joan Cheever and Dennis Quinn run The Chow Train, a food truck for the homeless.
“It started off as a family thing,” says Cheever, 60, a former journalist. “Then mothers of my friends’ kids started calling and saying, ‘Are you going to go out and serve people food? Can I send my kid over [to help]?’”
Since picking up in 2005, The Chow Train has served over 100,000 meals to needy customers. Recipes are spontaneous, depending on donations. While it can be worrisome, it makes for an exciting food adventure. The truck also caters to disaster sites, often with an extra serving of surprise goodies.
“Everyone who comes out on the Chow Train is a volunteer and they just feel wonderful afterwards,” [Cheever] says. “There are always going to be hungry people, and I think that we as a community need to do our part to help people.”
Paying it forward never ceases to put a smile on anyone’s face — and a satisfying lump in anyone’s stomach.
While it isn’t everything, money can certainly get a person on their feet. When Kate McClure raised $227,000 for a homeless veteran, income inequality became more evident than ever. Now approaching it head-on, Cards Against Humanity gave $1,000 to 100 people in need.
“Giving 100 people $1,000 doesn’t fix wealth inequality,” the game’s website reads. “But we think these stories are a clear demonstration of how much $1,000 means to someone struggling to pay for basic necessities.”
The experiment called for 150,000 netizens to sign up, redistributing funds to the less economically fortunate. Testimonials claimed the money would go to anything from Christmas gifts to paying off student loans.
Most Americans can’t come up with $400 in an emergency, and one in five American households have zero or negative wealth,” Cards Against Humanity explains on its website.
To some, $1,000 may be just another paycheck. To others, it might mean the world.
Moderna’s personalized cancer vaccine may be a leap towards a cure, but the wait is long from over. Until then, a select few have been making life more comfortable for cancer sufferers. Zach Bolster, a former hedge fund vice president, is the founder of ChemoCars — a ride service for chemo patients.
“My family was shocked by how many cancer patients had difficulty getting to their chemotherapy treatments. We soon realized what a huge financial and family burden transportation during cancer treatments can be. Some patients resorted to riding the bus, others, unfortunately, missed their treatment altogether.”
Inspired by his late mother, a victim of pancreatic cancer, Bolster and his wife Patricia have offered over 2,000 free rides. Many users have become regulars, avoiding the hassle of buses and transportation expenses.
“ChemoCars gives patients a chance to do something for themselves. They rely so much on family that this means they can use family or friends for other things and – not for the daily chore of getting treatment,” [nurse Pam Gwaltney says.]
Though business-minded, Bolster doesn’t see dollar signs on the horizon. ChemoCars has become a tribute to his mother and a symbol of hope for many.
Too often, we underestimate the giving nature of children. But kids like Jayden Perez, who ran a toy drive for Puerto Rican youths, are what give Generation Z a good rep. Continuing the streak is 9-year-old Mikah Frye, who gave up his Xbox One to purchase blankets for the homeless.
“He knew what it was like to not have a blanket at night and have to give it back,” said his grandmother, Terry Brant. “So the first thing he wanted to do is give a blanket that they could keep.”
Clearly, it was firsthand experience that encouraged Mikah to donate blankets (60 of them) to the needy. Moved by the gesture, tech giant Microsoft made a donation of their own — to Mikah. The generous preteen scored a brand new Xbox, and deservedly so.
“It’s just amazing, it’s a blessing, Mikah is a blessing to our family and we thank you very much,” said Brant.
Giving back is never about the rewards that come in return. But this one sure is swanky!
To accommodate a plethora of customers and increase sustainability, supermarkets across the globe have been making changes. From hosting seasonal “quiet hours” to selling perfectly edible expired products, chains are catering to various needs better than ever. Aiming to reduce both waste and poverty, Aldi is donating all its unsold fresh foods to underprivileged families.
“As Aldi stores will shut at 4pm on Christmas Eve until December 27, they will have a variety of good quality surplus food products that they will wish to redistribute in support of less fortunate individuals and to prevent food going to waste.” [the supermarket announced.]
To stay organized, Aldi is inviting local charities to collect the items for distribution. Each branch hopes to set out at least 20 to 30 crates of leftover food. So far, the initiative is gaining traction and supporters, all thanks to social media.
“Kudos to Aldi arranging for dispersal of unsold food on Christmas Eve to organisations helping those in need. Let’s hope others follow suit. Well done.” [said a netizen.]
Talk about killing two birds with one stone — except maybe the stone is an apple.
Homelessness continues to plague millions who remain under the poverty line. While the chances of a better life often remain slim, generous donors and establishments such as universities can make a difference. Opening its doors to 200 rough sleepers, the London Euston station will act as a shelter on Christmas Day.
“Many people become homeless because of relationship breakdowns so Christmas can be a particularly lonely time for some of our residents,” said Beth Norden, community and events manager at St. Mungo’s [charity].
Independently, the homelessness charity supports roughly 2,700 homeless people across the U.K. It may seem only a ripple in the water, but with over 300 ongoing projects, a single plate of food may save a life.
“This will be a fantastic fun day for our homeless friends that we will all hope could be replicated anywhere and everywhere.” Steve Naybour, of Network Rail, said.
Working over the holidays is all too much a reality. While nobody looks forward to late night shifts on Christmas, giving back could be a game-changer.