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Superstore Voluntarily Feeds Needy Families

Winter can be a hard time of year for anyone, but just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that people’s hearts are cold. Pam Smallman, manager of the Superstore in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Canada, is proof of that.

The CBC reports that every Saturday from noon to 1PM, the Superstore offers a free lunch to anybody who wants to come. “Whether it be that they’re hungry or whether it be that they’re lonely, and they just want to come in and have a bite to eat, then we want to do that,” said Smallman. Her new initiative was prompted by a phone call she received several weeks ago—from a man who had no money to buy food for his family, but didn’t get paid until the next week.

“He reached out to me for some help and it really stopped me dead in my tracks. And it’s been on my mind ever since because I just thought ‘my God, this man had to call and ask me to help him because he couldn’t feed his family’ and it was just a heart-stopping moment.”

The lunches will be simple, says Pam Smallman: soup and sandwich, or maybe chili and rolls.

The lunches will be prepared by staff with food donated from the Superstore. Smallman doesn’t know how many people will take advantage of her offer, but she wants to create a worm and welcoming space for them.

“Winter is a tough time for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons,” said Smallman. “I live here. These are my family, these are my friends, these are my neighbours, and I know from growing up here and I know from being here that there’s a lot of people that struggle.”

Meeting bills for groceries or utilities between paychecks is a common need—it’s one of the things we’re most frequently asked about at VIA. Smallman is a perfect example that people can deeply empathize with their fellows—and from that empathy, voluntarily help them.

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VIA Raises $15K for Australian Fire Relief

The 2019-2020 bushfire season in Australia was especially devastating. Fires burned approximately 26 million acres, destroyed almost 6,000 buildings, and killed numerous people. Not only was this a tragedy for the Australians in the path of these fires, but also for the wildlife that was caught in the blaze. An estimated 1 billion animals have perished and some species that were nearing extinction may be lost forever. This doesn’t even account for the future problems facing Australia’s wildlife when you consider how much of their natural habitat was burned to ash. However you look at it, Australians have a rough path ahead of them.

It’s often during the most troubling times that we see the best in humanity. People around the globe have banded together to help Australians in their time of need, and we here at Voluntaryism in Action knew we had to do our part in the relief effort. With the help of our followers, VIA was able to set a new record by raising over $15,000 to help in the emergency relief effort in Australia. This may not sound like much, but right now they can really use any help that they can get. We were able to send $10,000 to Givit, an organization on the ground in Australia that’s providing essential items to the victims of the fires. The remainder of the donations were given to Wires to help our four-legged friends. Wires is Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organization and is leading the charge in helping the impacted animals.

The fires have mostly subsided, and there has already been new growth coming up through the ashes. There’s a lot of rebuilding and hard work in Australia’s future, but they have the world behind them. Millions of dollars have poured in from individuals and charities and not a single person was extorted to raise the money. This is just another example of how people of good will are more than willing to help others without a government body forcing them to do so, even if it’s for people on the other side of the globe. Thank you to everyone that donated and all the people that helped us spread this fundraiser!

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Charity Creates Companion Robot For Sick Children

Few things can be more isolating than a prolonged illness. While bad enough for adults, this is worse for children, who can be more emotionally and psychologically sensitive than adults. Just ask Ethan Hayes: after being diagnosed with brain cancer, his four surgeries, 30 sessions of radiation radiation therapy, and seven months of chemotherapy, he’s been separated from his school friends for over a year. But Ethan now has an unexpectedly welcome companion who can tell jokes, answer questions, and play games—a robot named Zenbo.

Ethan Hayes, age 7, and his sister Chloe, age 8, are the first to test Chai Lifeline Canada's new therapeutic robot, Zenbo. Image credit: JULIANNA PERKINS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

The Globe and Mail reports that a team from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology had been developing an interactive companion robot for five years. They were approached by the Toronto-based charity Chai Lifeline Canada, who wanted to take the project in an unusual direction: keeping sick children company. “One of the things that we’re hoping to do with the robot is to have a child be able to connect with somebody, almost like a little buddy who can be there for him,” said Mordechai Rothman, executive director of Chai Lifeline Canada.

This pilot project is set to last six months, and to work with several families besides Ethan’s. The Zenbo robot is more versatile and interactive than an iPad or similar device, featuring motion sensors, a touchscreen, facial recognition, and more. Such interaction can provide invaluable mental and emotional support for children, even if it’s from a robot. Thanks to the charitable efforts of Chai Lifeline Canada, this powerful resource that has helped Ethan could be available to many more people in the future.

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Government Steals $600 Million From Detroit Homeowners

In a spectacular display of callous unconcern, the City of Detroit has overtaxed its homeowners by over $600 million during the past 10 years.

According to investigative reporting by The Detroit News, Wayne county tax assessors simply stopped reassessing homes as market prices fell. Anna Bolden bought a lovely brick bungalow at a tax foreclosure auction for $4,800. When her tax bill came in, she found out why the house had been foreclosed: the city was charging taxes on a house worth $57,000. “I went down [to city and county offices] to ask questions, but it’s like everybody is giving you the runaround,” she said. “It makes you feel like they are cheating you…but what can you do?”

Anna Bolden (Photo: Robin Buckson, The Detroit News)

Although some homeowners managed to pay their inflated tax bills, at least 59,000 homes still have tax debts totaling $153 million dollars—including interest and fees on their fraudulent debts. There is a process to appeal the tax bills, but it’s a long and complicated process, and many don’t even know it exists. About 28,000 people have already lost their homes to the government over the excessive taxes. The ACLU of Michigan and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund sued to stop the tax foreclosure auction in 2016, but a judge ruled that the Michigan Tax Tribunal had oversight rather than the court—essentially claiming that this injustice was not his problem.

Despite low-interest repayment programs put into place by the government, many citizens feel that more should be done. However, city officials report that they are not allowed to simply eliminate the tax debt—even when the amount people were overcharged is more than the debt the currently owe. Nor are they allowed to retroactively apply poverty tax credits that people qualified for but were not aware of in previous years.

Anna Bolden's home in Detroit. (Photo: Robin Buckson, The Detroit News)

Of course, simply forgiving the tax debt that should never have been levied in the first place is out of the question for the government. City and county officials have argued that forgiving overtaxed residents who have not paid their taxes would be “unfair” to those who have paid. Naturally, the same officials have made no effort to address the unfairness faced by those who have lost their homes due to the overtaxing. However, the former Chair of the State Tax Commission Doug Roberts admitted that “Nobody paid as much attention as we should have. We should have [intervened] sooner.” Roberts also stated that the Detroit News’ findings are a “compelling case” and the government should “resolve the issues as equitably as possible.”

“That’s what government exists for,” Roberts said. Whether the government exists to belatedly correct a problem that it created and then ignored for years while tens of thousands of people suffered, you can judge for yourself.

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Government Stalls Food Donations to Hungry Families

An act of charity was recently brought to a standstill by the heavy hand of government regulation—this time when the charitable solution would have both helped control deer overpopulation and feed the hungry.

According to an article in the Canadian Press, a recent startup project in Saint Andrews (a town in the New Brunswick province) encouraged local hunters to provide venison donations from their hunt to the local food bank. A similar program exists in Nova Scotia, so the startup appeared to be a good idea that could help people without government interference. The hunters were already storing up donations before the project was stalled by government concerns for “health and safety.” Now the would-be donations sit unused in the hunters’ freezers.

It’s a disappointment to many in the town that the stop was initiated in winter when the donation would have helped a number of low-income families during a rough season. Donna Linton, coordinator of the Volunteer Centre, says that the Centre helps roughly 400 people in a month—many of whom live on broth and dandelions without help from the food bank. It’s no question that the Centre is vital to impoverished and struggling families in Saint Andrews, yet it is only just keeping up with its limited meat supply—consisting mostly of frozen hamburgers and hot dogs.

The current burgeoning deer population in the town (reported at 20 deer per square kilometer) stirs up concerns including collisions with motorcycles, confrontations with pedestrians, increased risk and spread of Lyme disease, and complaints of destroyed gardens. Further, the New Brunswick Department of Energy and Resource Development stated that the province’s deer population has been a concern for 10 years, and a simple web search for Saint Andrews’ deer population brings up various results of news articles addressing the deer overpopulation since circa 2018.

Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS

According to a CBC News report, the community called for action from officials  to handle the issue, running a full page ad in the Telegraph-Journal newspaper in August 2019. A common resolution for this issue would be to relocate the deer—however, according to Saint Andrews Mayor Doug Naish, the government in the past declined a relocation plan under the statement that their research showed that it would only cause the deer to die from stress. Again the Canadian Press reported that the government under Naish’s term actually extended a controlled bow hunt within the province.

In addition to considering relocation and the off-season quota hunt, officials of the province considered birth control for the does, and park rangers have tried scaring the deer away with hazing and loud noise. Unfortunately, the deer have become so accustomed to the town that they appear frequently and do not startle easily.

Despite numerous calls by the community to initiate a solution, the government seems mired in uncertainty. With relocation off the table and the government unwilling to further extend hunting privileges, official channels seem to have failed. The food bank project could have been a final and viable solution if not for the government preventing the community taking matters into their own hands. As of now, the project is not officially rejected as it’s continuation awaits the verdict from health officials, so many remain hopeful.

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Voluntaryists Help Hundreds of Needy Children

Many families struggle to merely make ends meet during the holiday season and don’t have anything extra to buy gifts for their children. We at Voluntaryism in Action wanted to help as many children as possible have a magical holiday, so we launched our inaugural Jolly Voluntary Toy Drive. In record time, we were able to raise more than $5,000!

The VIA team reached out to our local communities as well as the VIA Community group on Facebook, and we found several individual families in need whom we were able to directly send gifts to for their children. We used the rest of the money to buy toys for Orchards Children’s Services, an organization that helps foster children find parents in Detroit and Flint Michigan. Once again, we at VIA were able to make a difference in people’s lives—thanks to our generous donors!

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Historic Blizzard Inspires Voluntaryism

Even in the cold of winter, the spirit of voluntaryism burns bright. And not just any winter, but the worst winter ever! Over the weekend, residents of the City of St. John’s in Newfoundland, Canada were blasted with a blizzard that left a record 76.2 centimeters (that’s 30 inches!) of snow.

With that kind of weather, it may have been tempting to huddle inside and let someone else handle the snow removal. But volunteer shovel brigades rallied to clear sidewalks, and snowblower teams swept the town. The community pulled together online too, as inspirational stories were shared with the hashtag “snowmageddon2020.”

These great Canadians are more proof that if left to their own devices, people will voluntarily take care of each other. Even in the depths of winter, the human spirit glows with the desire to help others—and that’s what Voluntaryism in Action is all about!

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
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Charitable 8 Year Old Organizes Homeless Care Drive​

Sometimes a story comes along that just gives you hope for the future. This story about little Autumn does just that. Autumn is a eight year old girl who lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her parents and two brothers. She’s a compassionate young girl who’s always uplifting others when they’re in a time of need. Her latest work is a perfect example of living a Voluntaryist principled life. 

Autumn started a campaign to help the homeless in her area. She raised money from family and friends, and then VIA gave her campaign a monetary boost. That was all she needed to make a major impact in her hometown. Autumn was able  to put together and distribute 95 care packages for those in need!

It’s stories of children like Autumn that give us hope for our future. The only way we can make a meaningful impact in our society today is to teach our kids the things that many of us had to learn on our own; that voluntaryism and charity are far more impactful than any legislation Congress could pass.

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The Sweet Taste of Voluntaryism

Without government to force people to pay for welfare programs, would people choose to feed the hungry of their own volition?  If the countless volunteer-run soup kitchens and food pantries around the world aren’t enough to convince you, just look at what Voluntaryism in Action’s inaugural food drive accomplished on nothing but voluntary donations and volunteer work:

  • Over $4,000 in monetary donations raised in less than a week
  • Volunteers used some of these funds to purchase hundreds of pounds of dry goods, 20 turkeys, and 5 hams for Crossroads of Michigan in Detroit
  • Monetary funds were dispersed to various foundations and charitable organizations such as the Byron Saunders Foundation in Ohio, Macon Outreach and Sacred Heart in Georgia 
5 Fix

Most people know what it’s like to go through hard times and not have enough to eat.  The enormous success of our first food drive shows that when given the chance, people will help lift each other out of these situations.  Empathy and compassion are far better motivators than coercion and force.  And just imagine how much more people could afford to give if they weren’t burdened by our current state of excessive taxation?  We are looking forward to seeing what else our community can accomplish going forward as we spread our message of voluntaryism by example! 

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Community Rallies Behind Mass Shooting Victims

On the weekend of August 3rd, 2019, two separate mass shootings rocked the nation and left a combined 31 people killed. These shootings were not simply shocking from the aspect of the loss of life, but that they were two completely separate instances, just hours apart. The first happened in El Paso, TX on August 3rd and left 22 dead, while the second happened later that evening in Dayton, Ohio with 9 losing their lives.

Of course this stirred the usual conversations across social media. The #GunControlNow crowd was out in droves, whilst the #2A army was giving the usual chants of ‘come and take them’. But through all the pandering and blaming of one group of people or another, there was something wonderful happening in the background. A group of strangers banding together to help other people in need.

Voluntaryism In Action started a fundraiser to raise $5,000 on August 4th to help the families of the victims in any way we could. Little did we know what would happen next. In less than 48hrs the VIA Community and the rest of the VIA family was able to not only meet the $5,000 goal, but SURPASSED it by over $1,000!! We were simply blown away by how the VIA Family, as a whole, got the fundraiser and our message across the net in such a short period of time.

This fundraiser was just one more example of how we can be there for each other without the use of some overreaching and coercive government entity. We can lift each other up without any law trying to force us to, while simultaneously creating a middle man between us and the needy. We can be kind, we can be virtuous…we can be the helpers.