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Houston Mayor Begins Targeting Volunteers With Police

Houston Food Not Bombs is a local group of independent volunteers that provides meals to the homeless people of downtown Houston. CHRON reports that the group is one of many that is “under attack” by a decade old ordinance that is now being enforced as the city was drawing near to its host date of this year’s 2023 NCAA Final Four. They are now facing crackdowns from Houston PD thanks to the mayor’s direction.

              The issue began with the city’s deciding to now start enforcing a controversial charitable feeding ordinance law that was passed back in 2012. The ordinance states that anyone providing meals to more than five people in need require permission from the property owner to do so, even on public property. This meant the only approved public location was at the same site as Houston PD’s police property room.

Houston Mayor Begins Targeting Volunteers With Police
Food Not Bombs volunteers Tilal Ahmed, center, and Shere Dore provide a meal to a man looking for food by the Houston Public Library - Central Library, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Houston. Credit: Marie D. De Jesús/CHRON staff photographer

For groups such as Houston Food Not Bombs to be successful they’re adamant it is best to come to the people in need, wherever they may be. One of their best sites for providing meals is the plaza in front of the downtown Central Library. Where they noticed that Houston PD put up notices threatening fines and tickets for charity groups after February 24th. The first ticket for these violations was given to a member of Houston Food Not Bombs on March 1st. After the initial ticket multiple members of their group as well as a member of a separate religious group providing meals for the homeless have been issued. The Houston PD has also gone beyond ticketing and threatening arrest for one member, Shere Dore, after she received her second ticket. Shere Dore also does volunteer work with a few Islamic organizations that have been feeding people in need by the library, doing the volunteer work four nights a week. She says their efforts help feed hundreds of people on a single night, Tuesdays being the busiest and feeding upwards to 250 people in a single night.

The looming threats of Houston PD moving on to arrests has already caused a drop in the number of volunteers being found helping the many homeless people in the area.  Dore said the threat has already caused one of the Islamic groups she works for to relocate to the official city-sanctioned area. While others have paused their work to assess the risks and what they should do next. “This appears to be the first instance of anyone in Houston being ticketed under this horrific law. The mayor is taking HPD’s time and efforts away from violent crimes, human trafficking, and corruption in government, and sending cops to intimidate people who are doing nothing wrong, and are in fact helping the city’s most vulnerable. He should be ashamed of himself,” said Houston Food Not Bombs volunteer Nick Cooper.

              Mary Benton, director of communications for the office of Mayor Sylvester Turner, defended the new crackdowns on volunteers saying there was, “an increase in the number of threats and violence incidents directed at visitors and employees.” Benton was also quoted saying, “Parents and families have expressed they no longer feel comfortable visiting the library or holding special events. We hope the library can serve as a safe, inclusive place for all to come and visit. That’s why we are providing a dedicated, alternative charitable food service at 61 Riesner Street. This location has the infrastructure and amenities needed to provide services and food to Houstonians in need. By shifting food services to an alternative location, we can maintain the integrity and historic nature of Houston’s Public Library while serving all Houstonians with the dignity they deserve.”

              Benton also provided one news outlet with a version of the notices that were posted at the library before the police began enforcing the controversial ordinance. Stating the city is, “informing citizens about the updated Houston Health Department rules and regulations governing charitable food service events on public property.” The notice saying, “The city supports, and is grateful for, the charitable food services provided throughout the City. To assist efforts, the City is providing an appropriate location with necessary requirements for a safe, clean, and respectful environment.”

              Dore however is skeptical about the city’s statement as to why they have decided to now start enforcing the ordinance. She believes it’s really being done as a means to “clean up” downtown and revitalize it as a hot spot as the city will be hosting the NCAA Final Four. Other advocates also say that volunteer groups and those they help feed being targeting doesn’t fall in line with Houston’s recent claims of being a beacon for fighting homelessness. Some find the move particularly odd as volunteers faced no threats of jail or tickets for doing the same work when the city hosted other major events such as Super Bowl LI in 2017. Although during those events the homeless Houstonians themselves were targeted by sweeps, tickets, and arrests.

              Dore is also critical of the city’s bold claims to successfully addressing the homelessness issue it faces. She did volunteer work for the Salvation Army as well as other non-profits in 2014 thru 2015. The goal of the work was to get an accurate count of the homeless in the city. But according to her the numbers don’t add up. “The more people you count, the more money you get.” She stated in reference to tax and grant money used for the project. Nick Cooper said, “There is so much data that Homeless Counts are inaccurate. And shockingly, the counts are conducted by those who only get funding when the number of homeless go down.”  The language used by the mayor also speaks volumes to the groups and the homeless alike with statements like, “retaking the Central Library Downtown.”

              The first Houston Food Not Bombs member to be ticketed has already filed a lawsuit against the city. Although it’s not the first time the law has been challenged via the judicial branch, it is the first in a long time. The others were dismissed due to a “lack of cause” but with the issuing of tickets and threats of arrest they are hopeful the case can move forward. Food Not Bombs in Fort Lauderdale, Florida successfully won a similar case against a city ordinance. The defense being that the sharing of food with Food Not Bomb’s central Anti-War, Pro-Vegetarian message are worthy of constitutional protection under the first amendment.

              Dore says the unhoused and food-insecure served by the various volunteer groups in Houston are standing behind the groups and their fight against the unjust ordinance. They are hopeful the city will repeal the ordinance. “The homeless are people too, and they deserve to be respected.” Says Dore.

              Sadly, Houston is far from the only city to enforce such measures against those simply helping others in their time of need. It is all too common to see law enforcement doing the bidding of lawmakers against citizens trying to make a difference. Whether it’s through fines, threats of prison, or even destroying food and goods made available for those in need, there are far too many examples of the state using force against peaceful people trying to make their communities a better place. 

             

 

             

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Jay Da Barber Making a Difference

          In the beginning of July 2023, one barber saw an opportunity to help others in his community and took it. Jayon Hughes, also known as Jay Da Barber, was working one quiet Tuesday at his usual spot across the street from The Cherry Street Mission, a local charity aimed at helping people overcome poverty. Looking across the street at the mission he thought of a way to lend a hand to his community as well by offering free haircuts to those who needed or wanted them.

              “Seeing everybody out there, just in distress…I knew I had to help them. Me giving a haircut, knowing they’re satisfied with their haircut, that’s something money cannot buy,” Hughes said. Hughes was not worried about the cost of his time or services: “The money will come. It’s not about the money.” His interest was in helping those less fortunate than himself and possibly setting them up for a life-changing opportunity. “I cut like ten people. Four of those homeless people had interviews the next day. So yes, I got them interview ready.”

Jay Da Barber
Hughes talks to the WTOL11 crew about his efforts. Image credit WTOL11.

Even though he wasn’t out there for recognition, the recognition found him. Tanya Marria Murphy was driving by one day, and seeing what was going on inspired her. She stopped and got out to do a quick story about him for her Facebook. “I do #TanyaWitThaTee and it’s some accidents and sometimes negative. I want to bring positive and I love community involvement, so I had to get that.” Tanya said. The story she created for her Facebook ended up garnering more than 45 thousand views over the course of 48 hours.

              Murphy is no stranger to barbers as her son is an experienced barber and said he was not surprised to see that she found that particular selflessness interesting saying: “Seeing him do it, it’s like, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s how you put the map out there. That’s why my mother sees stuff like that and captures it because that’s the type of stuff I’ve been doing. That’s how she sees me as well.” In Tanya’s opinion the best part of what Jay Da Barber was doing was giving back a sense of self to those who may have needed it most. “To see the smile on his face. They could be panhandling, people will say ‘Get out of here. I don’t want it. Don’t talk to me.’ And for him to be praised like that, that’s going to give him an oomph.”

              Jayon Hughes did a great job showing what one person can do to impact the lives of others, no matter how small the scale may be. He said that he plans on doing it again in the future. “I tried to cut as many people as possible, and I hope to do that again.” One individual giving up an afternoon to use their skills to aid others is the exact type of thing we love to see and share at Voluntaryism In Action. We’re excited to see what Jayon Hughes aka: Jay Da Barber does moving forward for his community.

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Pat McAfee Donates Millions

Photo Courtesy of Getty Images

After spending 8 seasons in the NFL as the punter for the Indianapolis Colts, Pat McAfee retired to start a career in broadcasting and began the Pat McAfee Show under the Barstool Sports umbrella. He took the show out from under the umbrella a few years later and it has steadily grown since then. He’s begun announcing games at the collegiate and professional levels. During this time he incorporated a small business, which also controls his charity, The Pat McAfee Foundation. He has even appeared in matches for the WWE. McAfee has never shied away from an opportunity to grow and do things outside of his comfort zone building quite the loyal following along the way.

Pat McAfee inked a substantial contract with the sports betting app FanDuel towards the end of 2021. The Pat McAfee Show is one of the largest sports podcasts around and attracts millions of viewers and listeners making it a very attractive prize for advertisers. FanDuel and McAfee agreed to a 4 year 120 million dollar contract to make FanDuel the show’s exclusive sports bettor. While Pat McAfee is best known for his career as a top punter and his larger-than-life personality, it is perhaps time he became known for his charitable side.

McAfee, who is no stranger to charity work, wasted no time to take some of that well-earned money and find ways to help others with it. He gave his parents a million dollars after signing the deal. He also used some of the money to give each employee of Pat McAfee Show a 250 thousand dollar bonus. On top of the money he gave to his parents and employees he donated another 6 million to various causes such as, youth programs, children’s hospitals, and to assist domestic violence organizations.

A special recipient of McAfee’s charity has been his hometown of Plum, Pennsylvania. About a week before the FanDuel deal was finalized he donated 2 million dollars to his old high school and its athletic department.  Talking about his hometown he said, “I am so lucky I grew up in Plum. Hardworking people, great people, and the greatest sandwich shop in the world – Rudy’s Subs.” Earlier in 2021 he helped save the local bowling alley, Nesbit’s Lanes, that he spent time at when he was growing up.

Their GoFundMe surpassed its 100-thousand-dollar goal thanks to a donation made by Pat McAfee personally of 20 thousand, and another through his charity, The Pat McAfee Foundation, of just under 16 thousand. When asked about helping save Nesbit’s Lanes, he was quoted saying, “Nesbit’s is a staple of the Plum community,” following that with, “I’ve had the privilege of bowling there, hanging out there, and using their parking lot in times of need in high school.”

One could go on and on about Pat McAfee’s lengthy track record when it comes to charity, but that would take far too long. While many marvel at the phenomenal career he’s had it may be time to start recognizing him for his charity with the same awe. He’s done a number of amazing things in his life, but his work through The Pat McAfee Foundation and his charitable work beyond that is the most amazing to me. Pat McAfee is a prime example of someone who embodies the charitable spirit we love to see here at Volutaryism In Action.

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What About the Roads? Boone County Voluntarily Funds and Fixes Infrastructure

Times are harder for many these days. Perhaps that is felt most in small town, rural America. This story of self-reliance and voluntary solution can be traced back to the 1980’s. Boone County Nebraska was affected quite negatively by the farming crisis of the time. Many viewed living a life and raising a family there as an undesirable goal. A large amount of the teenagers and young adults of that time would leave once they got their high school diploma in hand to settle and pursue careers elsewhere across the country.

This left a lot of questions and very few answers for how this county and its small towns would survive future generations if the trend continued. Jay Wolf, a local rancher, recalled a quote he heard from his father, “As my dad used to say, it wasn’t a place you chose to live necessarily.”

Even during these rough times in the 80’s the county showed signs of life by being able to keep the local hospital in town, which today employs the highest number of workers in the area. The hospital continues to steadily grow and succeed. The county began to come back to life in the 90’s when it began a community foundation. They were able to focus the energy from this foundation to help jump-start a community looking for hope. They constructed a brand new fitness center with its main feature being a swimming pool and spin classes that are quite uncommon in rural towns.

By the time the early 00’s rolled around the community was already feeling more optimistic. Local teachers, students, and citizens raised the funds to renovate the town’s historic theater in 2002. That theater is now showing blockbuster films on the weekends and mostly employs local high school students, giving them a sense of pride and community as they begin to enter adulthood.

A handful of years later the town decided the senior citizen center was in desperate need of a renovation. The biggest challenge was finding a way to raise the 2.5 million dollars that were required to pull it off when they had never funded something at even a fraction of the cost. Jay Wolf said about the project, “We had never raised even 250,000 for anything in this town.” That didn’t stop them from trying. Not only did they raise the 2.5 million they needed, they managed to double that once they realized the senior center needed much more help than was thought before.

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Hundreds of attendees from across Nebraska and the region attended a recent cattle show at the Boone County Agriculture & Education Center in Albion. (Photo courtesy of the Boone County Agriculture and Education Center)

The proof was now in the pudding, so to speak. This county can and will survive with the help of its charitable citizens. Not long after fixing the senior center, they fixed up their local public swimming pool. After that, they got a 2-mile-long hiking trail funded and built. With this momentum, the county, and Albion, the main city of the county, has continued to invest in itself through charitable donations. It has found new life, and people now want to live and invest there.

They now proudly have breweries, new restaurants, a beautiful golf course, a renovated hospital, and an overwhelming feeling of optimism that can be felt throughout Albion and Boone County. Lindsay Jarecki who moved to the town with her husband, who began a law practice in his hometown, has noticed big changes in the decade they’ve been there. “It seems like when one person takes a risk, it nudges someone else on the edge and they do it too. So much of this stuff simply wasn’t here when we got here… You can practically feel the confidence building.”

Confidence booming, Albion and the county took on its biggest challenge to date, trying to renovate the agricultural center/fairgrounds and build a brand new childcare center for families in the area. Childcare was severely lacking in this rural area, as it is in most rural areas. The importance and size of these tasks were daunting on their own but to attempt both at the same time was bold to say the least. “There was fear, so we had to come together. We decided we were gonna support each other no matter what…We trusted each other…and the community trusted us.” Jackie said about the idea.

Boone County’s citizens delivered. They raised a vast majority of the funds for the childcare center within county lines. The agricultural center and fairgrounds project raised nearly all of the money needed through local donors and county funds. Kurt Kruse, owner of Kruse Farms recalls how amazing it was to see the community rally behind both causes and their importance, “One cool thing that happened is a lot of people gave to both projects. But the ag building also attracted some rural people who hadn’t previously given. Both these things…will help the area grow. They will bring people to town.”

The agricultural building and fairgrounds is now a hotspot for tourism in their area, hosting many exciting events. Barrel racing, rodeo, junior rodeo, livestock shows, horse riding, and other events draw in large crowds from all over Nebraska. Some folks come from as far as 100 miles away. These opportunities and events just were not possible before the community rallied to build a place for them to exist. Now it is hosting events featuring commerce and people from over a handful of states such as, concerts, bull riding, and dog shows.

boone county
The donor wall at the Boone Beginnings Early Childhood and Family Development Center. The child care center opened in November after a group of town leaders raised $4.5 million – most of it local donations – to build it. (Photo by Darin Epperly, Flatwater Free Press)

The childcare center, Boone Beginnings, is also a major success and has relieved the stress for dozens of families of having to find affordable and quality childcare. Many families were anxious about finding childcare for their little ones. Now that worry is gone and the local parents and families couldn’t be more excited.

Albion and Boone County still have pressing needs, but have shown the resilience needed to face them through voluntary charity locally. Their main problem now is the one facing all of America: housing. It’s simply too expensive to build nice middle-class homes, and that’s their next target. Boone County and Albion have about 7 million in reserve in the Boone County Community Fund and other similar charities. Estimated costs put the needed total to be somewhere around 30 million to achieve its goals.

It sounds like a steep ask but it may not be too difficult with a town raring to grow and provide for itself. The extra money and wealth being brought in will go a long way when paired with the sense of community that is now felt throughout Boone County. “My sense is that, in the last 20 years, the conversation has shifted dramatically in Albion. We work with a lot of places that have one or two successes. In Boone County they now have almost a dozen things they can point to and say, ‘Look at that. We did that.’” Jeff Yost, CEO of the Nebraska Community Foundation, who does work with 270 communities in Nebraska as well as Albion.

What a remarkable story from this rural county in fly-over country. This city and county took it upon themselves to address dire needs and solve them. I have little doubt that they will continue to find ways to thrive with the giving and caring spirit that has gotten them this far. Not only did they face issues that city, county, state, and federal level governments try to fix and struggle with on a routine basis, they did it through voluntary means. That’s a big reason for its success, if you ask me. That type of fundraising and charity creates a real sense of pride, joy, and love not only for yourself but your neighbors and community as well.

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Betty White’s Legacy of Charity

Hours before the year 2022 began the world lost one of, if not it’s most loved celebrity. Betty White passed away New Year’s Eve at the age of 99 years old and mere weeks from hitting the century mark. White was an actress best known for her roles on Golden Girls and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but perhaps her greatest role was one behind the cameras. Betty White’s legacy of charity was built over many decades of using her fame to bring awareness and raise money for animals in need.

White became a trustee for the Morris Animal Foundation in 1971 and stayed in that role through 2013. She also served as the Canine Division Vice President for nine years before becoming Board President for three years. The Morris Animal Foundation is a non-profit organization that focuses on medical science for animals. Funding research to develop lifesaving and altering cures and treatments for diseases in animals.

President/CEO of Morris Animal Foundation, Tiffany Grunert, remembers Betty White and what she meant to the non-profit, “It is hard to imagine a world without Betty in it. She was a tremendous animal advocate who tirelessly supported the work of Morris Animal Foundation to improve the health of animals globally. All of us at the Foundation are mourning the loss of this amazing woman.”

“We will miss her wit, her intelligence and, most of all, her love of animals and commitment to advancing their health. She was a true inspiration to our staff, her fellow trustees and all of our supporters.”

White was heavily involved with the Morris Animal Foundation for nearly 50 years. Besides the roles she filled in an official capacity she offered her services in other areas such as, hosting and appearing at events and sponsoring specific health studies for a wide variety of animals. She dedicated a lot of her personal time and money to the non-profit.

White was considered to be the heart of the foundation by some. According to the wife of Dr. Mark Morris Jr. and Board Trustee member, Bette Morris, “Betty was always an active participant in our scientific review process. She often said that our scientific advisory boards were the engines that drove Morris Animal Foundation. If they are the engines, then she certainly was our organization’s heart.”

Her whole life she was looking to help animals and hopefully ease as much suffering for them as possible. She did this by continuing to work with and support the Morris Animal Foundation. She also began the Betty White Wildlife Fund in response to the Deep-Water Horizon oil spill in 2010. The fund’s main goal is to provide necessary help for animals in emergency situations. “Betty always put the animals first.

In the 1990s, White suggested pain management should be an area of future research and funded the first few studies. Today, if a veterinarian performs an elective surgery, like a spay or neuter without using pain management, she/he could face a malpractice charge. You can thank Betty White for that revolutionary change in the way we practice all phases of veterinary medicine today.” Said Dr. Rob Hilsenroth, who once served as Executive Director for Morris Animal Foundation.

Naturally, the passing of someone as universally loved and adored as Betty White elicited many emotions from the general public. With her passing happening only a few weeks before her birthday, many targeted that date to try and figure something out to honor her. Her work with animals seemed like a no brainer to many. Once White’s birthday rolled around in January fans made a big statement: local animal shelters, charities, and groups began seeing an influx of donations being made in memory of Betty.

The viral movement grew thanks to the Internet making it one its many “challenges,” this one branded the #BettyWhiteChallenge. The challenge called on people to make five-dollar donations in her name. While the true numbers will never be known, the challenge raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was a remarkable impact in honor of a life of charitable work.

Betty White was many things and loved for even more reasons. She will forever be known for her iconic roles as an actress. Beyond that she will be remembered in the hearts of millions as a caring, sweet, funny, and talented human being that always cared for others.

While it’s hard to imagine a world post-Betty White, we hope her legacy of giving is one that will persist as strongly as the one she left behind in acting. We know the world will always be a better place because of Betty White’s legacy.

 

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Children’s Hospital Receives Thousands of Donations Following Epic Playoff Game

The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round of the playoffs in overtime, in what many consider to be an ‘instant classic.’ The game itself had everything you could ever want from a playoff game: many lead changes, last second scores, and of course overtime.

While the game will likely be remembered for a long time, one of the most amazing things about the game came long after the final whistle. It has become a new age tradition in sports for fans to show respect and support for an opposing team or player after a hard fought game by donating money to that player’s or team’s charity. That is precisely what happened following the playoff win by the Chiefs, according to a report by WKBW News.

A Facebook page called ‘Chiefs Kingdom Memes’ made a post on Monday night calling on fellow Chiefs fans to donate to Patrick Mahomes’ (starting quarterback of the Chiefs) charity, “Patrick Mahomes’ 15 and the Mahomies”. He requested that donations be made in $13 increments in honor of the game tying 13 second drive, orchestrated by Mahomes and the Chiefs offense to send the game into overtime, eventually allowing the Chiefs to win the game over the Buffalo Bills.

Brett Fitzgerald who runs the Facebook group recalled talking about the post with a buddy of his, Alex Irvin. The two were messaging back and forth when Irvin mentioned that Bills Mafia (The nickname for passionate Buffalo Bills fans) would likely also have done a similar thing and raised money for Josh Allen (starting quarterback of the Bills) and his foundation.

Fitzgerald said, “…I’m like, I like that idea. So, instantly went and found Josh Allen’s foundation. Donated $13 to it, so basically switch the $13 over to Josh Allen’s foundation. Made a quick meme about it, posted it on there, posted a screenshot of my donation and deleted the other one from Facebook and Twitter recommending the Mahomes’ foundation. I said, ‘this is better.’” Within 24 hours of making the post asking fellow Chiefs fans to follow his lead and make donations to Allen’s foundation rather than Mahomes’, Oishei Children’s Hospital found itself receiving thousands of donations.

The Patricia Allen Fund was created in November of 2020 after the passing of Josh Allen’s grandmother. It all started when fans began donating $17, for Allen’s jersey number, to Oishei Children’s Hospital. They originally raised over 1 million dollars for the hospital at that time. The hospital now has a wing named after Allen’s grandmother to honor her. This time though it was fans of an opposing team showing their love for Allen by donating money to the children’s hospital. Andrew Bennet, vice president of the hospital was quoted saying, “Any kids that are growing up, whether they’re playing sports or not, sportsmanship and courtesy and integrity are lifelong lessons and this is a great example of sportsmanship.”

“Bills Mafia was the catalyst in this and we’re just following their lead on it.” Fitzgerald said. As of today, fans have raised over $173 thousand dollars since the playoff game. For Brett Fitzgerald, Allen’s foundation being focused on a children’s hospital is a cause he can relate to and is appreciative of. His 7-year-old boy suffers from asthma and also lives with autism so he spends more time than a parent would like at children’s hospitals. “I have a son with autism. So, he does go to the children’s hospital.”

Donations have slowed down but they are still coming in. This is a trend in the sports world that will hopefully continue and gain momentum as time goes on. Sports are often about bringing people together and community, and few things are better examples of those than charity. Fitzgerald isn’t the first and won’t be the last but his efforts will change the lives of countless children and that’s more amazing than even the greatest playoff games.

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Students Spend Snow Day Shoveling

Franklin County Ohio was placed in a Level 1 snow emergency when a snowstorm rolled into the area. The Level 1 emergency meant that schools were closed and students got to enjoy a snow day. Two teens took the unexpected day out of school as an opportunity to spread some love through the community, according to local news. Jayden Watters, a 15-year-old student at Briggs High School, spent the day with his cousin, Kenny, shoveling sidewalks and driveways for members of the community who needed the extra help.

Jayden decided that morning that he would offer to help shovel snow for people. He had his mom, Ashley, make a post to Facebook to reach out to those who were in need of his services. Jayden quickly found himself with a full day of helping ahead of him and his cousin. Ashley said, “Yeah, when I put it on Facebook my phone started blowing up.”

snow day
Jayden and crew hard at work. Photo credit 10WBNS.

Before that afternoon the two teens had themselves 8 requests followed by more as the day went on. The three of them spent the day going around the local area and helping clear snow for neighbors. Jayden’s mom recalls the day saying, “I’m just out being his free taxi mom to help him help the community…I’m proud, I raised him up to help others, especially the older people. So, I’m happy.”

Jayden and Kenny offered their services free of charge. Of course, some wouldn’t go for that, offering the two young men tips for their efforts on the day. When Jayden was asked about doing this, he said: “[It feels] really nice. We get done fast, so they’re really appreciative.” According to his mother, “He’s kind-hearted. He’s a big, soft teddy bear.” He hopes that he and his cousin were able to not only help others, but also inspire some to lend a hand as well. “If you can, yeah. It’s always good to help out,” Jayden was quoted saying.

What an awesome gesture and sacrifice this was by these two teens. Willingly giving up a precious snow day to go help the community instead was a wonderful thing. It doesn’t get much more selfless than that! Ashley is right to be a proud mom of such a caring and thoughtful young man. Jayden, Kenny, and Ashley now have a day full of memories all while making the day brighter for others around them. This was a beautiful example of voluntaryism in action, if you ask me.

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Free Pizza For Stranded Canadian Motorists

A thousand or so motorists were stranded in British Columbia after heavy rainfall led to major flooding and mudslides cause highways to shut down. Local hotels and motels immediately filled, leaving no vacancy available for many of the people stuck due to the storm. This left those who could not find or afford a place to stay to live in their vehicles for days. Soon hunger and thirst became real concerns for many. That’s where a local pizza shop owner stepped up—with free pizza.

Rupinder and Dewan Davesar, owners of Hope Pizza Place, took matters into their own hands and began addressing the situation the best way they could. Left with only one working gas oven due to power outages, they fired it up and began cooking free pizza for the stranded motorists. They gathered a group of volunteers to assist them in their efforts to venture out in the rain to bring free pizza and other hot food to those in need of a meal. According to the National Post, Rupinder said “We could have made lots of money but we have other days to do that. We take the blessings from the people today. I think that will pay off in the future for us.”

The weather itself was a rare occurrence and called an “atmospheric river.” The amount of rainfall from it broke local records and initiated a response from the military to get aid to others. Helicopters were brought in to airlift people out of harm’s way. Teams were put together to help dig out vehicles buried by mudslides and to save any potentially buried victims. It was a slow process, and with over a thousand people stranded, concerns from the motorists became very real.

One woman, Angela Howard, was stranded with her two children in their vehicle. She had rigged up plastic bags outside the car to catch rain in order to provide the family with the basic necessity of water. Angela had to keep a close eye on her car’s gas in order to provide needed heat to keep her and her children warm from the cold. She recalled the experience, “They are getting scared. My heart breaks listening to my kids (ask) for water and food and I have nothing to provide for them.”

free pizza
Abandoned transport trucks are seen on the Trans-Canada Highway in a flooded area of Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 16, 2021. Photo by Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP.

Another motorist, Melanie Forsythe, was driving home to Hope from Vancouver with a couple friends and ended up stranded for 18 hours before being helicoptered to safety. “We all had moments like, ‘Is this it? Is this the last time we’re going to see our kids?’ We were talking to our parents and our families, but it was just a scary situation,” she said of the situation.

The size and scope of the storm was massive and left a very dangerous situation. Considering all the risk, it was quite amazing of the Davesars and fellow volunteers to do what they did: not only cooking and giving away free pizza but risking the trips out to the stranded motorists. It’s another of countless examples of the lengths people will go to help others for no gain of their own. Voluntaryism is all around and happens every day. Some examples are extraordinary like the one set by the Davesar family, and the use of their pizza shop and local volunteers.

             

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Seattle Govt Orders Volunteers to Stop Giving Aid to Homeless

We Heart Seattle is a volunteer team that decided it was time to take action in addressing issues facing the homeless population in the city of Seattle. The efforts started off small. They were mostly aimed at picking up the large amounts of trash left by and around homeless settlements. The group claims to have picked up over 320,000 pounds of litter and garbage. They’ve also been able to get nearly 70 people the resources needed to get off the streets and turn things around. Unfortunately the city of Seattle does not approve of the group and their efforts and they have been told to stop giving aid to homeless people.

Andrea Suarez of We Heart Seattle got invited to a zoom meeting with Seattle Councilmember Dan Strauss and a number of other city leaders. Suarez said, “Having cleared more than 100,00 pounds of trash and housing at least five people from (Strauss’) district, I assumed the call would be to thank our volunteers and include us in further outreach efforts.”

stop giving aid to homeless
Friendly volunteers helping clean up their community. Image courtesy of We Heart Seattle.

Instead she was caught off-guard by the ambush, as she puts it, from the government. She was even told by REACH officials that her group’s efforts were “disruptive and confusing to the hard work of REACH and the Human Services Department has already been doing in Ballard Commons and Shilshole Avenue.” “I’m still asking myself, ‘when did volunteerism become disruptive?’” Suarez said in an interview with The Dori Monson Show.

The city’s main complaint was that the effort violated protocol and local laws on how camps should be handled and essentially destroyed. Suarez also points to union turf disputes between Seattle Parks and Seattle Public utilities about who picks up what trash from where. These disputes lead to the large accumulation of trash found in and around homeless encampments.

stop giving aid to homeless

Despite the city coming down on her and her group she has no plans on stopping the good work she is doing for the homeless of Seattle. “I’m going to keep volunteering.”, she said. Her efforts cost nothing from the state or taxpayers while the official preferred response costs millions and have managed to lead to very little assistance reaching those who need it.

This is far from the first time the state has ordered volunteers to stop giving aid to homeless people in need. There are countless stories every year about people being harassed, fined, and even facing jail time simply for helping others without going through the state and its bureaucracy.

We’ve highlighted a couple of these previously here at Voluntaryism In Action. One is a story about the government stalling food donations in the middle of winter. Another about a carpenter in Toronto who was building shelters for free for the homeless being told to stop what he was doing. 

We here at Voluntaryism In Action firmly believe the world would be a much better place if the state would simply get out of the way of the people, especially in their efforts to give aid to those who need it the most.

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Garage Food Pantry Project by Vermin Supreme Institute

Chris Rogers of the Vermin Supreme Institute, a 501c4 organization based out of Texas, is leading the way for a new food pantry project. Rogers recently started a new “Garage Food Pantry” project.

Currently he is running it out of his personal garage every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month as a trial run. He’s also doing this to personally see what will be needed for the project to successfully grow. The main goal is to have one set up within walking distance of every urban community, granting easy access to millions of people in need. To ensure their success and accessibility of food and items needed they would be set up as a network. Allowing nearby garage pantries to help each other maintain necessary supplies.

In Rogers’ opinion, the biggest difference between the garage food pantry project and other pantries is its goal of being 100% privately run, meaning there would be no state funding and no tax breaks taken. There would also be no requirements for those who come to shop at the garage pantry. No names, reasons, or inquiries about why the people who show up are there. People in the community who need assistance would show up, get a basket, and then proceed to shop for their needs and/or wants.

garage food pantry
Cally Rogers is ready to help those in need with her garage food pantry. Image credit: Chris Rogers

It’s been quite a hit within Rogers’ community. He believes that the neighbors knowing who is running it helps encourage them to participate and contribute to the success of the pantry. The immediate sense of community is making a decided impact on their ability to do what the community needs.

Rogers has also noted that many who have come for assistance have also shown up to help improve the pantry. Turning it more into a mutual-aid situation as opposed to a basic charity operation. For example, one couple started coming to his garage pantry regularly due to it being within walking distance, whereas before they would have to travel miles to get to one. They’ve also donated a significant portion of unneeded food from the other pantry that was given to them in pre-made packages. A man who has been living out of his car mentioned how impactful stocking can openers is for the homeless who may be in need of canned goods but don’t have a way to utilize them otherwise.

Overall, Chris Rogers believes the trial run for this outstanding voluntary solution of getting food to those who need it has been a raging success—from many helping stock the pantry after receiving help themselves, to neighbors volunteering to work and assist the pantry in other ways. From what he’s seen, there’s not only enough food to bring this to every community but also enough will from people who just want to help others.

All in all, this brilliant idea of the garage food pantry project has all the tools and love behind it to make a real impact on people’s lives, and show countless people that there is always a better way than looking to the state for help. That voluntary aid is not only preferable, but feasible.

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