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Man Volunteers to Clean Up The Local Environment

Gus Vandermeeren was inspired to action when he saw an advertisement on TV concerning plastic pollution in the ocean. After seeing the commercial he said, “I sat there and thought ‘What the hell am I doing?’” So the 62 year-old computer engineer decided that there must be something he could do to clean up the local environment.

Since then he’s been spending his free time picking up trash on the side of road around the east Raleigh area. He has also taken the time to log his adventures, as he calls them, to document what he has done and where. He does this in a composition notebook he found while cleaning up the litter. He said, “ Pretty soon it became a passion and obsession. I have always had a feeling that I am not really happy unless I am being useful to society in some way.”

A little over a year later, WRAL reports that Vandermeen has picked up more than 2,000 trash bags of litter that he has come across during his adventures. Vandermeeren takes them all to the dump to be disposed of leaving the roads and earth cleaner. Now he has two dozen plus volunteers who come with him and help in his mission to clean up the absurd amount of litter. They joined him after seeing him in action and hearing about him on the NextDoor app.

Trent Parson is one of those who was inspired by Gus Vandermeeren and his work saying, “We all have to have a little bit of Gus inside of us.” Parson, 29, wishes that more people in his peer group and generation would develop the desire to help clean up that Gus has, specifically calling for Millenials to answer the call and do more to make the earth a cleaner and better place. “It’s really hard to get other people to be less of themselves. We have to make this world a better place for all of us.”

Gus Vandermeeren has now adopted two state roads in North Carolina through its Department of Transportation. He continues to do his work in the community knowing that its impact may not seem large but it truly makes a difference. “This is not a job for a perfectionist. Even if it gets really dirty again, it doesn’t change the fact that every piece of plastic I just picked up and put in my bag is never going to go in the creek somewhere [and] is never going to float out into the ocean somewhere.”

It’s amazing the impact just one man can have on his world and in their community. He saw an issue that he could take steps to correct and did so of his own accord, and in the process inspired dozens of others to do the same. Gus Vandermeeren and his accomplishment of collecting over 2,000 trash bags of litter is a nice story about how much you can do by leading by example and stepping up to the plate to address an issue rather than wait around for others to do so.

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Little Free Pantries Project in Toronto

It’s often during times of turmoil that we see the best that humanity has to offer, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been no exception. Businesses have been helping lower income families put food on the table, individuals are making masks for others, and volunteers are grocery shopping for those that are more at risk of catching the virus. This pandemic has devastated countless families financially, shuttered businesses, and taken the lives of hundreds of thousands across the globe. The virus’ impact has been nothing short of devastating, but just like any other troubling time in history, you can always find the helpers.

With unemployment spreading rapidly because of the virus and how governments have responded, many are finding it difficult just to keep food on the table. Knowing this, some individuals and local businesses in Toronto, Canada, have started a “Little Free Pantries Project.” If you’ve ever heard of a “Little Free Library”—usually a small cupboard on a person’s lawn filled with books intended to be exchanged between willful individuals—then you can gather the general idea.

Neighbors are encouraged to leave a donation if they are well off, and those that are in need can take what they need when they need it. The Toronto Little Free Pantries Project has been building and stocking these pantries across the city. So far they have helped erect 13 pantries and are encouraging others to follow their lead.

It’s small acts of kindness—even a Little Free Pantries project—that make a significant impact on those in need. That box of mac & cheese might be insignificant to you, but it may mean the world to a single mom struggling to feed her kids right now. This is how we help our neighbors in a noncoercive, voluntary manner. With a little ingenuity, kindness, and charity, we can help those that are in need, especially those that fall through the proverbial government cracks.

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Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims

While politicians are shutting down stores and endlessly debating about how to spend your tax money, private businesses are helping coronavirus victims. There are too many stories for use to document them all, but here’s a quick selection.

After Governor Herbert closed the government schools, Fat Daddy’s Pizzeria in Provo, UT felt awful about the children who relied on the school lunches. Similar to us at Voluntaryism in Action, the good folks at Fat Daddy’s decided to do something about it. That something was a free lunch—to any school-aged child who needed it.

Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims
Fat Daddy's Facebook post announcing their voluntary charity.

They weren’t expecting the volume of responses—not just from people wanting help, but from people offering help. Donations of money poured in. People called up to volunteer to serve food. In defiance of the callous unconcern of the government to people grown dependent on them, Fat Daddy’s brought the community together to help voluntarily.

Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims
Fat Daddy's did not expect such an amazing response from their community.

Unlike pizza, one thing that’s difficult to find in Provo, UT is a stiff drink. With the government’s wave of restaurant and bar closures, it wasn’t just people in UT having a hard time feeling the Irish spirit(s) this St. Patrick’s Day. Hardest hit were the bartenders who depend on the revenue for their livelihood. Enter Jameson Irish Whiskey, who has pledged to donate $500,000 to support bartenders affected by this crisis.

Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims

Not all help has been as urgent as feeding children and paying bills. Lives have been upset by the shutting down of college an university campuses, with many students left in a painful state of limbo. U-Haul has offered these students 30 days of free self-storage to help get them through the crisis, in addition to reduced rates for truck and trailer rentals.

Private Businesses Are Helping Coronavirus Victims
U-Haul adds their efforts to help mitigate the fallout from the government's response to coronavirus.

With government grade school closures, a lot of parents have found themselves at home with their children for multiple weeks. These parents, made dependent on the state for education, are lost when it comes to teaching their own kids. Yet again, private businesses are helping coronavirus victims. The Facebook page Amazing Educational Resources compiled a list of 30 education companies offering free subscriptions due to the failure of the government schools in this crisis. Here is a link to the spreadsheet, so you can check it out yourself: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1t3r618pd8MAi6V87dG2D66PtiKoHdHusBpjPKXgm36w/htmlview?sle=true&usp=gmail#gid=0

These are only a few of the examples that voluntaryists shared in the VIA Community Group on Facebook. There must be dozens—or even hundreds—that I don’t know about. What’s really amazing is that all of these businesses and people helping others have also been affected by the government’s draconian measures. But they looked around, saw people less fortunate, and reached out to help—as people always do, and always will. That’s why voluntary aid works.

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