So much better than a trade-in

So much better than a trade-in

When you need to hear stories of people just doing good things for other people …  here is one for you.  My favorite part is said by Dan Laguardia, “if everybody did that (kindness) for everybody else, we’d be in a much better place.”

I couldn’t agree more …  

Helping another  – a tale of kindness

Kayla Cooper and Dan Laguardia were strangers before they crossed paths in an auto dealership. Laguardia was there to trade in his old vehicle, and Cooper was there in hopes she could somehow buy a car.

Kayla works two jobs on top of attending nursing school, and while the car salesman tried to be helpful, she did not have enough money for a down payment. “I would have to literally pull a needle out of a haystack to try to get myself a car so I could get to work,” Kayla explained. She had been borrowing cars from friends and family, and she was starting to feel like it would never happen for her.

Dan Laguardia, who had overheard the exchange between Kayla and the carsalesman, felt he could to do something to help. He asked the car salesman to call her back to the dealership so he could give the car he had intended to trade in. He realized it would be more valuable to her than it was for him.

“That gives her a bit of a jumpstart in life. Which, if everybody did that for everybody else, we’d be in a much better place.”

“I told her”, said Laguardia, “I overheard what happened, I’ve got a car that you might like,” adding, “this has no strings attached.”

“I am still in shock. I was crying,” Cooper said. “A car is helping me so much right now.”

Kayla is keeping in touch with Dan since the unexpected act of kindness. She doesn’t know how she will ever repay him, she said. Luckily, she doesn’t have to.

“If I was her, I would’ve wanted somebody like me to do it,” Laguardia said. “I have been in situations where a little hand up would have been nice. I just figured it was me being what I wanted in my life.”

Story Reference:
Feel Good Story:  Man Gifts Car to Stranger
By:  Erin O’Malley / Mix1041.radio

Stranger Gifts car to struggling nursing student who works 2 jobs
By:  Nicole Pelletiere / GMA

Rebuilding from a New Perspective

Rebuilding from a New Perspective

By Boyd Huppert / KARE 11 Minneapolis, MN

RANDOLPH, Minnesota — The Firebirds, Chevelles and Camaros are gone from Bill Waldschmidt’s automotive shop.

“Just memories,” Bill says of the cars he once spent hours repairing and restoring.

When the last of the classic cars rolled out of Bill’s shop, different wheels moved in. These days, he toils for hours restoring power wheelchairs.

“Life has been really good to me,” Bill says. “So, I’ve got to pass it on.” 

In that proclamation, Bill’s optimism shines through.

Consider this: At age 4, Bill contracted polio and spent most of his childhood on crutches.

As an adult, he regained enough strength to walk up the aisle unassisted on his wedding day.

But 10 years ago, the retiree’s symptoms returned. Post-polio syndrome put Bill in a wheelchair, chasing the classic cars from his garage and giving Bill perspective he needed to help others.

During the past few years, Bill has refurbished dozens of power wheelchairs he’s then given away to people who can’t afford to buy one.

Don Johnson, a disabled Vietnam veteran, is now the owner of one of Bill’s chairs.   

“I’ve never had a gift like this, never,” says Don, who is missing his right leg. “He’s the kindest man on the planet that I’ve ever met. He does all this out of his heart, just out of the kindness of his heart.”

Given a tip, Bill will drive miles in his handicapped-accessible van to pick up a used power wheelchair.

“He sees no obstacles,” says Gerry Falkowski, program manager for the Donor Connect program of the Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota. “There’s a passion he has that’s hard to describe.”

Bill says he’s found far more satisfaction refurbishing wheelchairs, than restoring cars.

“I delivered a wheelchair to a guy who came out crawling, he had no legs,” Bill says. “He got right up into that wheel chair, biggest smile on his face.”

Bill spent his career working as an engineer for Twin Cities-based Thermo King. Though retired now, the engineer is still at it.

“I think his mind is always being creative and thinking,” says Bill’s wife Mary. “He’s touching so many people’s lives and I’m so proud of him.”

To learn more about how you can learn about how to donate a wheelchair to Bill and/or donate toward his battery replacement fund, follow the link HERE and scroll to the bottom of the article for Bill’s contact information.

Handmade Smiles – A Doll Like Me

Handmade Smiles – A Doll Like Me

Amy Jandrisevits‘ previous life working as a pediatric oncology social worker, along with her love of dolls, has inspired her current passion and work project – ‘A Doll Like Me’.  As a social worker she realized the value and importance dolls represented in her work with children. 

“I thought it was so important to have dolls available to the kids 1) because everyone should have something to cuddle, 2) everyone should have a doll that looks like them (especially when you don’t have any hair!), and 3) medical play is helpful for psychosocial adjustment.”

With that as a rooted source of inspiration and foundation Amy has built a thriving business creating custom dolls.  “It is my heartfelt belief that dolls should look like their owners AND dolls should be available in all colors, genders, and body types.”

Her work has evolved as specific children’s needs have presented themselves.  No matter the uniquely beautiful difference … be it limb loss, birthmarks, albinism, or a result of illness or injury, Amy creates dolls that celebrate each child’s one-of-a-kind-ness.  Amy states her motivation for her work simply … “In an ideal world, limb difference, body type, medical condition, birthmarks and hand differences would be as accepted as all of the other things that make us unique.  Until then, kids might need a little extra coaching … and something that will help them feel proud of who they are.  THAT is why I make dolls.  Dolls touch a place in kids that medicine can’t.”

Each of Amy’s dolls cost around $100 to make and she hopes to turn ‘A Doll Like Me’ into an official non-profit.  She has already created over 300 dolls that have blessed the lives of children across the United States and Internationally, and has currently partnered with a children’s hospital to identify children who would benefit from having a doll for comfort as they go through their medical care.  You can support her efforts and/or sponsor a doll for a child through her Go Fund Me page. 

Learn More about Amy Jandrisevits and ‘A Doll Like Me’ on her Facebook Page HERE.

A Heartfelt Heartbeat

A Heartfelt Heartbeat

This past Valentine’s Day a Tennessee mom got an amazing gift – the chance to hear her son’s heartbeat inside the body of the woman whose life he saved.

In 2017 Wendy Hartley’s 21 year old son Kevin died from chemical poisoning while he was refinishing a bathtub.  At that terrible moment Wendy made the difficult decision to donate her son’s organs and tissues.  This action saved four lives and healed many others.  One of the people touched by Kevin’s gifts is Rhonda Lucas who was brought back to life when she received Kevin’s heart.

On Valentine’s Day 2019 Rhonda and Wendy met for the first time in Vanderbilt University’s Medical Center.  On that day Wendy was able to hear her son’s heartbeat – strong and full, for the first time since losing her son.  “This is my son’s heart that is keeping someone else alive, and that’s just amazing that can happen,” said Hartley.

“I feel like I’m closer to Kevin, I feel like I have a sister, another sister in the family,” said Lucas.

The Power of Community

The Power of Community

At a time when it seems that the grace and beauty behind the words  ‘it takes a village‘  has become cliche and out of touch, a story like this pops up to remind us all that there is Power in Community.

CBS Sunday Morning / February 17, 2019

Samantha Savitz’s neighbors want the 2 year old to feel just like any other kid, even if that means they have to learn her language.  Glenda and Raphael Savitz moved to Newton, Mass. in the summer of 2016, and their daughter Sam was born three months later.  Tests soon revealed that Sam was deaf and, without prompting from her parents, about 20 neighbors hired an instructor to teach them American Sign Language so they could communicate with the little girl.

Learning From Love

Learning From Love

As a dog lover and a life-long supporter of all rescue animals this story truly touched my heart.  The beautiful work being done by the T.A.I.L.S (Teaching Animals & Inmates Life Skills) program is a reminder that PEACE realized through trust, encouragement, and the belief in the power of change can not only save lives but change the world.

Matches Made in Heaven (and Jail):  Look at the Troubled Dogs Saved From Euthanasia by Doting Inmates
By  Ryan Morris / Good News Network
Photos By Adam Goldberg / AGold Photo

_________________________________

In Florida, this program is pairing abused dogs with incarcerated men – and it is offering hope and promising futures for both.

The TAILS, or Teaching Animals and Inmate Life Skills program, focuses their rehabilitation efforts on dogs plagued by abusive backgrounds. Since their behavioral issues keep the pups from being adopted, they are at risk of euthanization if they aren’t properly trained.

Each dog is cared for by two inmates, one trainer, and one handler. The inmates are responsible for engaging the dogs with training exercises, play, and plenty of affection. The program lasts two to three months, and is recognized by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, which offers inmates considerable work-related experience.

What is perhaps even more significant than the qualifications that the inmates receive from the program is the sensation of receiving unconditional love – one that is foreign to many of the convicts.

Similarly to the dogs they train, these prisoners have seldom known the luxury of a supportive environment, and for many, the relationships they form with the dogs are the first to offer them empathy, affection, and love.

Adam Goldberg, a photographer who was recently granted permission to observe and photograph the training process inside the prison, told Good News Network: “Seeing the inmates in their living quarters, with the rescue dogs, was an amazing experience. The dogs were so well cared for and so attentive to their inmate handler and trainer.”

Over the course of the last three years, TAILS has saved over 500 dogs with their unique training method, and they are continuing to seek out new rescues who can have pawsitive impacts on their human counterparts.

“It was very evident that the dogs rely on the inmates just as much as the inmates rely on the dogs,” Goldberg added.

 

Please check out the Pit Sisters and T.A.I.L.S website to learn more and see how you can support their efforts.

All Photography by AGold Pet Photography

Offering Their Fullest Humanity

Offering Their Fullest Humanity

This story resonates so deeply with me. Vijay Gupta, Founder of Street Symphony, is making a difference in Los Angeles in a deeply beautiful way.  His passion and grace is palpable and his desire to do right in the world is inspiring.  If you would like to learn more about the work he is doing with Street Symphony please checkout their Website.  Better yet, Donate Here to help support their continued efforts to bring music to the masses.

“When we make music in skid row it isn’t about doing something for the homeless it’s about understanding our neighbor.”  ~Vijay Gupta

Street Corner Symphonies
by: Great Big Story

Los Angeles’s Skid Row has been stuck at the center of America’s epidemic of homelessness. It is also located right next to the Walt Disney Music Hall, home to the LA Philharmonic, one of the country’s top orchestras. Wanting to give back to his neighbors, the philharmonic’s first violinist, Vijay Gupta, has been taking his talents to the streets. To date, Gupta and his fellow musicians have played over 500 free concerts in Skid Row—for the violinist, it’s all about understanding and acknowledging the humanity in your neighbors.

Helping Others Dress for Success

Helping Others Dress for Success

Story: If You Have A New York Public Library Card, You Can Now Borrow Ties And Handbags, by Samantha Raphelson / NPR (9/21/18)

The New York Public Library lends out much more than just books, and now that includes clothes.

The library’s Riverside branch on the West Side of Manhattan is testing a pilot program that allows patrons to borrow neckties, briefcases and handbags – provided they have fines of less than $15 on their library cards. The idea is to help people with limited resources get access to suitable clothing and accessories for job interviews, graduations and other formal events, according to the library website.

The “Grow Up Work Fashion Library” was created by Michelle Lee, a young adult librarian at the Riverside branch who works with students at a nearby high school to prepare for job interviews, says Kimberly Spring, network manager of the Riverside area of branches for the New York Public Library.

Photo: Gabriella Angotti-Jones/The New York Times

“She hosted a series of job preparation workshops, and she noticed that a lot of her young participants did not have access to professional supplies or gear such as neckties, purses, briefcases, so she wanted to do something about that,” Spring tells Here & Now’s Lisa Mullins. “She sees these teens on a daily basis, and she established a rapport with them, so they trust her.”

Lee pitched the idea to the New York Public Library Innovation Project, which funds 25 programs submitted by staff members each year. Previous winning submissions include a job search program for the long-term unemployed, language exchange courses and a library staff job shadowing day, says the project website.

Lee’s idea was submitted along with 300 others. She then used the grant money to buy the items for the fashion lending program, Spring says, adding that the library also encourages residents to donate used clothing items.

People can check out items for up to three weeks, Spring says. The program is open to everyone with a library card, not just young adults, and almost 10 people have participated so far. Participants can also attend one of Lee’s job interview preparation workshops.

“You know, you look good, you feel good,” Spring says. “You feel more confident, you know, when you’re going out.”

Photo / New York Public Library
Feeding Opportunity & Love

Feeding Opportunity & Love


How 1 cafe is helping people with autism break into the workforce
By Rheana Murray / TODAY

For many people, work is taken for granted — an assumed, if not all that exciting, part of daily life, something to grumble about on Monday mornings.

But for others, it’s the dream. And for many adults with developmental disabilities, especially those who have aged out of the public education system, it’s a dream that can feel far out of reach. Many businesses don’t want to take a chance on someone with special needs — and in cases when they do, employees are often given menial tasks such as sweeping floors or cleaning bathrooms, or insufficient hours on the schedule.

Puzzles Bakery and Cafe in Schenectady, New York, is a place where more than half of the employees have some form of developmental disability. The cafe’s logo, a puzzle piece, is a symbol for autism awareness.

Sara Mae Pratt, 28, opened Puzzles in 2015, inspired by her sister Emily, who is on the lower-functioning end of the autism spectrum.

“Here in New York, at age 21, that’s when people age out of public education,” Pratt said, speaking of resources available to her sister and others. “She was nearing adulthood and we were starting to realize what kinds of opportunities were available for people with developmental disabilities.”

What she found? Not much.

In 2017, only 18.7 percent of people with a disability were employed, compared to 65.7 percent of people without a disability, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But it’s not just about the paycheck: There’s also a sense of purpose and identity that comes with having a job, which many people with disabilities never get to experience.

“We’re talking about sort of that fundamental right to work and just be part of our communities,” said Pratt, who had no real experience in business or the food and beverage industry before she opened Puzzles.

Her employees aren’t relegated to jobs at the bottom of the ladder, as is the case in many businesses that hire people who have disabilities — they’re baking, cooking and preparing food, taking orders, serving customers and more.

Her driving mission of acceptance extends to the clientele at Puzzles.

“When I was growing up and my family would try to bring my sister maybe grocery shopping or to a restaurant, we never knew if she might have a meltdown or some behaviors out in public,” Pratt said. “And that’s something that, especially a lot of families with younger children with disabilities, they might be concerned about what people are thinking or how that might reflect in the community.

“But what I love about Puzzles is everyone can feel really at home and safe here. All of our employees are really understanding and trained. They would completely understand if somebody was vocalizing or maybe rocking back and forth or having a meltdown in a way that might be sort of socially inappropriate elsewhere. It’s OK here.”

If you live in the Schenectady, New York area please stop by for a visit to support this beautiful business and its employees.

Puzzles Bakery & Cafe
515 State Street
Schenectady,  NY  12305
518-280-2620

Learn More:  Puzzles Bakery & Cafe