WAYS TO DO GREAT THINGS :
The world is full of opportunities for good people to do great things. This page, which I update whenever possible, has two resources: one is a list of more than forty nation-wide organizations that you can volunteer with to do important work in your community. The other, is a set of stories about people doing good things in their communities. You’ll find these stories if you scroll down.
One of the biggest challenges in trying to do great things is finding a place to start. Here is a list of organizations that continue to impact the lives of so many around us through the volunteers that work with them. You can access this resource below.
'DON'T WANT BRUCE TO DIE': THIS BOY LOVES HIS POKÉMON CARDS. BUT HE SOLD THEM TO SAVE HIS DOG'S LIFE, AND DONATIONS ARE POURING IN.
USA Today (along with many other sources) has the story of Bryson Kliemann, an 8 year old boy in Southwestern Virginia who sold his prized Pokémon card collection in order to raise the money his family needed to save the life of his beloved puppy. The dog became sick with the Parvo virus. The treatment would have cost at least $655, money his family didn’t have. Bryson therefore decided to sell his Pokémon cards in order to raise the money even though his collection had taken years to build up and was his “His Pokémon cards are his most prized possession,” according to his mother in USA Today. He set up a table in the front yard to sell the cards and raised $400 that way. After postings on social media about Bryson’s effort to save Bruce, his story went viral. As of June 10, a GoFundMe set up to support the fundraiser had raised $19,500 according to USA Today and donations of cards and dog care supplies had poured in. The inflow of support has been sufficient to allow Bryson’s family to help other people with the cost of care for their dogs. Bryson told USA Today that: “"It makes me feel happy that everybody came together,”” and his mother told them: ““I hope this story helps people realize that there's still good left in this world,”” .... ““I'm amazed by the uproar of support for a little boy and his dog in small-town Lebanon, Virginia. Who would've thought?””
ELABORATE PHONE TREE LINKS LAOTIAN IMMIGRANTS TO COVID INFO, ONE ANOTHER
The Los Angeles Times has the story of a network of phone trees used by the Laotian community, mostly in Northern California, which have held that community together for many years. These phone trees are used to spread information about many things—including opportunities to get vaccinated against Covid19 as well as other needs ranging from help in organizing events and finding bilingual volunteers to assist with paperwork etc that people in the community may have. These are run by volunteers and are an essential way for people in the Laotian community (many of whom came to the United States at the end of the Vietnam War), to stay connected with each other and the world around them. People who need something can reach out to community leaders who will then reach out via the phone tree to help find that resource whether it be food, a translator, or other needed resource. The article says that Mr. Torm Nompraseurt , one of the leaders of the organization “tells phone tree members that “there is always assistance.””
HOW LATINA COMMUNITY LEADERS RALLIED TOGETHER AFTER AUSTIN’S DISASTROUS STORM
Vogue has the story of the Workers Defense Project, a community organization in Austin, TX, run largely by Latina community organizers. It came together as a response to the freezing weather that hit the city in February 2021. Weather that would kill more than a hundred across Texas and leave thousands displaced. Leaders in the community quickly realized that a lot of people needed help with everything from food and water to check-ins because of loss of access to electricity for heating and cooking. The Vogue piece says that from virtually nothing, the organization quickly grew too the point at which thousands of meals a day were being delivered to more than thirty apartment complexes across Austin. As a caption of a sign in the WDP headquarters says in part: “” if you teach me how to organize, regardless of the challenge, I can unite with my community to create our own
ALABAMA TEEN HEADED TO THE AIR FORCE DONATES HAIR TO KIDS BATTLING CANCER
Fox News has the story of Kieran Moise, A seventeen-year-old from Huntsville, Alabama who expects to attend the Air Force Academy this fall. Fox reports he cut his hair for the first time in six years, donating the harvested hair from his nineteen-inch afro to kids suffering from cancer. Fox says he was motivated to do this by losing a friend to cancer during middle school. Fox reported as of Sunday May 30, 2021, his St. Jude Fundraising page, "Kieran’s Curls for Cancer," had raised nearly $20,000, exceeding his goal of a thousand dollars per inch of his hair. Kieran is quoted as saying that he “"really hopes this inspires others to do something great on your own."”
MASSACHUSETTS STORE OWNERS RESCUE WOMAN’S $1M LOTTERY TICKET FROM TRASH
The Guardian in Massachusetts tells the story of Abhin Shah, the son of the owners of a Lucky Stop store, in Southwick, MA, who chose greatness by retrieving and returning a $1 million winning lottery ticket to the regular shopper who bought it and didn’t thoroughly check to see if it was a winner. The Guardian draws from an earlier story in the Washington Post in which Shah says The ticket spent ten days behind the counter until he went through the trash and found it. The papers say he tells them “We had mixed emotions, we didn’t sleep for two nights, but …My inner soul told me: ‘That’s not right. You know who that person is. You should give that ticket back to them.’ And that’s exactly what I did.” Lea Rose Fiega, the woman who purchased the ticket originally is quoted as saying: ““He came to my office and said ‘my mom and dad would like to see you,”’… “I said ‘I’m working,’ and he said ‘no you have to come over.’ So, I went over there and that’s when they told me. I was in total disbelief. I cried, I hugged them.””
MAINE 12-YEAR-OLD RECOGNIZED NATIONALLY FOR YEARS OF VOLUNTEER WORK
Maine’s WMTW TV has the story of twelve-year-old Miranda Torrey, who has won many awards for her volunteer work. Volunteerism she began at age 6 according to WMTW which tells us she is very interested in anti-bullying activities. Their article says HER MOST IMPACTFUL ACHIEVEMENT, is the ongoing anti-bullying “kids speak movement” which is hosted on a Facebook page that she hopes allows kids to understand they’re not alone. Miranda is quoted as saying that she volunteers because: ““I do it for the smiles I can see on people's faces because I like helping people. Just makes me feel good to know something I’m doing in the world is actually making a difference.””
MARYLAND TEEN INSPIRED TO ADVOCATE FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES AFTER FIRE DRILL
NBC4 Washington has the story of Catherine Contreras a Maryland high-school student who was inspired to advocate for people with disabilities after seeing the challenges some of her fellow students faced during a fire drill. Over the past year and a half, NBC4 Washington reports “She has testified at Montgomery County Council and school board meetings, pleading with them to address safety and accessibility issues.” Ms. Contreras is quoted as saying: ““When I saw it firsthand, it was really eye opening and it made me really realize that this is a big issue and that this is not OK,”, They report she has been inspired to take this issue on for the long term. ““I hope to make a career out of this,” … “I hope to keep fighting for this for the rest of my life until this gets fixed...””
HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR DONATES COLLEGE SAVINGS AFTER LANDING PRESTIGIOUS SCHOLARSHIP
CNN has the story of Joshua Nelson, a recent graduate of St. Charles West High School, in St. Charles, MO. Joshua, who, among other things, is a student leader, member of the National Honor Society, an athlete and volunteer for the local Boys and Girls Club, donated his college savings to a fund he started to help other students achieve their college dreams after winning a prestigious scholarship from Southeast Missouri State University. CNN reports that Joshua says he hopes the $1,000 he donated to begin The Joshua Nelson Leaders in Action Scholarship will be matched by local businesses so the money can hopefully support many other students in the future. They quote him as telling a local non-profit community outreach organization: "I feel like it's important to be involved in your community and leaving a legacy.”
LOUISIANA CAR DEALER HELPS HOMELESS MAN – AND INSPIRES MILLIONS TO DO THE SAME
Fox News has the story of Alcide Dominique, a Louisiana car dealership owner who helped a homeless man and, per their article, has inspired millions to do the same. After Mr. dominique and one of his employees found Jamie, a local homeless person on the porch of their dealership, they videoed themselves helping Jamie by buying some supplies and putting him up in a local motel for a night. The video went viral on TikTok and, per Fox, received more than ten million views as of the time of publication of the article. Donations ranging from bibles to money flowed in and the article quotes Mr. Dominique as saying their goal is to keep Jamie off the streets permanently, hopefully by helping him find a job of some sort, some form of transportation and rent-reduced housing. Fox News quotes him as saying that he is motivated to help Jamie because: “"You have to ask yourself what's important in life. [Is it] getting off work at five o'clock and going home to watch TV, or is it me getting off work at five o'clock to go check on somebody and see if they’re, OK?””
VALUE OF VOLUNTEER TIME
The median value of an hour of volunteer time was $28.54 according to a piece in the Non-Profit times. Their data comes from a report from the Independent Sector, an advocacy organization that claims to be “the only national membership organization that brings together a diverse community of changemakers at nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs working to strengthen civil society and ensure all people in the United States thrive.” And the Do Good Institute of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy https://dogood.umd.edu/ [note, there are some screen reader issues with the slides on the DGI home page] which claims that: “We believe that all students, regardless of their background, field of study or interests, are capable of creating effective change, making a powerful impact, and innovating creative solutions to our world’s most pressing challenges,” on their “about” page. According to the non-profit times’ report on their data, the hourly value of volunteered time varies from $13.74 in Puerto Rico to $48.67 in the District of Columbia.
THIS BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING SURVIVOR IS ON A MISSION TO GIVE FELLOW AMPUTEES THE PROSTHETIC LEGS INSURANCE WON'T COVER
CNN has the story of Heather Abbott, a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Unfortunately, she was severely injured, and after seeking advice from many, she decided it would be best for her to have her left leg amputated below the knee. Insurance would only pay for a basic prosthesis but Ms. Abbott wanted to return to her full and active life. CNN says: “With the help of donations and organizations that assisted the victims of the bombing, Abbott was gifted a lifelike prosthetic leg that allowed her to wear high heels again and other prostheses that allowed her to run and paddleboard.” Ms. Abbott learned other amputees are often far less fortunate and so started the Heather Abbott Foundation which has raised more than $1 million and helped more than fifty people get access to the same level of care she was able to receive. She told CNN that she has learned: “"There are many more good people in this world than there are bad. Two people who did this to me yet so many more wanted to help, and that was amazing to me.””
A DOG GROOMER'S CALL TO THE NEBRASKA HUMANE SOCIETY HELPED SAVE PET OWNER'S LIFE
CNN tells the story of an unnamed Omaha, NE pet groomer who called local animal control officer Kisha Witherspoon, to report that a dog they had in for grooming hadn’t been picked up by its normally highly responsible owner. CNN says Witherspoon was concerned enough to speak to an investigator in her unit who could not access the pet owner’s home. Investigator Ms. Misty Binau then called the local police who managed to get into the owner’s home and found him in distress. According to the twitter feed the article is largely based on, the owner and his dog are receiving appropriate attention and the Nebraska humane society is quoted as saying: “"We are proud of Officer Witherspoon for her intuition, and to Officer Binau and Dispatcher Bieranowski for their swift follow-up," NHS said in the thread. "Way to go the extra mile!””
HOW SEWING MASKS FOR THE VULNERABLE STITCHED TOGETHER AN EMPOWERING FACEBOOK COMMUNITY
The Los Angeles Times tells the story of Kristina Wong, a performance artist in the entertainment industry when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. They report that like many, after going through shock at the change in her life the pandemic represented, Wong took action to help those less fortunate than she is in her area. This included following a pattern she found on line to sew a mask. This small act became the beginning of a group she called the Auntie Sewing Squad, which had, as of early April 2021, gotten more than 800 people involved in sewing more than 300,000 masks which, at first, went to front line care workers. Over time, the article says the organization shifted its focus to helping people in underserved communities. One of the “aunties” who got involved and recruited her 83-year-old mother into an effort that has produced at least 2,500 masks for the group, told the LA Times: ““It gives her something to do, a purpose,”.”
SHE PUBLISHES BOOKLETS IN SEVEN LANGUAGES TO HELP ASIAN AMERICANS AND OTHERS FACE HATE CRIMES
CNN has the story of Esther Lim, who, they report, has created a pamphlet, available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and Spanish as of late March, 2021 on "How to Report a Hate Crime." She was inspired to develop the pamphlet after the waves of anti-Asian violence that began in early 2020. CNN quotes her as saying: "I wanted to make sure my parents, and the rest of the Asian community, knew how to make a report or what to do if they're attacked.”
NYC 12-YEAR-OLD DONATES 200 LAPTOPS TO STUDENTS THROUGH GOFUNDME
Fox News tells the story of NYC area 12-year-old Daisy Hampton, whose concern for her fellow students predates the covid-19 pandemic. When it struck, Fox says she realized many of her peers did not have access to laptops on which they could work from home when learning went virtual. Since that realization, she had raised $15,000 through a number of sources including a GoFundMe page called "#KidsNeedConnection" as of late March, 2021, and donated 200 laptops to students who needed them. They quote her as saying: "Seeing that joy of being able to attend remote learning again and join calls and see their friends and teachers ... seeing how happy they are not only makes me realize how grateful I am and how fortunate I am to have access to devices to school, but it also makes me very joyful to see how these kids are able to attend school again when they've been months without a computer and missing out on so much,".”
TEENS AND OTHER VOLUNTEERS HELP SENIORS FIND SCARCE COVID SHOTS
Scientific American tells the stories of three representative groups of people who have been helping people get appointments for the Covid-19 vaccines around the country. Whether teens in Kentucky, teachers in Maryland or a group of 200 in California, people have been volunteering to help others get appointments on websites that Scientific American reports are often confusing, with widely different parameters and priorities for setting up appointments. As Manish Goregaokar, who lives in Berkeley, CA, told Scientific American in describing the site Scientific American says he and 200 other volunteers built in California to help people find appointments: ““You don’t need to have contacts with the government or tons of money; you can just help with skills that a lot of people have and come together to make something better.””
THIS HOUSTON FURNITURE STORE OWNER OPENED HIS DOORS TO PEOPLE SEEKING WARMTH IN THE WINTER STORM
CNN has a version of the widely-covered story of Jim (Mattress Mack) McIngvale, a Houston area furniture store owner who opened the doors of his store to people who needed shelter during the deep freeze that hit Houston in February 2021. CNN (and many other sources) say hundreds got hot meals, sleep, and had a warm place to stay due to McIngvale’s action. CNN says this was not the first time he’d turned his store into a shelter, doing so because: “"We believe that we all have responsibility for the wellbeing of the community and when times get tough we try to open our doors and let Houstonians come in and regroup,"”
THE PANDEMIC MADE CANCER TREATMENT EVEN HARDER. THESE SURVIVORS ARE HELPING
The Los Angeles Times has the story of a project at UCLA Health in which people who have been diagnosed with, and been successfully treated for, cancer (at least to this point) send letters to those who are newly diagnosed with it. According to the article, the letters talk not only about the process of going through care for the cancer but also the feelings that go along with the diagnosis and treatment process. One letter writer, who the times quotes in the article says: ““I would gladly help anyone who is going through what I went through,” ... “And at this point, I know what not to say.””
HIS BIKE WAS STOLEN IN VIRGINIA. HIS RESPONSE WAS TO COLLECT BIKES TO FIX AND GIVE AWAY TO PEOPLE IN NEED.
The story of Robbie Pruitt an assistant rector for a church in Leesburg, VA. Mr. Pruitt offered to repair bikes for people in need on a closed local Facebook group. By the end of 2020, the article reports he had repaired 140 bikes after starting his efforts in September. According to the Washington Post piece and other articles on the ‘net, Mr. Pruitt has focused his efforts on behalf of people who couldn’t afford to repair bikes they owned or who needed bicycles and couldn’t afford to buy them. His efforts began when his own bike was stolen and he soon learned how hard bicycles were to get due to people buying them during the pandemic. Not only has he repaired bikes for people in need but he’s also taught local kids how to repair their bikes—some of which Mr. Pruitt was in the process of fixing for them when he helped them learn how to maintain their rides. In discussing his motivation for his efforts. The Post quotes Mr. Pruitt as saying: ““I’ll sleep better at night just because I did this.””
TEACHER IS BUILDING THOUSANDS OF DESKS AFTER SEEING KIDS DON'T HAVE WORK SPACES AT HOME
Good Morning America tells the story of Nate Evans, a teacher from Ankeny Iowa who, along with 50 other volunteers, has built 600 desks for his students and other young people needing study spaces at home as a result of distance learning. According to GMA, Evans started Woodworking with a Purpose once he saw many of his students were working from their beds or kitchen tables when they logged in for their distance learning classes. Per the GMA story, the desks cost $20-$25 to build and Evans and the others in his organization hope to build 2020 of them by the end of the school year. AS to his motivation for this project, GMA quotes Mr. Evans as saying: “""I became a teacher to help kids. That was it. It wasn't for the summer breaks," … "I volunteer wherever I can. I want to see them learn and grow ... learn and grow in my classroom ... I want to see them learn and grow at home too.”
LOST WALLET IN MARIN COUNTY SETS OFF CHAIN OF GOOD DEEDS
The San Jose Mercury News has the story of Sean Currey, a homeless man who found the wallet of Ms. Evelyn topper in a trash bin. The Mercury News and other outlets report Mr. Currey returned Ms. Topper’s Wallet untouched. After hearing the story of the wallet, Ms. Topper’s granddaughter Mikayla decided to do some fundraising to help Mr. Currey at her 12th birthday party which was set in a drive-up format to accommodate health safety during the pandemic. According to the article, the energy Mikayla started, and many people working with her family and Mr. Currey have carried forward, has the potential to be something great for a lot of people. The Mercury News says that the nearly $50,000 that has been raised as of Jan 18, 2021 will hopefully be put toward building a community of tiny houses in which homeless people like Mr. Currey can live and on which they can work. They quote him as saying: “We want to give people who are coming out of jail, who want to get integrated back into the system, a sense of purpose, belonging, and to be able to earn a decent living while giving back,…” the Mercury News further quotes Mrs. Topper as saying: “We want to help people help themselves,” … “If we can get to that point it would be amazing. … Maybe we’ll partner with local agency. I don’t see myself starting a nonprofit, but who knows.”
THIS KINDERGARTNER SPENT ALMOST 2 WEEKS MAKING 200 NEW YEAR'S CARDS FOR SENIORS. THEN SHE BROKE HER PIGGY BANK TO BUY THEM A GIFT
CNN Tells the story of five-year-old Aryana Chopra who learned of 200 senior citizens in a care facility in Vestal, NY who couldn’t see the people they care about because of Covid-19. According to CNN, her father is a doctor and on the front lines of the pandemic. The article says Aryana wanted to do something good for the nursing home residents and so: “"I got an idea of making cards for the people in the nursing home who cannot go out and meet their friends and family because of the coronavirus,”” they quote her as saying.
HE SPENT HIS STIMULUS MONEY ON 30,000 MASKS FOR THE HOMELESS AND OTHERS IN NEED
CNN Has six stories of people who used their stimulus payments to do good things for those in need in their communities. From a gentleman on a fixed income who has used his payments to buy 30,000 masks for the homeless to a small businesswoman whose business is sharply down at this time but who has created a pantry for pets of people who are struggling financially and more, all of these people are using their stimulus payments to make a difference for others.
HOW A UTAH SPORTS REPORTER ACCIDENTALLY RAISED $55,000 TO HELP PEOPLE DURING THE HOLIDAYS
The Washington Post has the story of Utah Jazz reporter Andy Larson who found $165 in a forgotten piggy bank. Instead of using it for himself he tweeted out the thought that he’d like to use the money to help families in need during the holidays. He got many requests but, much to his surprise, he was also given nearly $55,000 by 992 donors who were either his Twitter followers or people whom they contacted. According to the Post, drawing on an article he wrote in the Salt Lake Tribune, among other things, Larson’s Exclamation Point Aid Brigade donated to families that needed help for the holidays; gave to others that needed help with rent; helped people needing money for car repairs, electricity, heat, or water bills; assisted households in need of groceries; and made small amounts available to dozens of families with staggering medical debt. Most of his brigade’s giving with respect to medical debt went to a national nonprofit that reduces medical debt for the neediest families in each state. According to the two papers, organizations like the one Larson donated to, buy bundles of debt from collection agencies at a cheap price and then simply forgive the debt. Larson says: ““For every $10,000 donated, they can forgive $1 million in debt,” … “I was told that the $10,000 we donated will end up paying off debt for 400 to 500 Utahns. So that’s a huge gift.” Larson closes his piece in the Salt Lake Tribune by saying: “Most of all, I want to give a big thanks to all who donated. You guys made a special thing happen and changed the lives of many Utahns. This is a special place to live, and you all showed why.”
RESCUE ANIMALS ARE TIME'S 2020 PET OF THE YEAR
Rescue animals are Time’s 2020 pet of the year as a result of the flood of animal adoptions that has occurred, in part, due to the pandemic. As a rescue cat owner, myself (two feline sisters adopted from a no-kill shelter in 2016), I agree with the sentiments of ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker who Time quotes as saying: “This unprecedented compassionate response from communities across the country to support their local shelters reflects widespread appreciation of the invaluable role pets play in our lives.” Or, as Time quotes a long-standing pet owner as saying: “It wasn’t even something I thought about. I just did it. Because I knew. I saw the little faces and I knew one of them had to be mine.”