After The Flood: The Kindness

The Aftermath of North Dakota Flooding

Around 4,000 homes were flooded by the Souris River over the summer.  This caused over two meters of water on the homes’ main floor for around three weeks in Minot, North Dakota.  Around 2,300 trailers were moved to the area by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), housing a lot of the 11,000 displaced people. And snowbirds have been lending out their homes to help the situation as well.  Churches, schools, golf courses and other public places have also been destroyed.  Indeed, it is anticipated that the Roosevelt Park Zoo will not reopen for around two to three years.

Spirits Soar

Despite all this, spirits are up in the area.  Signs reading “I’m Coming Back!” have been put on the front lawns of these destroyed homes.  As well, the people of Minot are doing their utmost to help out their friends in the neighborhood.  In Winnipeg for example, Church of Latter Day Saints and Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) volunteers have been assisting the homeowners in rebuilding their properties. And things aren’t exactly quiet and peaceful for the MDS themselves, as they have been encountering a severe lack in donations which has led to some redundancies and pay drops for their staff. And, to add insult to injury, they are getting half of what they used to get in travel expenses.

Clearly though, this attitude is showing how no matter what is going on in one’s personal life, when mass disaster strikes, everyone comes together to help out.  At least, that is certainly the case in Minot right now.

Dogs Finding Their Purposes

Every dog needs a purpose in life.  Dogs are not called man’s best friend for no reason. Sometimes the dog has a very unique purpose in life and other times, it takes a while to reveal that purpose.  For example, it took Tequila three years to find her reason for being. 

Timid Tequila Delights Patients

Having been taken along by her owner to a mental health hospital ward in Canberra, Australia, the usually timid dog approached all the patients with her ears back and body slightly lowered.  She did that so as not to frighten anyone but clearly what she was doing made her happy as her tail was wagging crazily in a circle.  Her owner was quite shocked as she said that Tequila is usually somewhat frightened of most people.  But it was clear that she was a delight to all the people in the ward, turning scared faces into smiling ones. 

Indeed, as soon as Tequila began “her rounds,” the mood in the ward totally changed.  At one point she was found in one of the rooms of the patients.  A little girl who had been crying – on setting eyes on Tequila – exclaimed gleefully, “puppy” and crouched down with a huge smile on her face to pat her.  Tequila reveled in the attention.

Following this surprising turn of events, Tequila’s owner is wondering how she can get Tequila to formally become a therapy dog for various homes in the area. 

All dogs have a purpose – sometimes it just takes the proper setting to discover what it is, like was the case with Tequila.

Touched by Angels

Brandon Foundation’s Angel Program

Many individuals have been helped by the Brandon Foundation’s Angels Program – people who have gone through hugely difficult challenges, from kids with cancer, to single moms’ daily struggles, and adults with long-term debilitating illnesses.  These strong individuals stood up at the Evening of Hope and Charity Check Presentation to tell their stories and express their gratitude to the foundation. There was hardly a dry eye in the room as they got up, one-by-one, with pride, to say “thank you.”

Fundraising Events

Held at the Florida State Fairgrounds, this event was a true money-giver.  A staggering $160,000 was distributed to 17 of the foundation’s charities (it has 53 in all).  According to daytime talk show host (and foundation board member) Cyndi Edwards, the Foundation seeks to improve life for the community through its substantial fundraising efforts.  Thereafter, these monies are sent to various charitable organizations in the area.

Since 2003, the Foundation has hosted six annual major fundraisers, distributing more than $1m to worthy charitable organizations.  Their reason for existence is to facilitate the work of these hard-working organizations to help the community at large.  All the work it does is conducted through love.  And clearly the individuals receiving this help, feel the love, and thereafter express their deep thanks.

Strength in Recovery

 

It’s not easy to recover from some of the most severe army wounds.  But that is exactly what Sam Cila – an American army veteran – did.  And not only did he work hard on his tremendous recovery, he decided to inspire kids in his son Evan’s school with his tale as well. 

After the attacks on 9/11, Cila joined the NY National Guard and was sent out to Iraq the following month with the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment.  Towards the end of his time there however, he was badly injured while on patrol outside the Green Zone, Baghdad, from an IED blast.  His entire left side was blown out and it took him three years to fight – and win – the hardest battle of his life; the recovery.  He worked extremely hard to guard against not having an amputation, that, at the time, seemed like the only option.  He did however, ultimately loss his left arm from the elbow down but even that didn’t deter him.

He had a prosthetic hand and arm put in and then started working with Operation Rebound – an organization operated by the Challenged Athletes Foundation which “raises money to help people with physical disabilities pursue an active lifestyle through physical fitness and competitive athletics.”

Inspiring Kids

Cila wanted to inspire the children in his son’s school at Aquebogue.  He wanted them to know about all the new technologies and scientific developments available, showing them that even in the midst of apparent despair, there is always room for hope.  As well, this Veteran’s Day he ran in the Riverfront24 endurance run, raising money for a local veteran’s services organization.

The PENewark Educational Efforts

Sometimes, parents and community leaders sit around and complain about the state of their public schools. Other times, energetic and charismatic people decide to take action and to make things better. The PENewark effort, spearheaded by Newark Mayor Cory Booker, falls into the second category.

In September of 2010, a bi-partisan coalition was created in Newark that included government officials and community leaders. The goal was to launch a comprehensive community outreach effort to get ideas for educational reform. In December of 2010, PENewark hosted 11 community forums and 25 mini-forums. They knocked on 66,000 doors and contacted 45,000 community members in total.

The first phase of their impressive efforts was created and managed by Tusk Strategies with Bradley Tusk. With the combined efforts of the Mayor, Bradley Tusk and Tusk Strategies and others, PENewark truly reached out to all areas of the city to find ways to make the Newark Public Schools better.

As a result of these efforts, a report was released by Rutgers University and New York University on May 12, 2011 showing how the community felt about their educational opportunities. Among other findings, the report showed that 74.3% of residents supported replacing principals at low-performing schools; 69.2% of residents polled were in favor of giving good teachers more pay; and 64.4% of residents agreed with the idea of replacing half the teachers at the low-performing schools.

PENewark continues to move ahead with their plans and goals to improve the schools in Newark and to elevate the educational opportunities for all. They received a great start with the help from Tusk Strategies and Bradley Tusk and they will move ahead to implement the many ideas and goals they have created.