A Small Group that Fixes Neighbors’ Homes Grows to 3.4 Million Volunteers

A small group of grassroots activists in Midland, Texas has spread hope to homeowners in need, providing critical home repairs free of charge. Since its inspiring start 30 years ago, “Rebuilding Together” has grown to a nationwide network of 3.4 million volunteers who have delivered services worth $1.3 billion to families, the elderly, veterans and community centers.

Realizing their neighbors’ homes had fallen into disrepair, the original group in Texas with the help of local banks pooled their labor and skill and to set about to fix the problem. “At the very end I thought, ‘Maybe I am going to lose my home forever.’ But then I found Rebuilding Together,” said Sara, a Rebuilding Together homeowner. “They gave me hope that my home could be saved.”

This simple act of neighbors helping neighbors inspired others, spread slowly, and then across the country — with the help of larger corporate partners — which eventually led to the opening of the Rebuilding Together National Headquarters in 1988. Today, Rebuilding Together consists of 200 chapters throughout the United States that have completed work on more than 100,000 homes, some left damaged by natural disasters.

The goodwill of volunteers is matched by the charity and energy provided by corporate partners, like TD Bank, Sears, Lowes, Safeway, which not only provide materials and financial support but enlist employees and their families to join the rebuilding army. The teams also retrofit homes to become more energy efficient for those who can’t afford their heating bills. Governments too, support the effort through federal agencies and groups like the AmeriCorps service members. Even professional sports are involved, through NBA Cares and a partnership with the MLB All-Star Game.

For more information or to get involved visit: RebuildingTogether.org/how-you-can-help

Source: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org


Photos of the Day


A Soldier and a Squirrel

One day, a group of soldiers in Belarus found a baby squirrel while out on patrol. The squirrel was in need of urgent care, so they brought it back to their commanding officer. The officer brought it inside and began to care for it. He fed it and warmed it every hour, making sure the little squirrel was slowly getting stronger. Once the the squirrel began to act healthy, the squirrel didn’t want to leave the officer’s side. The unique duo became inseparable. When the officer left the army, he took the squirrel with him. Now, the man works as a cab driver and brings his little friend along with him – the squirrel would have it no other way. Check out the photos below…

Jesse the Jack

This video will make you smile from ear to ear. If only I had that kind of joy when doing household chores…

Thought for the Day


What leaves you feeling bad, do less of. What leaves you feeling good, do more of.” -Martha Beck

Feel-Good Videos of the Day

Adopted Dog Pays Owners Back by Saving Baby

Man and Goose Form Unlikely Friendship

5 Pieces of Advice Everyone Ignores (but Shouldn’t!) by Martha Beck

1. What leaves you feeling bad, do less of. What leaves you feeling good, do more of.
This one suggestion is all you really need to find your destiny, form loving relationships, achieve optimal health, and have the best life story in the bingo parlor during your golden years. And it isn’t hard to remember, judging by the fact that worms easily take it to heart. Put a worm at the bottom of a simple T-shaped maze, with food in the left side of the top and a mild electric shock in the right, and it will develop fervent leftist inclinations. Yet many clever humans turn repeatedly to the very things that ruin our health and happiness: artery-clogging junk food, alcoholic lovers, soul-crushing jobs.

We do this because, unlike worms, we convince ourselves that there are good reasons to do ourselves harm. We say things like “I had a hard day; I deserve this industrial-size bag of chips.” Or “You always hurt the one you love.” Or “But I need the paycheck!” Worms have to experience a maze several times before they start making optimal decisions. Once the experience registers, however, they trust it. Not so with us. We over-think.

Today, try pausing before any action you take and recall how that action made you feel in the past. For example, writing often seems frightening or burdensome to me before I start, yet as many writers before me have said, I love having written. On the other hand, while nothing seems more appetizing to me than baked goods, I know that both wheat and sugar leave me feeling droopy and queasy. Just pausing to vividly recall the past result of each action helps me choose writing over procrastination and bananas over cookies. If you think through how each action leaves you feeling, you’ll find yourself more and more able to choose those that add up to your best life.

2. To achieve bigger goals, take smaller steps.
As a teenager, I often injured myself trying to run mountain trails. Then I noticed that bikers downshift to climb hills. I began mimicking them, taking steps so tiny they felt inconsequential. This allowed me to run uphill quickly without getting tired, winded, or hurt. The one race in which I actually placed was on a mountain trail where I scurried along like a mouse on a mission, zipping past runners whose gazelle-like leaps were taxing their lungs and ruining their knees.

It turns out that the tiny-steps approach applies to any difficult thing, from schoolwork to parenthood to career. The bigger the task, the smaller my steps. If I feel myself tiring or avoiding tasks, I cut my steps in half, then in half again, until each step feels easy. Between steps, I give myself a reward—nothing huge, just a ten-minute nap in the sun, a smoothie, some online window shopping.

My clients find this shocking. They want to achieve big goals, and they love those spectacular, gazelle-like leaps. One client I’ll call Roberta planned to start getting up two hours early each morning, running to the gym, and lifting weights before work. She’d had this plan for five years. She hadn’t acted on it once. I suggested that, instead, she get up five minutes early, put on gym clothes, then have coffee—full stop. She thought this ridiculous (they always do), but it worked (it usually does). Roberta’s five minutes in gym clothes grew to ten, then to 15, then to a Zumba class she loved. She’s still increasing her fitness, one tiny step at a time.

3. Lie down and rest for a while.
Speaking of health regimens, there’s a big piece of getting fit that most of us shortchange: rest. The majority of my clients who complain of depression, anxiety, irritability, and weight gain are actually chronically tired. The problems caused by lack of rest can feel so intricate, but the solution is so simple: Lie down, dear. Just lie down. Totally relaxing for just ten minutes can reenergize your body, sharpen your mind, and make you much less likely to weep when you can’t find a stapler.

4. When you don’t know what to say, try the truth.
I won’t lie: Investing in resting can cause social awkwardness. For example, an acquaintance I’ll call Jill recently asked me to drive an hour (each way) to meet her for dinner. I was exhausted, and though I like Jill, I’ve learned the hard way that when I put politeness over basic needs, I end up feeling resentful, which damages the relationship. When I suggested that Jill and I take a rain check, she frostily asked what could possibly be more important than a chance to connect with her. I tried to invent a fictional business trip or convincing symptoms of bird flu, but my perfidious mouth blurted the truth: “I want to lie down.”

I felt Jill’s outrage as she absorbed the fact that on my priority list, getting some rest outranked dining with her. Truth often has this effect, but despite the initial sting, it makes for stronger relationships. If I’d lied, I’d have misled Jill and angered myself. I want friends who want what’s best for me, and Jill can either accept that or find someone who’s willing to dine under duress. No matter what your truth may be—about political views, movie preferences, the desire to live “off the grid” eating roadkill—calmly expressing it cuts a clear path through the jungle of social connection.

5. Free yourself from dysfunctional people by refusing to try to control them.
You don’t even need to say it—I can already hear you thinking: If I tell the truth in every awkward situation, there will be hell to pay with my mother/husband/sister/coworker/book club! I get it: There are people in your life who, for various reasons, don’t want your truth. You may think you have to change those people to live in total authenticity. Don’t even try.

I labored for decades to make sad people happy, rigid people flexible, aggressive people empathetic, and so on, before finally noticing that (1) this never worked, and (2) it drove me insane. Then I read codependency expert Melody Beattie’s advice on how to deal with dysfunctional people: “Unhook from their system by refusing to try to change or influence them.” This felt totally alien and absolutely right, and it works. The key, I’ve found, is to stay the heck away from the idea of “making” someone do, feel, or think anything. This is not your job. Your job is to maximize your own happiness, kindness, and health. Let others choose whether to follow.

You’ve already had enough life experience to notice when a situation, a person, or a task is marked “poison.” Remember how much that situation hurt the last time, and choose one that feels better now. Take small steps, lying down often along the way. Tell the truth and stay in your own business. Anything else is poison. And if you actually use this seldom-followed advice, you may one day wake up and realize that your life has become a wonderland.

Source: http://www.oprah.com

Study Finds Looking at Cute Images Improves Concentration

Puppies. Kittens. Fat babies. These are the cute things in life we love to coo about, but who knew that the mere sight of them could heighten our mental skills? A new study by Japanese researchers now shows there are more benefits to looking at pictures of these universal delights than just getting a case of the warm and fuzzies. Afterwards, we concentrate better.

Such is the “Power of Kawaii”, as a paper documenting the research is appropriately titled. The Japanese word “kawaii” means cute. The paper was published in the online edition of the U.S. journal Plos One. Through three separate experiments a team of scientists from Hiroshima University showed that people showed higher levels of concentration after looking at pictures of puppies or kittens.

About 132 university students were divided up into three groups. Each group was assigned a different task. The first two had the most compelling results. The first was a version of the game Operation where participants had to carefully pick up small objects from a hole without brushing the sides. But to also determine whether the power of cute extends beyond care-related tasks irrelevant to helping others, another task was purely about numbers. The second group was asked to find a given number from a random sequence of numbers within a certain time limit. In both, they performed the given tasks twice – before and after looking at seven pictures of either puppies and kittens or adult versions. In the number experiment, one subset of subjects was given food images like steak, pasta and sushi to see whether “pleasant” images elicited similar effects as cute ones. The subjects were told the pictures, which were viewed during a “break” in the tasks, were for a separate experiment.

In the Operation experiment, the participants who were shown images of puppies and kittens performed their tasks better after the break than those who looked at cats and dogs. Performance scores improved by 44%. They also took their time. The time it took to complete the task increased by 12%. “This finding suggests that viewing cute images makes participants behave more deliberately and perform tasks with greater time and care,” said the researchers, according to the published paper.The study’s authors write that in the future cute objects could be used as a way to trigger emotions “to induce careful behavioral tendencies in specific situations, such as driving and office work.”

Source: http://www.wsj.com

Town Turns Tables on School Prank

Whitney Kropp, a free spirit with few friends, was named to the homecoming court as a joke by her classmates, but the tiny farm town of West Branch has rallied around her. (Dale G. Young / The Detroit News)

Whitney Kropp, a free spirit with few friends, was named to the homecoming court as a joke by her classmates, but the tiny farm town of West Branch has rallied around her. (Dale G. Young / The Detroit News)

High school student Whitney Kropp was shocked earlier this month when she was named to the homecoming court. Her happy surprise turned to humiliation when she learned the reason. The students thought it would be funny if the popularity contest was won by someone who was unpopular. Kids pointed at her in the hallways and laughed. The boy who was picked with her withdrew. Students told her that, in case she was wondering why the boy had dropped out, he was uncomfortable being linked with her. “I thought I wasn’t worthy,” said Kropp, 16. “I was this big old joke.”

Her embarrassment was complete, but it didn’t last long. A tiny farm town an hour north of Saginaw quickly rallied around her. For the homecoming dance, businesses will buy her dinner, take her photo, fix her hair and nails, and dress her in a gown, shoes and a tiara. For the homecoming game, residents will pack the football stadium so they can cheer when she is introduced at halftime. They will be wearing her favorite color (orange) and T-shirts with messages of support. A 68-year-old grandmother offered to be her escort. “I am in awe, overwhelmed at the amount of support,” said Jamie Kline, 35, who began a Facebook support page. “I never expected it to spread as far as it has.”

For Kropp, a sophomore at Ogemaw Heights High, it’s been a remarkable transformation. Before the homecoming vote, she was either ignored or scorned by classmates. Now, when she isn’t fielding yet another free offer from a business, she’s being lauded by hundreds of strangers on the support page. Cast in an unlikely role, she has embraced it. She vowed to continue representing the sophomore class, even if she has to do it alone.


“In the Homecoming Court! :)” Kropp wrote on her Facebook page. “Little nervous but this is going to be fun :D”

“Probably not with Josh though,” wrote back a sophomore girl.

“He couldnt do it cause of football plus he never goes to homecoming,” said Kropp.

“That’s not what he told everybody,” said the girl.

“what did he say?” asked Kropp.

The other girl didn’t respond.

“Oh. Well it don’t matter to me anyways,” Kropp wrote four minutes later. “I thought it would be awkward anyways.”

That night, Kropp’s mom found her crying in her bedroom. She no longer wanted to do it. Kropp’s mom, sister and grandmother told her that she should show up the bullies by going to the game and having a great time. Several friends said the same thing. Before going to bed, she decided they were right.

“Going to homecoming to show them that I’m not a joke,” she wrote on Facebook. “Im a beautiful person and you shouldn’t mess with me!”

Word of the prank quickly spread through this small town. Kropp’s sister told her friends, who told their parents, who told their friends. The Facebook support page was created, quickly drawing hundreds of messages of encouragement. The page has more likes (more than 3,500) than the town has people (2,100). A bank account was opened for Kropp’s homecoming expenses but wasn’t needed. So many businesses donated services that everything was covered.

After the uproar in town and on the Web, Awrey, the football player elected with Kropp, changed his mind and decided to remain a class rep.

It’s hard to eclipse high school football in a small town but West Branch will give it a try. Residents will fill the concrete stands behind the high school for the homecoming game against Cadillac High. Some are grads who haven’t been to a game in decades. Many won’t be there for the football. Clutching posters and wearing T-shirts that say “Team Whitney,” they will cheer heartily at halftime.

Source: http://www.detroitnews.com

Crow Nursed Back to Health Becomes Part of the Family (Video)

This past spring, an Ottawa family found an injured baby bird in the grass near a bike path and took it home to nurse it back to health. Now fully grown, Walter the crow is free to fly away, but he thinks he is part of the family. He daily walks the kids to and from their school and curls up on the couch when they’re sick. So cute!

(WATCH the video below or READ the story from CBC)

Walter the crow.

Source: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org

Spotlight on… the Camellia Network

Camellia Network was founded by brand strategist Isis Dallis Keigwin and best-selling author and foster mother Vanessa Diffenbaugh (I just finished reading her book The Language of Flowers and it was incredible! The best recount of foster care I have ever read in a novel). In late 2010, these long-time friends with very different personal and professional backgrounds decided to combine their expertise and passions for good and set out to revolutionize the way youth transitioning out of foster care in this country were viewed and supported.

With a remarkably generous heart, Vanessa donated the advance earnings of her best-selling novel The Language of Flowers to get them off the ground. With a brave spirit, Isis left a wildly successful career as a Vice President at one of the world’s leading advertising and public relations firms to develop the strategy and lead the organization.

The two believed that if they could bring these young people out of the shadows, celebrate who they are and what they are aspiring to achieve, and then give everyday people and organizations across the country a simple way to lend their support and resources, that they could dramatically improve the outcomes for foster youth transitioning out of care in this country. Thanks to the help of a small but mighty group of early funders and believers, the two were able to prove their theory of change through a successful pilot program in 2011. Encouraged and inspired by their early success, the two, along with their small but mighty team, are now excited to launch Camellia Network.

Camellia Network harnesses the power of new technology to connect youth “aging out” (a term used when at the age of eighteen the state is no longer responsible for these individuals and many of them become homeless) of the foster care system with a community of resources, opportunities, encouragement and support. Youth have profiles on the site, giving them a place to express themselves, share their goals for the future and articulate what they need to be successful. Individuals and companies from across the country are able to collectively provide the support these young people lack by offering up doses of encouragement, career advice, professional connections, and financial support to help them navigate their way into adulthood.

This innovative platform is the first of its kind in the child welfare sector, and highly reputable and respected thought leaders are already singing their praises:

“For young people who have overcome unimaginable circumstances, a kind word, a small gift or help with an unexpected need can mean the difference between staying on the path or giving up. The Camellia Network has created an elegant and powerful way for people from all walks of life to become part of a community of support to youth aging out of foster care, and to reassure them that they are not alone, we see their potential, and they deserve the amazing future they are building for themselves.” –Teri Kook, Director of Child Welfare, Stuart Foundation

“For over twenty years, state and local governments have been trying to help foster youth make a successful transition to independence as adults. Progress has been painfully slow. The Camellia Network is the most exciting new approach to helping foster youth make a successful transition to that I know of. They are approaching the issue from an entirely new angle, harnessing the enormous potential of the Internet. It could revolutionize the field.” –Michael Wald, Researcher and Educator

“I worked for 30 years in the state legislature and have now dedicated myself to advocating for child welfare policy reform. It is exciting for me to see Camellia Network calling on the public to be part of the solution, and making it easy for them to do so. While we are making strides with policy at the institutional level, they are getting at the heart of what these kids really need in real time.” –John Burton, Former CA State Senator, Founder John Burton Foundation

In the Victorian-era Language of Flowers, the camellia means my destiny is in your hands. Camellia Network is named after this flower to emphasize the founders’ belief in the interconnectedness of humanity; a reminder that the success or failure of these young people is directly tied to our own.

Learn more about how you can get involved.

Source: http://www.camellianetwork.org