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SAVING A LIFE, ONE ANIMAL AT A TIME

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Deming Animal Guardians (DAGs) has been addressing the issues of unwanted or abused pets as well as the care and well being of pets in low-income household for the past 25 years. Their impact has been felt throughout Luna County, New Mexico, and has even inspired others to chip in. However, one individual, Mike Reitz, has done far more than just chip in.

Mike and his wife Lisa both have a passion for animals, and always want to do more for them. They have been working with animals for some time at their Sunshine Grooming business, but have since shifted their efforts to helping animals in need. They want to give every animal born in their area a fighting chance. To do this, they have began developing their property into a facility to house and rehome unwanted, abused and abandoned pets. Mike has worked endlessly setting up the no-kill shelter and taking in animals all over Deming and Luna Counties. Mike and Lisa have placed over 1,000 pets into loving and caring homes, and the number is continually growing. Mike has not stopped working, as he is continually building more shelters and making room for more animals to be helped. The community has noticed Mike’s efforts and supports him however they are able. Mike says, “There are just too many people to mention, but we greatly appreciate the support. We have no running costs and it’s been strictly volunteer.” Mike knows how important any and all support and donations are. To insure they are getting the most out of the contributions of others he oversees and provides the energy for all advancements. Along with finding new homes for animals in need, the Reitz’s work closely with DAGs to offer support to low-income families, so that they help create a better life for the animals that are already part of a loving household. Together they have distributed over 14,000 lbs of emergency food to individuals in need, and this has only been possible through the donations they have received.

Mike, we recognize your endless compassion and hard work towards providing better lives for the animals of your community, as well as inspiring others to give back and donate the way they have!

MAN SKIPS AN INTERVIEW TO SAVE A STRANGER


These days, job interviews are not the easiest thing to come by. They are especially difficult when you've been out of prison for only seven days, but Aaron Tucker came out of jail with a new perspective on life, and he was not going to let his past put limitations on his future.

Three weeks after being sentenced, he received a call that his son was born. “I heard my son crying in the background, and right then and there I was like, 'I'm changing my life’.” When he was released, he knew that if he worked hard things would start working in his favor, and he would be able to provide for his son.

Just a week after his release, Aaron started realizing the benefits of this new outlook on life as he put on a dress shirt he received from a halfway home and got on the bus for a job interview. Somewhere along the route, however, the bus driver came to a sudden stop as a car in front of them hit a tree and flipped. Aaron jolted up and asked the driver if he was going to stop to help the driver. "No, but if you get out I'm going to leave,” the driver replied. Without hesitation, Aaron jumped off the bus and sprinted over to the man, whose car was now lying upside down. When he got there the man had already lost a lot of blood from his head, and his bleeding showed no signs of slowing. Aaron pulled the man from the car, as it was now starting to catch fire, and took off his dress shirt to control the man's bleeding. "You're going to be all right," Aaron kept reminding the man as they lay together in the middle of the street. "Your family wants to see you. Keep your eyes open." He continued to lie next to the man, encouraging him and controlling the bleeding until first responders showed up. When they did arrive, Aaron stayed near, grasping the man's arm as they gave him oxygen. “I just wanted to make sure he was alright, and that's what I did,” Aaron said.

Unfortunately, Aaron missed his job interview, but, in his mind, he knew that jobs come and go, but “a life is one time thing." In the end, however, he was rewarded for doing the right thing, as the local community noticed his heroic actions and set up a gofundme page for Aaron and his son. A local businessman gave him a tailored suit to wear to future job interview, and Aaron has since received lots of job offers.

When Aaron was in jail he knew he was going to be the best role model he could be for his son when his sentence was done. He started by getting his GED and becoming a tutor for other inmates while serving, and certainly continued to be a role model by putting his life on hold to help save a stranger's life. We recognize you, Aaron, for your selfless act.


HOMELESS IN HIGHSCHOOL, COURAGEOUS TEEN GETS ACCEPTED TO STANFORD UNIVERSITY

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Adversity finds people in different ways and at different times. It seems everyone endures some kinds of hardships in their lives but how one handles these tough times varies drastically. Some people give up, some people lean on others for support, some accept it and move on, and others use it at motivation to far surpass any expectations. Unfortunately, the latter is not always the most common approach. To rise up from our lowest lows takes bravery and courage. It takes drive and a self-belief that life will get better.

 Megan Faircloth was homeless, 17, and finishing her junior year of high school. This is not exactly the recipe for success. Megan could have easily dropped out of school, got the first job she could find in order to have a bed to sleep in, and nobody would have blamed her. However, Megan was bound for bigger and better things, and was not going to let adversity or a hardship distract her from the future she envisioned.

 When Megan and her mom first found themselves without a place to live, Megan picked up a book for guidance. That book was Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. it gave her hope that there were other people who had triumphed over adversity, and she too could overcome this hardship.

Taking this philosophy to heart, Megan stayed in school. Not only did she stay in school, but she challenged herself everyday. She took a course load full of advanced placement classes and excelled at all of them, despite having less than ideal conditions for completing the course requirements. She would have to do her homework outside in parks or in their car, “which was difficult, if the homework required internet or something."

Megan says of her lowest point, “When we were outside and it started raining and it was windy outside and I was trying to pin down my homework with all of my books and stuff like that and it started raining on my homework and I was like, 'This can either be the end or this is the beginning of me fighting on and deciding to go through all of this and try my best. I just tried to keep my spirit up."

She did exactly that. During her senior year Megan got a letter from Stanford University congratulating her on her acceptance into one of the top universities in the world. She was also valedictorian of her high school. Despite the lows and troubled times during her high school career, Megan never wavered on her dream of finding success. Her mom said she never lost her sense of humor or encouragement for others. She didn’t blame anyone for the hand she had been dealt, and didn’t expect or rely on anyone but herself to make the best of it. To show this kind of drive and positivity shows maturity and courage beyond her years, and for that, we recognize you Megan.

SEATTLE DAD PAYS OFF SCHOOL LUNCH DEBT TO PREVENT SHAMING


Certain headlines have a tendency to grab someone's attention and inspire their imagination. It is often a problem or issue that is presented and it may cause someone to take a step back and come up with ideas on ways they could help or solve this problem. Too often, however, these ideas do not get put into action. In this instance, though, it was.

The specific headline that prompted action was about school lunch shaming at Seattle public schools, in which schools would shame kids who could not afford lunch. These kids would not receive food, and they would be singled out with wrist band or hand stamps. It is hard to understand why these children would receive this kind of treatment on issues that are seemingly outside of their control. However, it certainly inspired individuals' imaginations, and one individual did not let a good idea remain dormant.

Jeff Lew of Seattle is a product of the Seattle public school system, and sends his own children to schools in the district. This article certainly came at a surprise for Jeff. “Reading that article was really awful," Lew said. "It broke my heart because I was thinking if that was my son at school, and they forced him to clean tables or toss food away, I'd be a very angry parent. No kid should be shamed regardless of if they have money to buy lunch." He took this emotion and used it to create a fundraiser on a crowdfunding site with hopes of eliminating the $20,000 school lunch debt in Seattle.

The response was far more than he expected. Lew hit his goal in just five days thanks in part to a few large donations from The Safeway Foundation and John Legend, who gave $5,000 to the cause. With the success Lew received with his Seattle campaign, he has since adjusted his goal to $50,000 with hopes of erasing school lunch debt in the neighboring Renton and Tacoma school districts.

Eye catching headlines are all around us, in every medium and platform, with hopes of receiving clicks or views. Far too often it stops there, for many reasons, whether it’s not having enough time to do anything, or fear one is not capable of making a difference. Jeff shows how far a simple act and a little time can go, and we recognize him for that!

A BLACKSMITH CHANGES A LIFE IN A SINGLE MOMENT


In a 19th century blacksmith shop, Rob Lyon was working away at his forge when a little boy ran up, grabbed his leg and asked to be his friend. Without a second thought Mr. Lyon told the little boy that it would be his honor. He had no idea who the little boy was, or the impact this would have on him. The boy was Will Mitcham, a hyperactive and friendly child who has been diagnosed with autism. His mother was often over-protective, and worried that people did not always understand her son and were not very sensitive towards him. She feared that he would not be accepted. That all changed with Mr. Lyon's act of kindness and compassion.

After agreeing to befriend the young boy, Rob asked Ms. Mitcham if he could stay and help him finish his work. The blacksmith spent the rest of the day patiently teaching and showing Will the tricks of his trade. It was another day at work for Mr. Lyon, with nice company, but for Will and his mom it left them a new perspective on life. “His kindness to my son made me realize that I didn’t need to be as protective of my son as I had been – that by trying to shield him from potential hurt, I was actually robbing him of precious opportunities ... to meet and interact with some incredible people.”

Not only did it impact his mom in this way, it also had a huge impact on Will himself, who has made it a part of his everyday life to pay it forward. “He taught me to give kids who have special needs a lot more patience and to teach them the best you can,” said Will. “He also taught me that everyone is worth the same, no matter who they are or what they can do. He made me feel happy, because he became my friend and taught me a lot about how to make people feel important and to be kind. He also taught me respect, patience and kindness, and let me help out in the forge, which was something that I always wanted to do and still want to do.”

Will was able to go back to that the Old Sturbridge Village blacksmith shop and thank his friend for his actions some years ago. Rob was very humbled by the story and felt honored to have been able to have the impact he has had on Will’s life. Although many kids have made their rounds in the Old Sturbridge Village blacksmith shop, none will hold onto the memory the way will has, “After meeting the blacksmith, I felt like somebody finally saw me for who I was, and I still feel like I matter because of him. People with autism should not be made fun of, but they should be given patience and shown kindness. I wish that more people were like the blacksmith.” We recognize both Mr. Lyon for his incredible act of compassion, as well as Will, for his ability to use it as a constant reminder to pay it forward and give back.

MAN SENDS STRANGER BACK TO SCHOOL


Not everyone leaves a lasting impression with those they meet, and that's to be expected. We can be so consumed in our own lives or distractions that face-to-face interactions sometimes go in one ear and out the other. But when someone takes the time to listen to someone else that crosses their path, and sympathize with them, they allow an impression to be made. When Donald Carter allowed a Popeyes employee to make an impression on him, it was a lasting one.

Carter got home late from work and hadn’t make plans for dinner, so he made an irregular trip to his neighborhood Popeyes where Shajuana Mays was waiting to help at the drive-thru. She was polite and engaging, with a special spark that he knew was bound for bigger and better things. He asked her what she wanted to do in life, and she told him she wanted to go back to school to become a nurse. He got is chicken and took it home to eat. As he sat there and ate he had a thought. “What if I pay for this girls school?” Carter knew he could not do it alone, but he also knew that he had 1,300 Facebook friends, and with a little help he could make this possible. So he reached out to his friends and in a week was able to raise over $13,000 for a complete stranger. It was far greater than his initial benchmark, but the community came together in a way that he could have never expected.

Shajuana had encountered setbacks in her life that put her dream on hold but this act left her speechless. Carter went on to say, “Any obstacles you have, we have a whole city and maybe even a nation to remove whatever roadblocks there are. “This is not about us, it’s about you… it’s about the community supporting somebody who wants to do better.” Well, we do recognize you Donald Carter, for your incredible act of compassion to improve the life of a stranger.

FIREFIGHTER'S PRAYERS ARE ANSWERED AFTER DELIVERING A BABY ON A CALL


After a slow day at the station, a Myrtle Beach firefighter went on a call that would forever change his life. A women complaining of stomach pain developed into a serious call as the women began giving birth. “We got her some oxygen, started some IVs and literally as we were getting ready to leave the parking lot in the ambulance, my partner said, ‘We're about to deliver a baby right here.' We had no time to prepare. Before we could do anything — we hadn't even cut her clothes — Gracie came right out. Immediately she was handed to me."

Marc Hadden had been with the fire department for 20 years and never delivered a baby until this fateful day. They got the mom and baby to the hospital safely and both were doing well. Had that been the end of it, Hadden would have had a day he would not forget for a long long time. However, it turned into one he would remember with great clarity for the rest of his life.

Marc and his wife had been praying for a third child but were not being successful. At the hospital, Hadden learned that the mother wanted to put the baby up for adoption immediately. It was an answered prayer in the most unexpected manner. After talking to his wife, the Hadden’s brought Gracie home two days later, and she's forever part of their family now. We recognize you, Marc Hadden.

MAN DONATES KIDNEY TO WIFE ON 20TH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY


Celebrating a 20th wedding anniversary is a big deal in itself, to be able to look back on 20 years of memories that one another were able to share is truly a special connection that is not just given. It requires hard work and whole lot of love to hold that together. Traditionally, at this momentous point in a relationship a husband may spring for a beautiful set of china for his wife to impress her family and friends on special occasions. For Scott Chafain that just would not do. When he said his vows 20 years ago, he intended to keep them for as long as he live, and that is just what he is doing. In ‘sickness’ and in health he will be there for his wife Cindy.


Cindy, 45, has a polycystic kidney disease that has left her surviving on dialysis. She was diagnosed with the disease when she was just 22 but really started to feel the effects when she was 38, by 40 she was on a transplant list. Scott went right in to see if he was a match. As it turns out he was. Expectedly, Cindy was not ready to make that leap, asking for a donation is no easy task, and when the one you love most is involved it becomes even harder. However, her health declined, dialysis left her in pain and feeling as if she was unable to do her job as a mother. Scott began pushing the issue and doing his part encouraging her to take the next step.  When she was finally ready, Scott was already waiting. Cindy was overcome with emotion by the purest act of love she could have ever imagined. Certainly a hard gift to follow, however, it is one that will be enjoyed by Scott, Cindy and their children for a lifetime to come.

POLICE OFFCIER FLIPS THE SCRIPT AND SAVES A LIFE


In today's day and age the media has made it seem so easy for a man to be killed by a police officer. So easy and efficient in fact, that one may use it as a means of suicide when unable to pull the trigger themself. However, when Lt. Dan Selkman is on the call, the outcome is quite the contrary.

Coy Williams of Wilmington, Delaware had lived a long, hard life. Starting at a young age, it was hard for Williams to connect with people, to find closeness. He lived the greater part of his 62 years feeling alone, protected by the wall he had built up around him. Until one day he felt he could no longer go on. The life was not worth living anymore. He went to a gun shop and picked up a .22-caliber hand gun, thinking this would be the last purchase he would ever make.

As he sat on the couch with the gun in his clinch, holding it up, he was unable to pull the trigger, something inside him just could not go through with it, but his feelings were still there. So he instead picked up the phone and called who he thought would be able to go through with it, the police, informing them he was armed and dangerous  Lt. Selkman took the call, and instead of arriving with guns loaded, he came with a gentle tone, doing all he could to convince Williams of all he had to live for. To Williams disappointment, Selkman was not the same man he was perceived to be in the media, Williams turned his back and fired a shot into his own stomach.

He woke later in the hospital with thoughts at first of failure, for he was unable to be successful in his suicide attempt, and then replaced with thoughts of wonder, on how he could do this to himself. He was unable to think straight because he had so many thoughts. But what was special was who was there by his side, Lt. Selkman. He gave Williams his word that he would help him get through this, with no time frame in mind. A failed suicide would not get in his way helping Coy get back on his feet and moving in the right direction. Lt. Selkman has continued to do just that for months now, and their relationship has grown into a true friendship. Coy is a regular at family dinners with the Selkman family. Coy also now has someone he is comfortable opening up to and sharing meaningful conversation with.

With all the negative preconceived ideas of who a police officer is, it is a breath of fresh air to see the positive light Lt. Dan Selkman has brought to the media. It is important to recognize people flipping the script and encourage others to share stories like this.  

WOMAN IS THERE FOR A STRANGER WHEN SHE NEEDED HER MOST


It is important to remember that it does not take a grand or laborious act to touch someone's life, make a difference, and be recognized. However, often it is the little things that people shy away from. They are not always planned or convenient and requires one to divert from the path or schedule they have for the day. They also don’t always get the attention that more extravagant gestures do although they can be just as important and impactful. Stephanie Uhlenberg however, did not let these things get in her way from touching the life of someone in need.

Amongst the havoc of a mall on Black Friday, Stephanie saw a stranger, Angel Mott, sitting on the shelves of a store crying, sobbing in fact. Rather than walking past in wonder or conjuring up possible explanations for Angel actions, Stephanie stopped, sat down next to Angel and embraced her. Angel had just received the news that her mother, only 57 years of age, had passed away. Perhaps the saddest, most difficult time in one's life would have had to be experienced alone had it not been for Stephanie. “I didn't want to be alone at that time, and I wasn’t “ Mott said. She was comforted by the warm embrace of a stranger that stopped to help one in need. Stephanie did not stop to get her name in the paper or because it was convenient, she merely did what she would hope someone would do for her or her daughter in a time of need. We recognize you Stephanie Uhlenberg for recognizing one in need and living in the moment.