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Turkey & Dressing With A Side of Hope and Happiness

Sherry Rucherman

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Do You Smell Pumpkin Pie?

If you live in Massachusetts or Rhode Island and happen to catch a whiff of holiday cheer while passing a slightly weathered station wagon, you’ve just encountered Ty and Vicky Shen.

This father and daughter team have become local heroes, especially around the holidays, since they began delivering hot, healthy meals across the state in 2001. They love the open road, but the real joy is in the reaction they receive from those they serve.

They’re not in this alone. The Shens are only one of the teams regularly volunteering with Community Servings, a Massachusetts non-profit food program which specializes in modified meals for families and individuals with specific medical restrictions or other needs, often due to severe or chronic illnesses. That means the Shens and other volunteers reach households often unserved by similar programs because their needs are so specific.

Of course, neither the Shens nor Community Services forget about the families and caregivers involved. Every spouse, in-law, nurse, and child receives their own hot holiday meal.

The extra time and effort is more than worth it, they assure us.

“Those who can help, should,” says Ty. “Regardless if it’s time or other resources, helping our fellow man is our responsibility.” Vicky seems to agree.

“Volunteering with my dad is one of my favorite things to do,” she says. “I get to spend time with him, and the people at Community Servings are so wonderful. Most importantly, it feels great to do something on a daily basis helps people’s lives be a little bit better.”

Bringing It Together

Food is more than an essential requirement for life. It often means security, and comfort. Sometimes it represents plenty, but even in humble circumstances it can facilitate a sense unity and thanks.

“One of the most important elements of the holidays this time of year is togetherness,” says a representative from Community Services. “Sharing a meal has been a demonstration of trust, intimacy, and togetherness over the centuries and across cultures.”

That togetherness doesn’t just start when meals are delivered; it’s part of the process from the very beginning. Community Services volunteers prepare each dish on site, paying careful attention to the different restrictions and dietary needs they’ll be serving that day. Teams like the Shens spend most of their time delivering, but they’re no strangers to peeling potatoes or chopping cabbage or even – in a pinch – stuffing a bird or two.

It’s an enormous undertaking each and every time, but what determines whether or not it’s enjoyable work is the people involved, and the mindset they bring to the task. And most of the time, that makes Community Services as much of a family as those they serve during the holidays and throughout the year.

“Each year, our volunteers give more than 55,000 hours of service, which is the equivalent to almost 30 full time employees,” says David Waters, CEO of Community Servings. “There’s no way we could do any of this without their passion and their commitment.”

That passion and commitment are quickly driving Community Services towards their eight millionth meal. That’s right – eight with six zeroes after it! But the Shens, like most of those involved, don’t think of it in terms of the millions, or even the thousands of meals prepared and delivered each day.

To them, it’s always about the next door opened. The next family served. The next face smiling in recognition and appreciation. It’s always about the one at a time.

And as long as it’s up to the Shens, it always will be.

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Life

A Lost and Treasured Diary

Leslie Tander

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Luis Martinez was doing some routine cleaning when he found something potentially valuable among all of the trash. He was clearing away the garbage in a truck, but there was also a little book there. It’s always a good idea to examine something like that before throwing it out, even when cleaning a truck that already has plenty of genuine garbage in it. 

Some people may have thrown out the book anyway, since getting a truck ready for an automobile auction can be time-consuming enough as it is. Fortunately, Luis Martinez decided to take a look inside this apparently discarded book. His curiosity may have changed everything for the people who may receive this book in the future. 

After taking a few quick glances at the content of the book, Luis Martinez found out that he had discovered a diary. The book featured a lot of natural handwriting, and it was clearly written by someone who had a lot of deeply personal things to say. 

People have discovered very important historical artifacts in the same way. Many individuals may think that all of history’s treasures were carefully preserved for years or famous in their own time. While plenty of art pieces and architectural creations are like that, it isn’t always the case.

Some lost paintings have been found over the years, and they were later confirmed to be the works of some of the most famous artists in history. People have discovered written works in the same way at different points throughout time. 

Many of the most important historical artifacts have been the journals, letters, diaries, and essays that were written by the people who were actually alive in a given historical period. Professionals tend to turn to these documents in order to more accurately understand the attitudes, beliefs, and experiences of people from specific eras.

Historians tend to be thrilled when someone finds an old diary or something similar. It’s the sort of primary source that can make a huge difference in any form of historical survey research. Many historians tend to be enthusiastic about the people who manage to help preserve some of these works themselves. 

The diary that Luis Martinez found could be considered an important historical piece one day. Of course, it’s still a diary that is important in this time period, which is something that Luis Martinez certainly recognizes. 

Some of the people in his situation would have just gotten rid of the journal, since finding anyone connected with the journal would be difficult. Luis Martinez, on the other hand, is interested in making sure that the journal is brought back to where it belongs. 

The writer of the diary was in her early nineties. Her name was Lola Maxine. Depending on how old the diary is and how long ago everything was originally written, it’s possible that Lola Maxine herself could want the diary back. 

However, she was often specifically writing to Arabella Raine, her granddaughter. It’s possible that Arabella Raine should be the person to keep the diary. Lola Maxine’s other family members could also want it. However, it’s possible that the diary could become a treasured possession for the entire family. 

Luis Martinez is interested in bringing the diary to them, one way or another. It’s possible that they will find out about it the same way other people online have, making things easier for Luis Martinez. A lot of people have managed to find things that they have lost that way, even if they didn’t know that they lost them. They just need conscientious and kind people to find them initially. 

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Life

Shocking Moment Captured on Film as Mother and Son Leap into Gator Pit for Lost Wallet.

Mackenzie Freeman

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The city of Brainerd is nestled deep in Crow Wing County, Minnesota. Established in 1870, Brainerd is known as one of the largest cities in all of Northern Minnesota. Today’s story isn’t so much about the city of Brainerd as it is about two of the people within it. Recently, a mother and her young son made headlines around the country when they were captured on film leaping into the alligator pit at Safari North Wildlife Park in Brainerd, MN. What happened next was as harrowing as it was inexplicable. 

Safari North Wildlife Park is one of the most popular outdoor wildlife parks in the Midwest. This stunning park features family-friendly attractions, gorgeous animals, and wonderful sprawling enclosures.  From Snow Leopards and River Otters to the Vervet Monkey, there is always a spectacular animal to see. For the stars of our story, one animal stuck out in particular, the alligator.

When the viral video begins, we see a woman as well as her son standing outside of the alligator enclosure at the Safari North Wildlife Park. The massive pit is enclosed by a fence with only a pit of water in the center of the exhibit. Why were these two visitors in the wildly dangerous alligator pit? Well, that’s a story that seems almost impossible to understand. According to the mother, her wallet had dropped into the water of the enclosure. Rather than requesting assistance from a park employee, the mother jumped into the enclosure to fetch the wallet herself!

The fact that the mother leaped into the alligator pit was concerning in and of itself, especially for a wallet! To make matters even more dramatic and demonstrably worse, her young son quickly followed her! The young boy seemed determined to copy his mother to the horror of various onlookers. One concerned citizen yelled out to the family from a viewing balcony, “Don’t do that, you will get eaten!” 

The tension seemed to last forever as the mother and her son poked around the exhibit while looking for the lost wallet. To add to the tension of the moment, the mother was filmed throwing rocks at the alligators. At one point, the mother even used a stick to distract the gators to further her search for her lost alligator. While the film quickly went viral, this was completely unexpected according to the Safari North Wildlife Park. According to the staff at the facility, the video was the first time they were made aware of the incident.

If you think alligators aren’t dangerous, think again. Alligators are considered apex predators and they have been living on earth for millions of years. Considered ‘living fossils’, alligators are deceptively fast, enormously strong, and they grow their entire lives. In fact, the largest alligator of all time was found in Florida at the Everglades National Park. The alligator was measured in at 16 feet and five inches in length. We are all truly lucky that nobody was hurt during this video!

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Life

Pregnant Women are Concerned With New York Hospital’s Banning Birth Partners

Mackenzie Freeman

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It is an unnerving time for everyone, especially pregnant couples. With the healthcare system being overwhelmed due to the Coronavirus, many couples are wondering how their birthing plans will be impacted. One New York healthcare network has decided to ban birth partners from the delivery room. This has become a controversial topic that is worrisome to women across the country that their hospital could also adopt this policy.

New York-Presbyterian recently announced that it is banning visitors including birth partners. This means countless women will experience the labor and delivery process without the support of their loved ones.

This also means fathers will not be able to see their newborns until the babies are released from the hospital. There are temporary exceptions to the rule for the imminent end of life and specific patient’s needs. This is not comforting to most mothers who will be bringing their child into the world under these stressful and strained conditions.

New York-Presbyterian is taking a significant step in protecting expecting pregnant couples due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, this move is not calming the fears of women. The policy is certainly jarring considering the World Health Organization determined that the role of birth partners is crucial.

Birthing partners provide informational support during childbirth and liaise gaps between women and clinical staff. Companions also provide practical support, like encouraging women to be mobile during labor, provide non-pharmacological pain relief like meditation and massage, and offer emotional support.

Companions are advocates for women, addressing her and her preferences. Labor companions can help women build their confidence through praise, reassurance, and having a supportive presence while allowing them to feel in control.

Chief of Obstetrics at Columbia University, Dena Goffman, MD, notes that New York-Presbyterian’s decision was difficult, well-considered, and not taken lightly. They decided to ensure all potential visitors, including partners, remain safe. The hospital group also decided to test all incoming pregnant women for COVID-19, regardless of their symptoms.

This decision came after doctors noticed numerous women without symptoms or atypical symptoms later testing positive for the virus. Unfortunately, many labor symptoms mimic some COVID-19 symptoms, so these women were not identified by the usual screening method, testing processes, and infection prevention and control. Therefore, the virus protection practices were never implemented thus exposing staff members.

By implementing this new policy of testing women in labor, doctors can isolate newborns who may have been exposed. This is a significant preventative measure to stop an outbreak within non-infected baby nurseries. With such a huge number of cases in New York, this is an important step.

Dr. Goffman further noted that the hospital network is investigating other options for allowing birth partners and loved ones to be included in this special moment. The most promising idea is using technology. The hospital recognizes the need for additional family support for moms and mom and baby pairs when at the hospital.

While the WHO’s position on child partners has remained the same, they believe all pregnant women, including those with confirmed viral infection, are entitled to high-quality care throughout the entire pregnancy.  

The new COVID-19 world is unknown, unpredictable, and scary with situations evolving by the minute. However, planning and flexibility allow women to have a normal birthing experience. Also, consult your medical team with any concerns or questions you may have about the pregnancy or COVID-19. Hopefully, technology will be able to play a bigger role for family and friends in the future so the mother and birthing partner can continue to have and provide support before, during, and after the pregnancy.

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