Look For The Helpers

A certain man in a cardigan who had a thing for comfortable shoes once said to look for the people helping.

We took his words to heart and cast a net wide and far asking you to tell us about the people in your communities helping in big and small ways every day. There are lots more, we’re sure, but these are a few of the folks who play a role in everyone getting a shot at that most American of ideals: happiness.

Swami Durga Das

Queens, NY

How he is helping: For more than 25 years, he’s run The River Fund from his home to “Feed everyone…hold nothing back,” distributing 50,000 lbs of food each week to people in his neighborhood in need.

Sarah White

Charleston, SC

How she’s been helping: The arts activities coordinator of a local nursing home, Sarah jumped right in after the world jumped into a volcano to help the nurses keep the at-risk residents healthy and tended to the sick.

Ben Davidson

Grand Junction, UT

How he helps: As a wilderness therapy guide for kids who have struggled with physical, emotional, drug, or other types of abuse, Ben spends eight days in the wilderness at a time teaching them about independence and how to be self-sufficient.

Jonny Alexander

San Diego, CA

how he helps: By creating bright and hopeful large-scale murals in public places and bringing a little bit of color and joy to countless people’s days.

Charlie Russo

Port Jefferson, NY

How he’s helped: An attorney in Suffolk County, Charlie started Hope House Ministries, an alternative sentencing program for young men 40 years ago, playing an important role in keeping hundreds of them out of prison, and guided them toward fulfilling lives.

Saenz Ohana

Princeville, Kauai, HI

How they are helping: When the you-know-what hit this year, the family turned their food truck into a way to provide free meals to kids not getting their usual school lunch (in addition to regularly serving as a distribution point for getting other’s fruit that would have gone bad to those who need it).

Zach Bell

West Palm Beach, FL

How he’s helping: Launched Buccan Provisions in April to support the most vulnerable and has provided 10,000 meals a week to organizations such as No Kid Hungry and Feeding South Florida.

Brittany Norris

Atlantic Beach, FL

How she’s helping: Avid carer of people and plants, Brittany is co-founder of the Dig Local Network, nonprofit at the beaches in Jacksonville, FL, overseeing farmers markets, community gardens, and education programs for neighborhoods and community centers. Outside the garden she also has served in public office as a Commissioner in her community since 2017 until present.

Dustin Shryock

New York, NY

How he’s helped: A vet himself, Dustin co-runs The Headstrong Project, which provides cost-free and best-in-class mental healthcare to veterans and their families.

Louie Gong

Seattle, WA

How he helps: As an artist, educator and public speaker who was raised by his grandparents in the Nooksack tribal community, Louie has addressed racial and cultural identity throughout his career, and in 2014, launched the Inspired Natives Project to give highly skilled native artists a means to support themselves through their work.

Jen Tran

San Diego, CA

How she helps: A nurse practitioner and a US Navy Reservist most recently deployed to our beloved NYC to support Harlem Hospital on the COVID floor. Jen brought the experience she gained from volunteering with the International Medical Corps in Sierra Leone during their Ebola crisis.

Zachary “Billy” Manuel

Racine, OH

How he helps: Billy, is a fence mender, calf puller and unofficial tractor mechanic. His phone rings day and night with requests for him to clear a tree from the road or to help a neighbor vaccinate his cattle. He’s quick to help no matter the request and does it all without asking anything in return (although he likely won’t turn down a cold PBR).

Brian Mckenna

New York, NY

How he’s helped: The owner of a small pub, Brian is called “the Mayor of 14th Street” by some for tendency to be there for whoever needs it over the years. When the bar was shut down earlier this year, he still found odd jobs for undocumented workers to do around the bar so he could pay them since they weren’t making unemployment and had families to feed.

Syn Martinez

Harlem, NY

How he’s helping: By building a bridge between the police and the community through fitness. The CrossFit instructors coordinated community outreach to put members of Harlem’s precincts and local youth through their paces shoulder-to-shoulder, bonding over the “brutal” workouts.

David Coffin

Pownal, ME

How he is helping: According to his neighbors, “If you need elderberries to make jam that you sell to help you get through the winter, David will wade into mosquito-filled bogs to pick you some. If your lobster boat needs an emergency repair, Dave will drop everything and mill out the wood you need to fix it. If the barn door of your sheep barn gets wrecked by high winds, David will show up in the sideways sleet to figure something out.” You get the idea.

Katrin Casey with Recipient Travis Martin

Jacksonville Beach, FL

How she is helping: After her own battle with cancer, Katrin founded the wine-centric non-profit Chemo Noir (@chemonoir) to help support others (and their families) going through the fight.

Johnny Irwin & Hunter Chiles

San Francisco, CA

How they help: The City Surf Project, which they co-founded, reaches youth in underserved communities through surf instruction, and ensures equitable access to the ocean. Since its founding five years ago, the group has taken more than 2,000 kids surfing.