The news can be pretty depressing during a global pandemic. But if you look hard enough, you’ll find things that will make you smile, tear up, gasp with delight and reinforce your belief in the goodness of people.
Amway went looking for those stories as part of its #GivetoGivers contest on Instagram. In the nominations, people shared stories of others doing wonderful things in the face of some of the most challenging circumstances of their lives.
Amway is giving something back to those who are giving so much of themselves during this pandemic. After sifting through all of the submissions, seven people were chosen to receive a $5,000 donation to the charity of their choice—five by Amway US and two by Amway Canada.
Because there were so many worthy nominations, six runners-up also were chosen will receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice.
Amway sends a huge “Thank you!” to these givers and to the countless other ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Here are their stories.
Imraan Assim, Ontario
Charity: Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter
Imraan has been a longtime supporter of the Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter along with several other shelters in his area. Now, he is more focused than ever on helping the shelter for women and children in Etobicoke, Ontario.
He organized friends, family and a local restaurant to provide 30 dinners in 30 nights for the shelter and arranged for a donation of essential cleaning and personal hygiene supplies that the shelter desperately needed.
“While everyone is ensuring to be healthy and stay safe, we can’t forget that there are others who remain in need of our help,” Imraan said.
Matthew Barnett, California
Charity: LA Dream Center
When the Los Angeles Unified School District closed March 16, Pastor Matthew Barnett, cofounder of the LA Dream Center, committed to provide meals to students who depended on school lunches to survive.
Due to escalating unemployment, feeding students turned into providing meals for entire families, homeless people, and even creating a program to deliver meals to homebound seniors. He also manages to provide cleaning supplies, diapers, toilet paper and other self-care products to hundreds of families.
At day 34, Pastor Matthew and his team had provided 320,000 meals, working 11-hour days, seven days a week to address needs.
“Pastor Matthew … is a humble man who makes everyone around him feel like they matter,” his nominator wrote. “Pastor Mathew is always ready to lend someone a hand, give his undivided attention, pray for them, or give words of hope and courage.”
Suzanne Foster, New York
Charity: Center of Discovery
Suzanne is director of a nursing home that has been hit hard with COVID-19 cases. Because residents are not allowed visitors, she spends time with them, connects them with their friends and family via video calls, holding their hands, praying, telling jokes, serving food or helping in whatever way she can.
“She is not found in her office, but on the floors connecting residents on her phone to their loved ones,” Suzanne’s nominator said. Many times, it allows families to say their final goodbyes.
For Suzanne, one of the heartbreaking experiences of this time is that she hasn’t seen her 15-year-old son, who’s autistic, for more than 50 days due to risk of contagion. Her son lives at The Center for Discovery, a residential school in Monticello, New York.
Suzanne’s donation will support the school’s seed-to-table, virus-free grocery store for its employees to protect themselves, their families and the children they serve.
Sam Jain, Michigan
Charity: Feeding America
Sam is chief resident at Beaumont Hospital near Detroit, one of the hardest hit hospitals in the U.S. COVID outbreak.
Sam expected to be finishing her medical residency this spring, taking her medical boards and beginning her career in Chicago after 12 years of education and training. Instead, she is taking on extra shifts to care for patients, adapting to ever-changing protocols, managing her team and ensuring they have enough personal protective equipment.
Afterward, she walks to an empty apartment, self-isolating to help contain the risk of infection. Even when she’s off work, she is frequently providing medical advice and reassurance to her friends and family.
“I try to stay positive, educate the community and go to work every day, hoping that I can make a difference,” Sam said. She said she chose Feeding America because they set up a COVID-19 relief fund to ensure food banks across the country can help those who need it.
Julia Nunez, New York
Charity: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
A social services director at a New York subacute care hospital, Julia is a cancer survivor who cares for aging parents who also have compromised immune systems.
Because of that, she is eligible to opt-out of shifts. But Julia, who has worked at the hospital for 19 years, continues to work to be there for her patients and their families, even as she sees co-workers fall ill and die from COVID-19.
Julie gave her personal cell phone number to her patient’s families so they can connect with their loved ones any time. She often skips lunches and breaks to facilitate phone calls. She also does some personal shopping for patients because their families can’t visit.
“I know how stressful it can be when you’re not able to be there when your loved ones need you the most,” she said. “I don’t think I’m doing anything extraordinary; I’m just doing whatever human beings can do.”
Julia chose St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which works toward understanding, treating and defeating childhood cancer and other diseases.
Bill Phan & Kevin Yoo, Illinois
Charity: Initiative 77(3)12
Kevin and Bill were food service workers who, like many others, were furloughed when Chicago restaurants closed due to the pandemic.
They began providing meals to fellow displaced restaurant workers and their families, but soon shifted to use their culinary skills to feed frontline healthcare workers to help make sure their community stays strong and connected through the pandemic.
That effort turned into Initiative 77(3)12. With other members of their team and help from the community, they have delivered more than 1,450 meals to 10 local hospitals.
“These are selfless acts from men who want nothing more than to see our community stay strong together as we battle through this pandemic,” their nominator wrote.
Xavier Turner & Isabella Lamontagne, Quebec
Isabelle is a pharmacy technician in a hospital in Quebec City, and Xavier is a policeman in Lévis, essential jobs that put them at the forefront of the pandemic.
“Here is a couple on fire that is in the frontlines for us during this pandemic,” their nominator wrote. “I am really proud to see a couple from a young generation fight to protect us from the virus.”
Xavier and Isabella chose La Vigile as their charity because it provides urgent support for depression, PTSD, anxiety and other conditions that are often faced by people on the front lines.
“We think it’s important to highlight it and help them through this campaign,” the couple said.
6 runners-up also trigger charitable donations
Six runners-up also stood out for their efforts during this pandemic: Making and manufacturing masks, moving to another state to manufacture ventilators, creating apps to encourage social distancing, processing COVID-19 tests or other frontline medical work and using crafty skills to support small businesses and hospital workers.
They are: Fanny Coulombe of Quebec, Saamphavi Ganesh of Ontario, Johana Hernandez of California, Lane Karczewski of California, Aidan McCahill of Michigan and Kelsey Sohail of Virginia.
Thank you to all those who submitted nominations and to everyone who is out there doing their part to make the world a better place.