Millionaire Uses Fortune to Help Kids in Struggling Town

Harris Rosen went from a childhood in a rough New York City neighborhood to becoming a millionaire whose company owns seven hotels in Orlando, but his self-made success is not his proudest achievement.

Twenty years ago, the Orlando, Fla. neighborhood of Tangelo Park was a crime-infested place where people were afraid to walk down the street. The graduation rate at the local high school was 25 percent. Having amassed a fortune from his success in the hotel business, Rosen decided Tangelo Park needed some hospitality of its own.

“Hospitality really is appreciating a fellow human being,” Rosen told Gabe Gutierrez in a segment that aired on TODAY Wednesday. “I came to the realization that I really had to now say, ‘Thank you.’’’

Rosen, 73, began his philanthropic efforts by paying for day care for parents in Tangelo Park, a community of about 3,000 people. When those children reached high school, he created a scholarship program in which he offered to pay free tuition to Florida state colleges for any students in the neighborhood.

In the two decades since starting the programs, Rosen has donated nearly $10 million, and the results have been remarkable. The high school graduation rate is now nearly 100 percent, and some property values have quadrupled. The crime rate has been cut in half, according to a study by the University of Central Florida.

“We’ve given them hope,’’ Rosen said. “We’ve given these kids hope, and given the families hope. And hope is an amazing thing.”

Tangelo Park resident Georgia Gordan admitted that she was ready to move away 20 years ago, saying the neighborhood was “drug-infested” and remembering when people were afraid to walk outside. Gordan decided to stay when Rosen offered free day care, and her daughter eventually became a college scholarship recipient from Rosen’s program.

“It’s one thing to offer a scholarship to one person one time,’’ Gordan’s daughter, Rachel Jones-Manuel, told TODAY. “But to continuously, for over 20 years, to continue to provide this type of incentive for people to go to school, I think is absolutely wonderful.”

Rosen is hoping other private donors see the positive effects of his scholarship programs and start their own versions in hard-hit communities across the country. His generosity continues to benefit students like scholarship recipient Kamillia Crawford, who is a freshman at Central Florida studying to become a lawyer.

“(I want to) make sure that I show the world that with his gift, I was able to reach my max potential,’’


Homeless in Berkeley

Today, when I left the house to go for my morning walk, there was a man sitting on our steps. This happens from time to time, since we live in a highly walkable neighborhood. I assured him that he didn’t have to move, that he could sit there if he wanted to.

Somehow, he engaged me in conversation. I don’t remember how it started, but he told me that he might have just experienced his first night as a homeless person. Something very traumatic happened yesterday, and he felt like he couldn’t return to his old life. I did a lot of listening.

He seemed to need to have someone to tell his story to. Over and over, I was struck by his intelligence, the metaphors he was using, and the incongruence of his nice clothes, his polite manner, and the distressful circumstances of his current situation. Really, all I did was listen for a while.

Yesterday I had put a lot of old linens and blankets on the curb (Berkeley-style free bin), and he asked me if he could take several blankets and the pillow, and hide them in the bushes to use tonight if he needed to sleep outside again. Again, I said yes because it seemed like such a small request.

As the day went on, I ran into him 2 more times as I was out and about in the neighborhood, and the last time he told me that today I was his best friend on earth. Why? Because I didn’t pretend he didn’t exist? Because I listened to him?

Tonight, as I was closing up the house, and locking the front door, I peeked out to where he had stashed the blankets. They are still there. I wonder if he’s found a place to land. Sending prayers for his well-being.

I decided to post this story of my day after my friend, Patricia Klingler, in Seattle, posted a similar story of her day. It seems like such a small thing, from all the abundance in my life, to reach out a hand to a person in crisis. But so worth it. Maybe the best thing in my day, come to think of it…

Rev Linda Reppond is the Spiritual leader and housemother of The Launching Pad, a Centers for Spiritual Living focus ministry in Berkeley, California. Their focus statement is; “We are a spiritual community of young adults living the highest vision of who we are.”

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Act of Kindness

When NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo bought boots for a homeless man who had blisters “the size of his palm,” he never expected anything in return. But now that a photo of the cop’s act of kindness sOFFICER-LAWRENCE-DEPRIMOhas surfaced, the Internet is swelling with praise for the do-gooder.

DePrimo had no idea that an inspired passerby was taking a photo as he knelt down to put a pair of boots on a homeless man’s feet on Nov. 14. But after the tourist photographer posted the tender moment to Facebook, it quickly went viral, garnering more than 400,000 “likes” and celebrity status for DePrimo.

As DePrimo now makes his way around the talk show circuit, he’s been sharing the simple impetus of his good deed.

“You could see the blisters [on his feet] from 15 feet away,” DePrimo told CNN of the man who was shivering on that November night in Times Square. “I knew I had to help him.”

DePrimo went to a nearby Sketchers store to buy a pair of thermal socks and $75 insulated winter boots, the Associated Press reports.

Jennifer Foster, the tourist from Arizona who happened upon the moving scene, said she was so inspired by what she saw that she had to capture the moment.

“This man’s face lit up like it was Christmas and like, he had just been given, literally, a million dollars,” Foster told the Today Show.

Foster told CNN she was particularly inspired because DePrimo’s action reminded her of witnessing her own father, who worked in law enforcement, give a man in need breakfast in a donut shop.

While DePrimo continues to get praise from impressed fans online, he’s also getting attention from politicians and higher-ups in the police force.

The New York Times reports the police commissioner gave DePrimo a pair of cufflinks in recognition of his good deed, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg tweeted that the officer’s story is an “an important reminder to give back this holiday season.”

Even more valuable than the thousands of “likes” and the attention he’s received, DePrimo said, is how his small act could galvanize more people to help.

“It’s a lot about the people,” DePrimo told the Today Show. “You see just great comments. People are saying their faith in humanity is restored and that’s the biggest thing I can take away from all of this.”



Dog’s Best Friend

Dogs Best Friend

They say a dog is a man’s best friend, but to John Unger, a Wisconsin resident, his dog, Schoep, means everything.

Unger adopted Schoep, named after the famous Wisconsin ice cream, when he was just a puppy, and the two have been together ever since. Now, at 19 years old, Schoep has arthritis and has trouble sleeping, the Pioneer Press reports. Unger found that water is therapeutic for his pained buddy, so he takes Schoep into Lake Superior and lulls him to sleep.

Photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, owner of Stonehouse Photography and a friend of Unger’s, decided to capture the relationship between the man and his dog down by the water.

“This photo was from a last minute session,” the Bayfield, Wis., photographer told The Huffington Post in an email. “We had been trying to get together for weeks, but it kept not happening because of my travel schedule for Stonehouse. We finally got together last Tuesday (the 31st). I had about 5 minutes to shoot and this is what I caught — a man and his dog. John loving his Schoep, and Schoep trusting John so much he falls asleep in the buoyancy of the water. This is in no way posed. I hate posed photos. They never, ever capture the true essence of anything.”

Stonehouse Hudson decided to post the photo to Facebook, where she described the pair’s loving relationship.

“This 19 year old Shep being cradled in his father’s arms last night in Lake Superior,” she wrote in the Facebook post, which has received more than 207,000 likes and 116,000 shares as of Wednesday morning (8/8/12).

“Shep falls asleep every night when he is carried into the lake. The buoyancy of the water soothes his arthritic bones. Lake Superior is very warm right now, so the temp of the water is perfect. I was so happy I got to capture this moment for John. By the way, John rescued Shep as an 8 month old puppy, and he’s been by his side through many adventures,” she continued.