A homeless couple only expected to get a marriage certificate, but they got so much more.
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Trying to foot the bill for a wedding can be tough, especially when money is extra tight.

If anyone knows that to be true, it's Jerold and Mani Clay — a couple from Michigan who are battling homelessness. They've been together for more than a decade but just recently saved up enough to get a marriage license.

They never planned on having an extravagant ceremony — they simply wanted the paperwork to make it official.


But when their local homeless shelter discovered Jerold and Mani were getting hitched, they quickly sprung into action that same day to give them an unforgettable experience.

Last month, Mel Trotter Ministries helped make Jerold and Mani's wedding day extra special.

“The couple’s actually been together since 2004," Abbey Sladick, director of community relations at Mel Trotter in Grand Rapids, Michigan, told Upworthy, noting they'd been looking forward to their wedding day for quite some time. "It was just really important for them to have that day."

GIFs via Fox 17 News.

Sladick explained that, as a faith-based organization, Mel Trotter makes sure compassion is at the heart of everything they do. So when they learned about the couple's plans, they wanted to do anything they could to "enhance the memory."

Utilizing its own thrift stores, the ministry provided many of the essentials — like Jerold's tux and Mani's dress and accessories — while a local salon did the bride's hair and makeup.

And when Ken Kibby, who runs I Now Pronounce You Wedding Services, found out about the couple's financial circumstances the day of the wedding, he decided to officiate for free.


"He needs [the money] more than I do," Kibby told Fox 17 News. "It’s the right thing to do. These are two people trying to get their lives together, and God has blessed me with a lot. So I feel like it’s my job to return the favor."

Many believe it's important for folks with few resources to have the same opportunity to say, "I do" too.

Just ask Sean Cononie. He runs what's been dubbed America's First Homeless Resort out of what used to be a hotel in Haines City, Florida. The space provides homeless people a cheap (or even free) place to rest their head.

Cononie's facility also doubles as a wedding venue for its guests. With funds raised through the resort, he's officiated more than three dozen weddings, as Fox 13 News in Tampa Bay reported last summer.

"People who have money pay, people who don't have money don't pay," he told The Huffington Post in June 2015 of how his facility operates. The price of a room ranges from $0 to $24 a night.

"It was like a fairy tale," Lynette Hudson said after getting married at the facility. "It was beautiful."

Jerold and Mani, who are both looking for work, won't be forgetting their big day any time soon.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” Mani said. “We just wanted to do it casual with a few friends and family, and [Mel Trotter Ministries] came to me and made this happen — the dress, makeup, hair, and everything — and it meant a lot.”

This kind of compassionate community support can provide a huge source of encouragement for folks who are all too often marginalized. How awesome it is for them to have a moment of empowerment and love — something all people deserve.

Watch Fox 17 News' report from the couple's wedding below:

Photo by Louis Hansel on Unsplash
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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."