A shelter told a Hollywood writer that their residents wanted to help. So he ran with it.
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In 2002, entertainment producer David Levinson wanted to do something good for his community. So he called up a local shelter for runaway teens and asked what type of help they needed.

He says the caseworker he spoke to said something really interesting: "She said, 'Our kids don't need help. They want to give help.'"

That surprised him. The kids at the shelter didn't have much — and yet, they still wanted to give to others.


All photos courtesy of Big Sunday.

With this in mind, Levinson organized a carwash to raise money for Students Run LA, which trains at-risk youth to run a marathon. Volunteers came not just from the shelter as well as many different youth groups from around the city.

"They raised about 400 bucks, which was nice," Levinson says. "But what was great was that they did it together."

That was an aha moment for Levinson, who decided his goal wasn't community service, but rather, community-building.

From this, Levinson created Big Sunday — a nonprofit with the mission of using service to bring communities together.

Big Sunday does lots of things to help build communities. They organize events to bring people together. They coordinate places for people to donate their old stuff. They find sponsors to create emergency funds for people in need. And, no matter the person, they will always have something for everyone to do — and everyone is always welcome.

"We have people who help us who are homeless people and we have people who are movie stars and CEOs," Levinson says. "Everyone is treated and valued the same."

Not all of their events are service-oriented, but service does make up the majority because, according to Levinson, its inclusivity makes it the best way to bring people together.

"You're never too young, you're never too old, you're never too rich, you're never too poor, you're never too abled, you're never too disabled to help somebody else," says Levinson. Community service isn't just for people with tons of extra money and time. It's for everyone.

Of course, some people can't afford to prioritize helping others because they're in need of help themselves. And that's OK! But for anyone with a desire to help, no limitation will prevent Big Sunday from finding a way for them to do so.

Some people have time, but no money — they become volunteers. Some have money, but no time — they provide funding for projects like the Big Sunday Emergency Fund, which helps people with unexpected expenses.

For any prohibitive activity — something physical, something expensive, something difficult, something that requires a specific skill — Big Sunday finds a way for everyone to participate.

At the heart of Big Sunday's mission is Levinson's belief that community-building is what the world needs most.

"There's so much hatred and animosity out there," Levinson says, "but it's really fear." Fear of the unknown, fear of things we've never interacted with and can't understand — these are the stumbling blocks that Levinson believes community-building can help eliminate.

"Here in LA, for example, a lot of people in Beverly Hills have never been to South Central Los Angeles, and they're nervous to go," he says. "But there's just as many people from South Central who've never been to Beverly Hills, and they're just as nervous." Big Sunday works to put people who are vastly different alongside each other, sharing a common task.

"Now that person you're standing next to isn't the lady from Beverly Hills or the kid from Watts, or the family from Boyle Heights or the couple from Koreatown. They're a person with a name," Levinson explains. "It's way hard to hate somebody when they have a name."

The best thing about Big Sunday? They want to get everyone involved.

"We specialize in the reluctant volunteer," Levinson laughs.

The Big Sunday team prides itself on being able to find a helpful activity for absolutely everyone. Their list is long — offering everything from monthly events to service-oriented special occasion planning to coordinated donations and more. And their staff is just waiting to meet their next request. "We like a challenge," Levinson claims.

So get involved! It's super easy to get involved with Big Sunday — after all, their mission is to make volunteering possible for everyone! You can get started on their about page, which has lists of their established activities, to give you an idea of what you might be interested in.

But you don't need to work with Big Sunday to do something good for your community. Check your local churches, scout groups, community centers, and volunteer organizations. If you have money but no time, consider donating cash or food to a worthy cause. If you have time, but no money, look for clean-ups or food drives where you can spend a Saturday or two!

Big Sunday isn't just an organization — it's an attitude, and a shining example for communities everywhere. No matter where we live, who we are, or what we bring to the table, we have something we can do to help another person. And in doing that, we might just bring our community a little closer.

Clarification 7/25/2017: The headline has been changed to clarify Levinson's role.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

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."