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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have passed, leaving trails of devastation and destruction in their wake. Recovery from both storms will take months, if not years, but around the world, everyday people are stepping up to help out friends, neighbors, and strangers however they can.

After Harvey, we collected a list of 11 examples of hurricane heroism. Now that both storms have run their course, here's a look at 16 more spectacular gestures of kindness. Each one is a testament to the generosity of the human spirit and a reminder that when bad things happen, there will always be ways we can help.


This photo shows people in Texas after Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

1. A group of Syrian refugees living in Georgia delivered home-cooked meals to Irma evacuees.

They knew what it was like to need the help of others and just wanted to give back.

2. A group of helpful neighbors came to the rescue of one Ormond Beach, Florida, woman, saving her personal belongings from a collapsing house.

3. NBC's Kerry Sanders was reporting from Marco Island when he spotted another man helping two beached baby dolphins.

The dramatic rescue was caught on film.

4. Kimberly Gager of San Antonio put her extreme couponing skills to great use to help people who were hit by Hurricane Harvey.

She began saving coupons she would have ordinarily thrown away, using them to buy diapers, formula, and other baby supplies, which she donated.

5. Florida's Islamorada Beer Company got to work bottling water, raising money, and transporting supplies down to the Florida Keys to help people hit by Irma.

If the beer tastes a little watered down, that's because it is.

6. Mike and Kathy Merrill of Florida Urgent Rescue pulled double duty, helping save dogs displaced by both Harvey and Irma.

7. Blink-182's Mark Hoppus recorded a song called "Not Every Dog Goes to Heaven" for the ASPCA benefit album "Dog Songs."

Profits from the album will help the ASPCA save dogs affected by Hurricane Harvey. Rock on, Mark.

Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for Turner Sports.

8. A collection of sailors and cruisers joined up to help islands hit by Irma. They call themselves Sailors Helping.

They're working in conjunction with local government and volunteer groups to facilitate immediate aid. In the long term, they're planning a Rally to Rebuild, in which hundreds of boaters will bring a habitat-for-humanity style armada of boats and volunteers to various islands hit by Hurricane Irma.

Image courtesy of Tory Fine/Sailors Helping.

9. Remember the heartwarming story about a man who gave up the last generator at a Florida store? When one became available later that day, the store's manager gave it to the generous stranger for free.

A good deed is its own reward, but this certainly helps too.

10. As Irma evacuees made their way out of Florida, one Georgia man decided to throw them a cookout.

Chad Harrison of Valdosta, Georgia, was a sight for sore eyes for hungry people fleeing Florida. In total, he was able to help feed around 2,000 evacuees.

11. A billionaire immigrant named Kieu Hoang donated $5 million to Harvey relief efforts, saying, "We are all American."

This might be one of the largest (if not the largest) individual donations anyone's made in response to the recent hurricanes.

12. Millionaire Marc Bell opened up his $30 million, 27,000-square-foot home to 70 foster kids affected by Irma.

Bell says he got a call from SOS Children's Village Florida with a request for help after they'd been kicked out of their shelters. Bell offered up his home.

13. Animal control, along with a few brave neighbors, helped rescue five dogs trapped in fire-ant-infested waters in Lakeland, Florida.

People helping people helping doggos are the best kind of people.

BREAKING UPDATE: Animal Control says they will rescue several dogs left alone during #HurricaneIrma. WFLA Melissa Marino is live with the update. https://bit.ly/2wVBLuA

Posted by WFLA News Channel 8 on Monday, September 11, 2017

14. Royal Caribbean cruise line sent two of its ships to Caribbean islands hit by Irma to help evacuees, and Norwegian Cruise Line sent a ship to St. Thomas packed with supplies.

After canceling numerous cruises due to the storm, the vacation companies had a bit of free time on their hands.

15. When Irma left a group of manatees stranded near Whitfield, Florida, a group of locals helped move the majestic sea cows back into the water.

Right on.

16. After taking home first place at the DreamHack Montreal Street Fighter V tournament, professional gamer Du Dang donated his $10,000 in winnings to Irma relief efforts.

Originally from Tampa, he wanted to give back to his hometown during its time of need.

It's easy to think of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma as being disasters that are now behind us, but the truth is that the real work is just beginning.

As the above examples demonstrate, there are a lot of really unique and creative ways to help out in the storms' aftermath. If you're looking for a way to get involved in the relief efforts, here's a great place to get started.

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Starbucks Upstanders

When her 5-year-old son was killed, Susan Burton lost her way.

He was playing outside and ran into the street, where a car hit him. In the blink of an eye, Susan's life as she knew it was over.

She unraveled, and his death led her down a dark spiral. Susan turned to drugs and alcohol to medicate her grief, which resulted in a number of arrests. The life she’d envisioned and worked toward had ended abruptly, and she began a cycle of being in and out of prison over 20 years.


Watch Susan's story:

A New Way of Life gives formerly incarcerated women the support they need to change their lives for the better. A Starbucks original series.

Posted by Upworthy on Tuesday, September 13, 2016

When Susan was released from prison for the last time, the guard said, "You’ll be back. We’ll have a bed waiting for you."

Susan vowed that wouldn't be the case. But she knew firsthand how hard it can be to reenter society after incarceration.

The reality is that the prison system in America is deeply flawed. The majority of prisoners who leave jail wind up behind bars again within a few years after their release. According to a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Justice, "67.8% of the the 404,638 state prisoners released in 2005 in 30 states were arrested within 3 years of release, and 76.6% were arrested within 5 years of release." Things in 2016 aren’t much different.

All images via Starbucks, used with permission.

It took years, but with the help of her community, Susan was finally able to break her cycle.

Susan had tried repeatedly to get back on track, but because of her record, she couldn’t find a job or treatment programs for her addictions. When she finally found support within her community, Susan became sober, found a steady job, and, most importantly, began to heal.

She wasn’t content just to keep herself out of jail; she wanted to help others, too. "I knew hundreds of women that just needed a few months of support to just be able to stand on their feet and not return to prison," she said.

Susan worked hard, saved her money, and purchased a house. She then turned her new house into a reentry home.

What started as an individual effort quickly grew. A New Way of Life Reentry Project was born.

Today, she’s helped over 1,000 women to get a new lease on life.

Because no matter how they wound up in prison, so many of their stories are the same. These are women who grew up with big dreams like so many of us do but who wandered down the wrong path and couldn’t find their way back around.

A New Way of Life offers them a supportive community where they can face their biggest fears associated with reentry and tackle the systemic barriers that stand in their way. Because it isn’t easy to get a job when you’ve been incarcerated. And it’s not easy to qualify for student loans to return to school. Finding a permanent home is another huge hurdle, and there are so many more. The best way for these women to face those challenges without feeling hopeless and overwhelmed is together.

A New Way of Life is tackling America’s incarceration crisis head-on, and the work it's doing is undeniable.

Last year, the project had a recidivism rate of 13%. Compared to the national average, that’s a huge success rate and a strong indication that what they're doing is working.

Susan said, "It’s a vicious cycle to return to the environment that led to your incarceration, and it happens over and over again. That is the cycle that I’m trying to break. That is the cycle that we must break."

More

Taylor Swift gave a huge donation to Louisiana and urged others to help, too.

'The wonderful fans there made us feel completely at home.'

Taylor Swift is one of the millions of Americans watching with a heavy heart as floods devastate regions of the Deep South.

By some measures, the recent flooding in Louisiana has simply been unprecedented.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.


That's why, on Aug. 16, Swift stepped up to the plate to do her part in helping those down South who need it most.

Swift gave a hefty donation toward flood relief efforts in the Pelican State totaling $1 million, The Associated Press reported.

"The fact that so many people in Louisiana have been forced out of their own homes this week is heartbreaking," Swift said in a statement.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for GLAAD.

"We began The 1989 World Tour in Louisiana," the singer explained of her donation. "And the wonderful fans there made us feel completely at home."

Swift's gift will go toward a worthy cause, seeing as the damage and despair has been almost surreal.

Roughly 30,000 people had been rescued from the dangerous rising waters brought on by heavy rains, according to state officials. At least 11 people have lost their lives.

The exact number of missing persons is still unknown, Gov. John Bel Edwards told The New York Times, and the state is very much still in a state of emergency.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

"It’s like a hurricane," Louisianan Kathryn Morgan told The New York Times. "But without any warning."

One encouraging bit of news under such dark circumstances is the fact that Swift is not alone in her quest to make a difference.

Volunteers from across the country — from South Carolina and Florida to Michigan and California — have flocked to the devastated regions to lend a helping hand as aid groups aim to pour millions in funding toward recovery efforts.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

"We're not built to handle these kinds of situations by ourselves," Bill Haynes, a Red Cross volunteer and retiree from South Carolina told WYFF News 4.

It's a sentiment shared by Swift.

"I encourage those who can to help out and send your love and prayers their way during this devastating time," the singer noted.

Done and done, Taylor.

Here are a few ways you can help out those who need it most in Louisiana.

18-year-old Gaspar Marcos spends his day at school, puts in eight hours of work after that, and then tries to fit in at least three hours of sleep before doing it all over again.

Gaspar is a sophomore at Belmont High School in Los Angeles. He also works full-time as a dishwasher in the evenings and pays $600 a month for a room he rents from a family. His struggles are very real.


Image via Los Angeles Times/Facebook.

Gaspar is from Guatemala — one of at least 100,000 kids who came to the U.S. from Central America in the past five years as a result of a raging and increasingly violent drug war between cartels and police.

Many have made the dangerous trek alone, leaving their parents behind. Gaspar was one of those children, having lost both his parents when he was 5; he made his way to the U.S. at 13.

The Los Angeles Times spent 19 hours with Gaspar to tell his story. The video they created has been viewed over 10 million times so far on Facebook.

The reaction to Gaspar's story was fast and powerful. Immediately after the L.A. Times shared the video of his story on its Facebook page, people rushed to offer him a place to stay and monetary contributions.

Cynthia Salinas/Facebook, used with permission.

Terrie Byone Moulds/Facebook, used with permission.

Gloria Velasquez/Facebook, used with permission.

The L.A. Times was quick to recognize the outpouring of support.

Federico Bustamante, a program administrator for Casa Libre, a shelter for undocumented youth in L.A., set up a GoFundMe page to help Gaspar.

The money will help cover his everyday expenses as well as go toward college tuition. Federico said that he's been a guardian, mentor, teacher, big brother, and friend to Gaspar and other undocumented students. He jokes that he's also Gaspar's agent given his sudden internet fame and the subsequent outpouring of support.

The We Stand With Gaspar campaign has raised nearly $19,000 from over 400 people as of July 27, 2016. Gaspar was so overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers that he recorded the video message below saying it's great to feel loved and visible in this world.

Not only is Gaspar undeterred in his quest to work hard to get ahead, but he's also incredibly selfless. In his thank you video, he said that he understands it's not just about him, but about young people like him facing the same situation. That's why he's donating 50% of the donations made to his GoFundMe page to help some of his undocumented classmates and other immigrant teens at Casa Libre so that they, too, can have more free time for schoolwork.

Federico said about the campaign, "We have become of vital importance to our immigrant community and the refugee boys we've helped to house and empower, like Gaspar ... so you can understand that Gaspar and the rest of my students inspire me to heights far beyond GoFundMe."

Gaspar's story puts a real face to a real issue.

Many undocumented people like Gaspar are determined individuals looking to better their situation by working hard and educating themselves in order to thrive. It's challenging for them to do it on their own, especially when they are teens. But thanks to loving members of the community and the kindness of people on the internet, Gaspar is able to attain a slice of the American Dream.

If you want to help Gaspar and fellow undocumented youth, consider donating to his GoFundMe page.