This former pro baller isn't building better players. He's building better citizens.
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State Farm

When he was just 14 years old, Felipe Lopez was dubbed the "Spanish Michael Jordan."

He had just immigrated with his family from the Dominican Republic to the South Bronx, and, without missing a beat, had started making a name for himself in New York City — the mecca of basketball.

Lopez starred at Rice High School in Harlem and played college ball at St. John's University. Then, in 1998, he finally made it to the NBA. But it's not just his skills on the hardwood that make him so special.


All images via Felipe Lopez, used with permission.

"When I was in college, I already had the urge to give back to the community," he says. "But there was the financial uncertainties as you go through college."

So in his first year in the NBA, Lopez took action to make an impact both on and off the court.

Immediately, he laid the groundwork for the Felipe Lopez Foundation, a program geared toward providing underprivileged kids with athletic and academic opportunities.

"Once I made it to the league," Lopez explains, "every time I went to the Dominican Republic for vacation, it was not a vacation — it was to travel around the country and give free [basketball] clinics and give out free donations to all the places that I went to."

Lopez even petitioned the president of the Dominican Republic to create a new gym on the site of the playground where he first fell in love with basketball.

"The best way to make ourselves feel good is by giving — giving your time, giving your effort, giving your love to people that need to find their way," he says.

Not even a serious knee injury, which derailed his career in 2002, could slow down his humanitarian work. Lopez kept coming back to the Dominican Republic despite leaving the NBA and playing in leagues across Europe and South America.

In 2014, Lopez returned to New York to give back to the community that gave him so much. He started working with kids at the Bronx Spanish Evangelical Church to support efforts to take them off the street and give them a safe haven from the rampant drug abuse and gang scene in the neighborhood.

It's here that Lopez started getting more recognition for all the amazing community work he was doing. In fact, his inspirational story and heartwarming relationship with one of the campers was recently featured in a profile for State Farm's Neighborhood of Good.

With all the kids he helps, Lopez tries to offer guidance for their future.

"I'm not trying to build the next superstar," he explains. "I'm trying to build the next best citizen that is going to go all around and take all the opportunities that's going to be given to them."

That's why he's trying so hard to set kids on the right path towards college — to him, it's the key to unlocking a world of possibilities.

And to help them get there, he stresses one thing: preparation. "When you talk about preparation," Lopez says, "you talk about readiness, you talk about being on time, you talk about doing your homework." These are the things, he says, that help them not lose sight of their goals.

Lopez also shares his faith with the kids to give them another source of guidance. In fact, that's a big reason why he renamed the Felipe Lopez Foundation to the Ministry of Faith this past year.

Today, almost 20 years since he first launched his foundation, Lopez has only found more ways to give back — earning him a new nickname: "Saint Felipe."

Fellow NBA Cares Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo gave him this new nickname after Lopez became an NBA Cares ambassador in 2008.

"Felipe is special among former players," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "He's magical. Kids respond to him, his manner, his smile. He has almost a special skip in his step."

Today, Lopez also serves as a mentor for My Brother's Keeper, a project started by President Obama. "It's a mentoring program," explains Lopez, "and the point was to raise 25,000 mentors to guide young black men across America."

Without a doubt, paying it forward is at the heart of everything Lopez does.

That's because he knows that at one time, he too needed encouragement and guidance to keep him on the right path and get to where he is today. Now, he wants to do the same for the next generation. Because whether it's trying to pass an exam or make it to the NBA, everyone could use a helping hand or a mentor.

"I see myself as that person that lent me their hand when I needed it," he says. And if all goes according to plan, that's exactly what the kids he helps will say once they reach their goals.

To learn more about his incredible story and how Lopez is reaching his hand out to help kids, just check out this heartwarming video below:

If you're looking for easy ways to take action in your community, get started by visiting the Neighborhood of Good. State Farm will help you connect locally with people and organizations in need of a good neighbor.

Sumo Citrus
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Don Bay has been in the citrus business for over 50 years now, and according to him, his most recent growing endeavor has been the most challenging. Alongside his son Darren and grandson Luke, Don cultivates Sumo Citrus®, one of the most difficult fruits to grow. The Bay family runs San Joaquin Growers Ranch in Porterville, California, one of the farms where the fruit is grown in the United States.

Sumo Citrus was originally developed in Japan, and is an extraordinary hybrid of mandarin, pomelo and navel oranges.

The fruit is temperamental, and it can take time to get a thriving crop. The trees require year-round care, and it takes five years from seed to fruit until they're ready for harvest. Thanks to expert citrus growers like the Bay family though, Sumo Citrus have flourished in California. Don and his son Darren worked together through trial and error to perfect their crop of Sumo Citrus. Darren is now an expert on cultivating this famously temperamental fruit, and his son Luke is learning from him every step of the way.

Don, Darren and Luke BayAll photos courtesy of Sumo Citrus

"Luke's been involved as early as he could come out," Darren said in a YouTube video.

"Having both my son and grandson [working with me] is basically what I've dreamt about," said Don. "To have been able to develop this orchard and have them work on it and work with me — then I don't have to do all the work."

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Public education is one of the most complex issues under normal circumstances, but the pandemic has made it far more complicated. The question of how to meet the needs of kids who come from diverse families, communities, and socioeconomic circumstances—not to mention having diverse mental strengths, interests, and challenges of their own—is never simple, and adding the difficulty of living through a pandemic with its lack of certainty, structure, and security is a whole freaking lot.

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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

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