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This inner-city farm is changing lives in an extraordinary way.
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Stand Together

Bonton, a community in south Dallas, Texas, is probably the last place you'd think to start a farm.

Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms; Stand Together.

It feels like it's been abandoned by the rest of the city. 85% percent of the men who live in Bonton have been incarcerated. Many of its residents have a hard time finding work and making ends meet.


For many of Bonton's residents, fresh produce isn't a realistic expectation. Nearly two-thirds of the people who live there don't have reliable transportation. And the nearest grocery store, one that doesn't just sell processed food, takes three hours to get to and back from by bus. The neighborhood is pretty much the definition of a "food desert."

What's worse, the lack of fresh fruits, meats and vegetables has contributed to Bonton's skyrocketing disease rates. The men of Bonton don't live as long as the ones who live in the rest of Dallas. Rates of stroke, cancer, heart disease and diabetes are double compared to the rest of the city. Child obesity is also a serious concern.

These are just links in a long chain of problems that a lack of opportunity has created.

Even though more than a million people live in Dallas, many don't know what's happening in Bonton. Daron Babcock was one of them.

Photo courtesy of Daron Babcock.

Seven years ago, Babcock says, he had "a normal career in business." Life was going as planned. But then one day Babcock had breakfast with a friend. That friend was working with a group of men from Bonton who had recently been released from prison and were trying to get back on track. If Babcock didn't have anything going on, his friend said, perhaps he might like to join him.

Going out to the neighborhood was a turning point for Babcock. Seeing Bonton's residents struggle was something he couldn't unsee. He'd never known what it was like to tread water like the people of Bonton have to, but he knew he had to help.

"What kind of person can you be, how do you live with yourself once you're aware?" says Babcock. "Just ignore and act like it didn't happen? I couldn't do that."

So he sold his home, left his career and moved into a house with no electricity.

[rebelmouse-image 19534981 dam="1" original_size="750x747" caption="Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms." expand=1]Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms.

Because buying land in Bonton is difficult, Babcock made a deal with Habitat for Humanity: In exchange for a place to stay, he'd help keep a home secure that had recently been abandoned.

The neighbors didn't take to him at first; they didn't trust a man who didn't share their background. They took bets on what branch of law enforcement Babcock was in.

But Babcock didn't win anyone over with big promises or ideas. He became part of the neighborhood by admitting that he didn't have any answers.

"I just went to learn and build relationships, and so they were gracious in teaching me this stuff," he says.

What people wanted, says Babcock, were jobs. They wanted security, financial stability, a sense of ownership over their own lives. That's how the farm began.

It started with a community garden. Then Bonton's residents were given a gift of land to grow the garden bigger by Collins Concrete. When that happened, Babcock realized that Bonton Farms was doing much more than giving people access to fresh food. Working together provided the community members with a renewed sense of purpose.

Today, Bonton Farms is helping people eat healthy, start a new job, earn an income, spread their wings, and build a strong future for themselves and their community.

Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms; Stand Together.

Aside from the farm itself, Babcock has started multiple social enterprises which also employ people, and teach them what it takes to start their own businesses.

"One of the things we've learned in working with men coming out of prison, is we have a really broken country, where not everybody has equal opportunity," explains Babcock.

"It doesn't matter whether you're coming out of incarceration, or whether you're coming out of substance abuse, or a domestic violence shelter. You may no longer be beaten up, or being high, or locked up anymore, but you're also no more prepared to go out and flourish, than if you were."

Through continued social entrepreneurship, Bonton Farms addresses this adversity that people in Bonton face and helps build solutions in partnership with the community.

Bonton Farms has become a place where men and women can come when they need someone to walk alongside them while they're recovering and figuring out the path they'd like to take. It's a place where they can feel supported as they learn how to adjust to working.

Participants may not sit in a group and discusses their pasts, but wounds are healed and new connections are made through hard work and a shared commitment to creating a better life. And the proof is in the numbers: not one person has been re-incarcerated since beginning work at Bonton Farms or one of its related enterprises.

Babcock would like to see creative efforts like Bonton all across America. Stand Together is helping the community bring those dreams closer to a reality.

[rebelmouse-image 19534983 dam="1" original_size="750x735" caption="Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms. " expand=1]Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms.

The farm couldn't get by without help, and it's found an incredible partner in Stand Together, an organization that's helping break the cycle of poverty by supporting the country's most innovative social entrepreneurs. Thanks to Stand Together, they're able to scale their efforts in existing communities and other places that need it. The organization provides capital, business consulting, and connections to other resources to help these entrepreneurs' initiatives grow.

"One of the main things Stand Together has done is given us credibility," says Babcock. "Some of the greatest inventions come from somebody taking a chance on something that's never been done before."

Stand Together invests in solving the biggest problems facing our nation today in order to unleash the potential in every individual, regardless of their zip code. That means supporting social entrepreneurs who're close to the problem and have developed creative solutions that are working.

"If we're going to change the status quo, if we're really going to disrupt the way things are, it's going to take new thinking that hasn't been done yet."

"New thinking" is helping Bonton Farms solve problems like poverty, hunger and joblessness. But it's the people that are truly changing the neighborhood.

[rebelmouse-image 19534984 dam="1" original_size="750x750" caption="Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms. " expand=1]Photo courtesy of Bonton Farms.

It would be easy to just label Bonton Farms a success, praise the way it's solving community problems and call it a happy ending. But that's not how Babcock sees it. "There needs to be an understanding that the farm is the hub. It's the vehicle that allows us to do all this." he notes.

Sometimes, he explains, people get the idea that it's the farm work that's the catalyst for change. It's a beautiful story, but it isn't true. The real change comes from the people, the connections they're making, and the sense of hope that permeates the community when neighbors see each other flourishing.

"They see [others] doing better for themselves and for their family, [and think] that it's possible for them, too," says Babcock. "Ultimately, it's the people who took that challenge to fight for a better life that become the change agents for the rest of the neighborhood."

To get involved and find out which of these organizations supports your values, take this quiz here and let Stand Together do the searching for you.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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