This man is giving back to fellow veterans in a unique way — with broken TVs.

Ever since Staff Sgt. Todd Hering was a boy, he loved to take mechanical things apart.

"I always wanted to see how things were put together," Hering recalls.

As he grew up, he started learning how to use those parts to repair various electronics, like radios. Slowly but surely, he got good at it. While it was a simple hobby, it's hard not to see how those skills led him to become a mechanic in the Air Force.


And not just any mechanic — one who worked with all the components of nuclear warheads.

A 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron maintainer works on a Minuteman III ICBM, which is akin to the missiles Hering maintained. Photo by Senior Airman Brandon Valle/U.S. Air Force.

Handling all the inner workings of such dangerous weapons of war might sound terrifying to the average person, but Hering found it fascinating and even fun.

It's no wonder he ended up spending nine years working in the nuclear sect both in the States and oversees in Italy on a nuclear-tipped ground launch cruise missile.

Hering officially left the Air Force in 1993, when he got married, but his transition out of such an important military job was not the easiest.

He had no trouble finding two part-time jobs working for an airline, but it was a far cry from the responsibility he had before. He missed the high-profile work, but similar civilian jobs were hard to come by at the time.

Then a seemingly inconsequential accident led to a total lifestyle change. Hering stubbed his toe while walking around his house. Like anyone might have, he ignored the discomfort he felt — until the toe became badly infected.

When he finally saw a doctor, the infection had gotten so bad, it was in his bone. Todd had nine surgeries to try and save his foot, but in the end, the bone infection was so extensive, the doctors declared he needed to have his right leg amputated.

Photo via iStock.

Just like that, he was a veteran living on disability and a frequent visitor to the local Veterans Affairs (VA) office for medical aid and physical therapy.

During his downtime, Hering picked up his old hobby of making repairs on electronics. At first it was just for fun, but while he was at the VA, he began to realize there might be an unmet need for his skills.

He spoke to many vets on disability who were trying to turn their lives around but were down on their luck. Some mentioned how nice it would be to have a TV to pass the time — and that's when he got an idea of how he could help them.

"All these people just throw their flat-screen TVs away because it's a disposable world," Hering explains. "I thought, they're easy to fix, so I'll just start fixing them and donating them to some vets that need them."

He looked around for broken TVs that had just been thrown away. He also posted ads on Craigslist asking people to send him their old, broken TVs. Since he's a seasoned mechanic, he didn't need to spend a lot of money on replacing the motherboards; he just bought parts piecemeal and fixed the motherboards himself.

So far, Hering has repaired over 70 TVs for veterans. And while it's obviously making their lives better, it's fulfilling him in a big way, too.

Hering with one of the veterans who received one of his fixed TVs. Photo via Todd Hering, used with permission.

"This gives me a feeling of self-worth," says Hering. "I feel like I'm worth more than I was before because I'm helping other people."

He started this give back project over two years ago, and yet every time he gives a repaired TV to a deserving veteran, he's reminded that his work makes a real difference.

"One guy kept wiping his eyes, and said, 'That's the best picture I've seen in my life.'" Hering recalls. "It wasn't a big screen or anything; he was just so grateful to have one."

Hering presents a repaired TV to another veteran. Photo via Todd Hering, used with permission.

Hering has over 127 broken TVs in storage, so he's not planning on stopping his project anytime soon. In fact, he's looking to expand his reach to victims of domestic violence.

He recognizes that people in that situation sometimes have to leave everything they have behind. He hopes that by gifting them a TV, it'll give them some comfort.

That said, continuing this philanthropic mission is getting expensive for a veteran living off of disability pay. Even just buying small parts can involve hefty shipping fees or travel costs, so he now accepts donations to help maximize what he can do for fellow veterans.

When you're living with a disability and have barely enough money to pay for your basic needs, sometimes a little thing like a TV means the world. Hering understands that more than most.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via ABC 13 Houston

The students and staff at Deer Creek Prairie Vale Elementary School in Edmond, Oklahoma shared an inspiring video on Facebook Tuesday showing the joy of what it means to become an American citizen.

The students and staff lined the hallways of their school cheering on cafeteria manager Yanet Lopez and chanting, "U.S.A.," "U.S.A.," after she passed her test to become an American citizen.

Lopez is an immigrant from Cuba who moved from Houston, Texas to Oklahoma to find better job opportunities.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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