Who do firefighters call when they need help? A group of amazing moms.

The massive fire in north-central Washington just became the largest wildfire in the state's history.

This scorcher, known as the Okanogan Complex, was measured at 400 square miles, which is about two and a half times the size of Seattle.



Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images.

And since it's only August and dry conditions are likely to continue, the fire is showing no signs of slowing.

Firefighters and first responders working to slow the blaze are getting a boost from a few brave volunteers known as "The Soup Ladies."

There are over 1,200 firefighters and first responders on the front lines of the Okanogan Complex. Now, they're joined by The Soup Ladies, a group of Washington-based volunteers, many of them moms and grandmothers, who prepare home-cooked meals for first responders during emergencies and natural disasters at no cost.

The Soup Ladies support first responders at the Okanogan Complex. Photo by The Soup Ladies.

"The Soup Ladies are working out of a commercial kitchen in the general area and disbursing food to crews," volunteer Sheila Lein told Upworthy. "Yesterday, the First Responders enjoyed Italian Chicken Cacciatore, slow-simmered beef stroganoff and fresh peach crisp." YUM.

The Soup Ladies started in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina, when volunteer Ginger "Mama" Passarelli noticed there weren't any organizations helping the helpers.

So Passarelli traveled to the Gulf Coast to volunteer with her church group to help look after the emergency personnel.

Photo by The Soup Ladies.

According to Lein, who relayed to Upworthy what Passarelli saw in Katrina's aftermath, the emergency personnel were working long hours in extreme heat and "only munching on granola bars from their pockets, if they were lucky enough to have them."

"Right then and there," Lein says, "The Soup Ladies organization was born and we have been dedicated to the well-being of our First Responders ever since."

The Soup Ladies travel across the country, delivering comfort foods to men and women on the front lines.

They have supported first responders in their home state for nearly 10 years, during search-and-rescue missions, standoffs, and natural disasters. But their goodwill doesn't end there.


Funded solely by personal donations and the volunteers themselves, teams of Soup Ladies traveled to New York after Hurricane Sandy and to Oklahoma in the wake of devastating tornados. During the five-day trip to Oklahoma, a crew of four Soup Ladies churned out 13,000 meals!

Ginger Passarelli and an NYPD officer after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Photo by The Soup Ladies.

Thanks to their hard work, they're well-known to police and fire agencies across the country. As Lein told Upworthy, "When disasters and critical incidents arise, the agency leads know that one phone call will bring the Soup Ladies as quickly as possible."

For the volunteers, it's all about showing gratitude and keeping the first responders safe.

According to Lein, many of the volunteers have personal ties to fire personnel or law enforcement, so they consider each first responder a member of their great big extended family. For them, making and serving comfort food is the best way to say thanks.

Photo by The Soup Ladies.

"We truly believe that bringing home-style meals to the first responders will keep them safer," Lein told Upworthy. "The meals are generally served with a good grandma-style hug and the workers go back into the field knowing we care."

It's a nice reminder that everyone can be a hero to someone else.

As the Okanogan Complex rages on, I'm grateful for the brave crews that face danger head-on and the hardworking volunteers who support them, whenever and wherever.

Photo by The Soup Ladies.

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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.