Why one woman decided to open up her home — and her car — to help homeless dogs.
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When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in 2012, thousands of pets were displaced by the storm.

Local shelters and rescues, as well as nonprofits like the ASPCA and Humane Society, sprang into action to assist with search-and-rescue operations and to create temporary emergency shelters for pets found lost in the storm.

Some of these pets were happily reclaimed by their owners after the storm had passed, but others were still homeless, even months later.


When Nina Roadeler learned about the sheer number of dogs affected by the storm, she decided to become a foster for dogs from local dog rescues.

Nina and her dog, Toby. All photos via Nina Roadeler, used with permission.

It didn’t take long before volunteering with dog rescues became a huge part of her life.

In fact, after Nina took a job outside the city and bought a car, she became an adoption coordinator for Friends With Four Paws, a small foster-based rescue run entirely by volunteers in New York and Oklahoma.

All of the dogs rescued by Friends With Four Paws are pulled directly from high-kill shelters in Oklahoma. They spend some time with Oklahoma foster families while they are vaccinated, microchipped, and spayed/neutered. Then they go up for adoption and are driven by a volunteer over two days to New York and placed with new fosters while they await their forever homes.

That’s where Nina comes in.

Not only does she coordinate the transport of dogs from Oklahoma and interview potential adopters before they bring a dog home, but as one of only two volunteers with a car, she spends her weekends driving around New York’s five boroughs — and sometimes beyond — picking up and dropping off food, crates, and toy donations with foster families.

When she's not driving stuff, she's driving dogs to their new homes. In other words, she spends a lot of time as a "dog chauffeur."

Of course, no two dog passengers are alike.

The first one she ever drove, Peggy, was a scruffy 40-pound terrier with tons of energy.

“She was adorable, but she was all over my car,” says Nina, laughing. “She was bouncing around in that car like nobody’s business.”

Peggy, the first dog Nina ever drove in her car.

Some like to sit on a passenger's lap, while others prefer to curl up in a dog bed.

Some like to ride in style and look out the window.

And some can get a little car-sick.

Of course, all this driving also means a lot of time in bad traffic, especially when the drive is into Manhattan or New Jersey.

But for Nina, the minor inconveniences like bad traffic or messy dogs are worth it because giving back is so rewarding.

“When you drop off a dog at an adopter or you are there when the adopter meets the dog, you feel like you are Santa Claus because you bring them a gift — such a huge gift for the many years to come,” says Nina. “I know how I felt when I got my dog. ... He just makes me smile. And knowing that you are a part of really bringing life and love to a family is amazing.”

In fact, she says, she will never forget the experience she had of placing a dog with a woman whose fiance and her previous dog had passed away. “We found her the perfect dog,” Nina says. “And when you do this, [it’s] one of those cry moments.”

Moments like these remind Nina why she is so glad she started volunteering with Friends With Four Paws in the first place.

A group of fosters, volunteers, and adopters at a Friends With Four Paws "Transport Day,"greeting some of the dogs that have just arrived from Oklahoma.

“I do love the people that I am [volunteering] with” she says. “We’re a very small rescue, and so it’s like [being] part of a family that tries to do the right thing and tries to do what they can to really make this world a better place.”

She adds: “So, you do this for dogs, you do this for humans. Rescue is my happy place.”

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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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.

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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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Among many notable moments in Joe Biden's presidential inauguration, Amanda Gorman's recitation of her original poem "The Hill We Climb" stood out as a punctuation mark on the day.

It's perhaps fitting that Gorman herself stands out in several ways. The 22-year-old former National Youth Poet Laureate is the youngest poet to compose and deliver an inaugural poem. Like Joe Biden, she struggled with a speech impediment as a child, which makes reciting her poetry in an event broadcast around the globe all the more impressive. But what's most striking in this moment is what she represents—the bright and hopeful future of America.

For four years, we've had an administration focused on reversing progress and taking the country backwards to a mythical era in which the country was better. The slogan "Make America Great Again" has always implied a yearning to return to some kind of ideal past—one which, in reality, didn't exist (unless you're actually into white supremacy). The U.S. was built on high ideals but has always grappled with the advancement of some at the expense of others, with the legacy of racism and sexism ever-present in our politics, and with injustice being inseparable from our imbalance of political power.

Today, though, we marked a distinct shift in that balance of power. We swore in our first female vice president, in addition to our first non-white vice president. And in adding the voice of a young, Black, female poet to artfully contextualize the occasion, we see an emphasis in leaning into that shift. In Amanda Gorman, we see an America looking to the future as we honestly assess our past.

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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.